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Health and Fitness News

Ready for Attack

Keep your immune system strong and healthy with these recommendations.

There’s a lot of talk these days about keeping your immune system as strong as possible to fend off a potential COVID-19 infection. After all, a healthy body is better able to fight off illness of any kind, including new and novel viruses.

When your body suffers an invasion of a virus or harmful bacteria, an immune response is triggered. This causes special cells to go to work killing forein invaders. At the same time, other immune cells learn to recognize the invaders so they can be destroyed in the case of a future invasion. This complex process is most efficient when you’ve taken the right steps to support a healthy immune system—one that doesn’t underreact or overreact when dealing with a virus like COVID-19.

How do you go about building up your immune system? Keep reading to find out.

Eating a Healthy Diet

Being stuck at home may tempt you to form unhealthy eating habits, but eating the right foods is one of the best ways to support health all around, including your immune response. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed in the fight against illness. Antioxidants fight free radicals that cause disease. Fiber promotes a healthy gut and microbiome that’s part of the immune system. Healthy fats like omega-3 and olive oil reduce unwanted inflammation. Avoiding added sugars and refined carbs is one way to lose or maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic illness.

Get Enough Sleep

Stress and anxiety may affect your quality of sleep these days, but like other body systems, your immune system needs sleep to do its job well. Studies show that people who sleep less are sick more often. When you’re sick, sleep is one of the best ways to help your body fight off the illness. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, teens need 8 to 10, and young children up to 14.

Enjoy Moderate Exercise

Exercise is another key component to overall health. Don’t let a quarantine keep you from staying active. While too much intense exercise can suppress the immune system, the recommended amount of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week gives your immune system a boost. This may be due to the fact that exercise lowers the amount of stress hormones circulating and damaging your body, helps remove viruses or bacteria out of your respiratory system, increases the circulation of white blood cells and antibodies that detect and fight invaders, and/or increases your body temperature during and following exercise, which may help the body fight infection.

Practice Stress Management

While it’s difficult to avoid stress during a pandemic, stress hinders your immune system from optimal function. When you’re anxious, the brain causes production of hormones that ready the body for an emergency. At the same time, your body suppresses the immune response by decreasing production of key players in the fight against foreign invaders. Therefore, it’s important to take steps toward stress management. This may look like enjoying a hobby or getting exercise, practicing yoga or meditation, journaling, or seeking counseling. Find something that works for you and stick with it.

Consider Supplements

The right supplements taken in moderation or eating foods high in these vitamins and minerals may give your immune system a boost. Vitamin C, vitamin A, selenium, and zinc are all known for their ability to fight infection and shorten illness. Vitamin D is essential for immune system health, yet many people are deficient. Talk with your physician if you feel you could benefit from a supplement.