Posted on: July 9, 2020 at 3:36 pm
Last updated: July 12, 2020 at 4:24 pm

Are you looking to supercharge your immune system? In today’s world, who can blame you? Your daily habits have much to do with how efficiently your body can battle diseases.

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When it comes to the war against germs, two of the best weapons in your arsenal are diet and exercise. Here’s how you can use both to shore up your defenses and become a disease-fighting superhero.

1. Get Some Cardio

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If you are 40 or older, do you want the immune system of a 30-year-old? If so, go for a walk. One study of 65-year-old exercisers revealed that they had the same number of T-lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell that fights disease — as those less than half their age [1].

How much exercise do you need? Most experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly. This figure translates to roughly 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can walk, dance or bike — whatever gets your heart pumping.

2. Add Strength Training

You should also strength-train for several reasons. One reason is that strong muscles help you perform activities of daily living with ease and less strain on your joints. Physical activity, including weight training in moderation, also helps and can help to mobilize pathogen- and inflammation-fighting immune cells in our bodies. According to Dr. Purvi Parikh, a New York City-based allergist-immunologist “Physical activity can also flush bacteria out of lungs and airways and causes changes in antibodies or white blood cells to help fight infections.” [2][3] Adding strength training to a walking or biking routine can improve your overall health. The practice emphasizes long periods of consistent activity, persistence, resistance, and perseverance [4]. Try keeping a light set of hand weights or resistance bands under your couch and performing biceps curls and squats during TV commercials

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Read: The Best Things You Can Do to Optimize Brain Function Now

3. Flexibility Counts, Too

You want to keep your body flexible, too. Stretching can help you protect your joints by keeping the ligaments and tendons surrounding them pliable. Furthermore, mind-body exercises such as yoga decrease your levels of cortisol and reduce anxiety. Excess cortisol production weakens your immune system by creating a state of continued inflammation [5].

4. Get Enough Protein

When it comes to nutrition, you have micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, and macronutrients. Macronutrients make up the majority of your diet and consist of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You might think of protein as the stuff that makes your muscles strong, but it does much more.

Recent studies find that amino acids — the building blocks of protein — play a critical role in immune function. Amino acids regulate the activation of T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells that destroy invaders [6][7]. They also produce antibodies and cytokines — two additional factors in a healthy immune system. If you consume insufficient protein, you could get sick more often.

5. Eat a Rainbow

You might have heard of phytonutrients like lycopene and resveratrol. These naturally occurring substances in plants do many things to benefit human health. Eating vegetables and fruits in various hues also ensures you get all the vitamins and minerals you need. While supplements are important in certain situations, as a general rule, your body absorbs and uses these substances more efficiently when they come from foods, though there some exceptions.

Read: 10 Immune-Supporting Juice Recipes

6. Get Your Prebiotics

Many people take a probiotic supplement or eat yogurt, but you need prebiotics, too. Prebiotics consists of the fiber in foods that humans can’t digest but which serve as fuel for your intestinal bacteria [8]. These beneficial microbes send signals to your immune system, telling it to increase or decrease the inflammatory response. If these microbes don’t have enough food, harmful bacteria can proliferate and lead to adverse health outcomes — including more frequent infections.

7. Quit or Moderate Smoking and Drinking

Finally, if you want to supercharge your immune system, you need to avoid substances that damage it. Tobacco smoke and nicotine can lower your resistance to infections by compromising the antibacterial functions of your white blood cells [9]. It also damages the cilia, which are the tiny hairs in your lungs that help to convert the oxygen you breathe into a usable form for your body.

Alcohol interferes with the levels of multiple hormones and can damage your internal organs. One study involving mice found that those on a liquid diet containing alcohol had 22% fewer spleen cells than those who didn’t indulge [10]. Your spleen is a critical immune system organ, and when it becomes compromised, you experience more frequent infections.

Start Supporting Your Immune System Today

If you want to support your immune function, you need to eat right and exercise. It doesn’t take much to get moving each day and eat your veggies, but the benefits make the effort well worth it.

Keep Reading: 8 of the Best Anti-Cancer Foods. It’s Time to Start Adding them to Your Diet

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Kate Harveston
Health & Lifestyle Journalist
Kate Harveston is a health and wellness journalist from Pennsylvania. Her favorite topics to write about often focus on all-natural living, mindfulness or women's health and well-being. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found hiking, running or cooking. She holds a degree in Professional Writing but is pursuing further education in vegan nutrition as well as sexual and reproductive health. If you enjoy her writing, you can subscribe to her personal blog, So Well, So Woman.

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