Strengthen your immune system by maintaining healthy lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to strengthen your immune system in the long-term against the coronavirus and other diseases.
The human immune system is an internal defense against harmful germs and infections. However, building a strong immune system doesn't happen overnight.
Medical and health experts say the immune system is a complex system that requires many different working parts and strengthening it can take weeks.
Unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, too little or too much sleep, dehydration and stress can put you at risk, says Tulip Jhaveri, MD, a medical microbiology fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who specializes in infectious diseases.
Long-term solutions to boost your immune system
A healthy, balanced diet: Eating too much, or too little, can be harmful. Getting all the nutrients and energy you require can help ensure that all your cells, including those that make up your immune system, function well.
Jhaveri personally suggests a plant-based diet that focuses on whole foods, because apart from improving your immunity, it can also reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
The vast majority of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 are overweight or obese. Obesity leads to a more serious course of COVID-19 in various ways, in particular due to a chronically impaired immune system. Vaccines are also generally less successful in obese people.
Regular exercise: Exercise stimulates your immune system and improves its ability to fight off viral communicable diseases, according to a 2020 study.
"You can start with a 30-minute brisk walk three times a week to begin with, eventually increasing it to daily," says Jhaveri. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week.
Managing stress: Stress depresses your immune system and raises your risk of illness. "Meditation, connecting with family and friends (virtually, if necessary), practicing good sleep hygiene, and developing and following a set schedule can help reduce your stress levels," says Jhaveri.
Avoiding alcohol and cigarettes: Alcohol and smoking impair the immune system and make it less effective at fighting infections. Jhaveri recommends eliminating alcohol and smoking from your diet altogether.
Dealing with sleep problems. Similar to eating, sleeping too much, or too little, can be harmful. Studies indicate that sleep plays a crucial role in the functioning of the immune system. Sleep is important for improving T cell functioning. T cells respond to viral infections and boost the immune function of other cells.