Michelle Wilson, wellness program manager
Four ways to build a stronger immune system
We are moving into the summer months, a time when we naturally want to go out into the world to play, enjoy nature, and connect with people we care about. As we do this, we can all take steps to make sure our immune systems are as strong as possible to help us keep unhealthy germs and viruses (yes, including the coronavirus) at bay. If our immune systems are strong, our bodies are better able to stay healthy all year long.
We can keep our immune systems healthy by doing a few important things each day. Remember these four simple steps to take and check in with yourself throughout the day to make sure you are helping your body stay strong and healthy.
Nourish – Nourish your body with healthy food and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
One way to make sure you are eating foods that give you a full range of the vitamins you need is to eat the colors of the rainbow. If you choose fruits and vegetables that are different colors (red, yellow, blue, green, purple), your body will benefit. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables give you plenty of Vitamin C, green ones give you Vitamin K and folate, and blue and purple ones give you antioxidants. Remember to limit sugars and processed foods and cook your own meals using fresh ingredients as often as you can.
Move – Make sure that some type of exercise is part of your day.
Talk with your health care provider to decide the right type and amount for you. Play a sport, take a walk or a hike, swim, stretch, or dance! Daily exercise supports your immune system by increasing blood flow and oxygen throughout your body, which means that your immune system has a better chance of fighting off unhealthy organisms. It also strengthens muscles, increases endurance, and can help fight off anxiety and depression. If you exercise outside you have the added benefit of enjoying the natural world, and if you exercise with others you can enjoy the social connections you make.
Relax – Give yourself a break from stress.
When we feel stress, our bodies tense up and release hormones that prepare us to fight or flee whatever danger we believe we are facing. If these hormones pump through our bodies for too long, they weaken the immune system. If we make it a daily practice to give ourselves time to relax, play, and enjoy our lives, our bodies benefit. When we relax, our organs and all the systems in our bodies can recharge. Give yourself time every day to do things you enjoy, and your health will benefit.
Rest – Give your mind and body a full, restful night of sleep.
When we sleep, our bodies repair themselves from the day and recharge our energy systems for the next day. To create the best environment for healthy sleep: make sure the room is a good temperature (not too warm or too cold), stop use of computer or television screens at least an hour before bedtime, and create a simple ritual to relax yourself just before you close your eyes. Read a good book, spend a few minutes practicing mindfulness, or talk quietly about the good points of your day with someone you care about. Take a deep, relaxing breath and let yourself drift into a good night’s sleep.
Tip: Write these four words on a piece of paper and put them on your refrigerator or in another place you will see them each day: nourish, move, relax, rest. Every time you see these words, think about how your day is going and what you can do to take care of your body and your immune system before closing your eyes to go to sleep. Be well!