We have always heard the phrase from our elders that “Our health is in our hands” and it holds true, now more than ever. But does it come down to “How strong is our immunity?” When we talk of immunity, we generally talk of certain foods or drinks that can “boost” our immunity, or regular exercises or eat a healthy diet that includes foods high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
HEALTH PLUS decided to take a deep dive into this discussion, exploring the truths and myths about OUR IMMUNITY.
Our immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. Our immune system does a remarkable job at fighting off microorganisms to protect us against disease. There is still much that researchers don't know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. But what we do know for certain is the varying factors that are at play, our comorbidities, age, healthy behaviours; all determine how resilient this defense system will be.
To function well, it requires balance and sustaining, not boosting.
Dr Suzanne Cassel, an immunologist at Cedars-Sinai, a leading healthcare organisation, known for pioneering research achievements, says “The concept of boosting your immune system is inaccurate. You actually don't want your immune system to be boosted, you want it to be balanced."
Harvard Health Expert shared, “the concept of boosting immunity actually makes little sense scientifically. In fact, boosting the number of cells in your body, immune cells or others, is not necessarily a good thing. For example, athletes who engage in ‘blood doping’, pumping blood into their systems to boost their number of blood cells and enhance their performance, run the risk of strokes.”
Harvard Health continues, “The ongoing research exploring the effects of SARS-CoV-2 virus on the immune response is extensive. But for now, we recommend VACCINATION as your major line of defense and balancing your healthy-living strategies as a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand. Balance being key and ‘sustaining’ or ‘supporting’ being a more accurate way of putting it.”
What can you do to SUSTAIN your immune system?
Healthy living strategies are always recommended as your first line of defense in giving your immune system the upper hand in the fight against invading germs. Every part of your body, not just your immune system, functions better when it is bolstered by healthy living strategies such as these tried and true basics:
Reduce your risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19
- Ensure you and your loved ones are optimally vaccinated
- Maintain effective hand and mask hygiene
- Physical distancing in public spaces
Give yourself real food.
The idea of “eating the rainbow” that many children learn about in school is a good rule at any age. Consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables should provide the important minerals and vitamins to support a healthy immune system. If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs — maybe, for instance, you don't like vegetables — taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may bring other health benefits, beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system. Taking megadoses of a single vitamin does not. More is not necessarily better. Minimise consumption of red and processed meats. Restrict saturated fats and sugars to 10% of total calories.
One habit to curb is eating or drinking more than 100 grams (8 tbsp) of sugar a day. That much sugar reduces your white blood cells’ ability to kill germs by 40%!
Keep physically active.
Regular exercise promotes cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and offers protection against diseases. Exercise also improves blood circulation, allowing immune system cells to move through the body more freely and do their job more effectively. Exercise dissipates stress, keeping anxieties in check. Try to get a minimum of 15-30 minutes of moderate activity for five days/week. So, take a walk, run, or even tune in to one of the thousands of free online yoga, meditation or workout videos. You don't have to go to the gym every day; you just need to move your body daily. If you can take the stairs up to work, do so, and do it again when you come back from lunch. Those small activities add up!
Get adequate quality sleep.
Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. When we sleep, the body releases proteins called cytokines while sleep deprivation decreases their production. What’s more, the production of antibodies and immune cells is reduced when you don’t get enough sleep. Let’s not underestimate the ill-effects of insufficient quality shuteye!
Minimise Stress; Manage the Fears
Train your mind to remain calm despite the chaos. The unknown can be scary and can overwhelm us. Fear can inflate negative thoughts, which leads to unhealthy stress. Ongoing stress releases hormones that get us ready for emergencies, but also severely depresses our immune system. Combat this fear by acting on facts, not misinformation. Engage in any healthy destressing activity that brings calm to your energy and allows you to breathe deeper.
Stop taking chances with your health
Health is one of those things we tend to take for granted until something threatens it. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or one food that’s guaranteed to boost your immune system and protect you from getting sick. Taking care of ourselves allows our immune system the best fighting chance. The best any of us can do to survive this pandemic is to be optimally vaccinated and be mindful of daily actions, our hands and points of contact.
Our health is in our hands!
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