Winter is the time when we get a lot less vitamin D from sunlight. Couple that with changes in weather and spikes in flu and cold numbers, and you have a perfect recipe for a weakened immune system. Feeling under the weather is never fun, but it can be especially disconcerting during a time where Covid variants or the flu could be the culprits of your illness.
We at UAB Medical West believe that one of the best ways to ward off sickness in the winter months is by strengthening your immune system and following your medical professional's health guidelines. In this article, we compiled five easy ways to kick start your immune system, so you can spend your winter feeling great and doing what you love.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is your body's first defense line against intruders like viruses, harmful bacteria, pathogens, cancer cells, and parasites. The immune system can recognize our own tissues and cells from foreign tissues. When it spots foreign cells like a virus, bacteria, or parasite, it issues a response to fight them. The immune system can also clean out any dead cells from our body.
We are all born with an innate immune system, and it usually gets stronger as we enter adulthood. However, our immune system can become weakened by things like lack of sleep, poor diet, changes in weather, and stress. A weakened immune system is more likely to let in a harmful pathogen, resulting in sickness and infection. Here are the five ways to strengthen your immune system and stay healthy.
Get Lots of Sleep
Getting plenty of sleep is an important step in keeping your immune system strong. Our body and immune system use the time we are asleep to regenerate and recuperate. The CDC recommends that adults get seven or more hours of sleep a night to ensure the body can do all necessary repairs overnight.
Improve your quality of sleep by eliminating distractions and calming your mind and body before bed. Electronics can play a large factor in why you struggle with proper sleep patterns—try leaving all electronics like phones, tablets, and laptops outside your bedroom and limit television time before bed. Instead, try reading a book, meditating, or stretching before you go to bed. Keeping a regular sleep schedule and investing in a sound machine and light deflecting curtains can also help you sleep better.
Drink Lots of Water
Our bodies need water to function, so drinking a proper amount of water each day is essential for your health. Staying properly hydrated can help your body circulate infection-fighting cells and keep you disease-free. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men consume about 3.7 liters of water and women 2.7 liters of water from all beverages and food a day.
Have a Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the pillars of staying in good health. A well-rounded diet that consists of healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy carbs can ensure that your immune system has the necessary tools to fight off infections. Healthy foods to include in your diet are:
- Organic dairy
- Sweet potatoes
You can also add vitamins C, B6, E, and Zinc to your diet to boost your immune system.
Engage in Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activity doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym for two hours every day or become a triathlete. Simply moving your body regularly can help you regulate your blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and reduce stress. This allows your cardiovascular system to quickly respond when an infection attempts to enter your body. Try some of these physical activities to get you started:
- Walking the dog
- Jump rope
Keep Stress at Bay
Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your body—impacting your blood pressure and sleep pattern, and suppressing the effectiveness of your immune system. Reducing stress in your life may seem daunting, but things like getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating a healthy diet can all help!
Get Regular Check-ups at UAB Medical West
One of the best things you can do for your health is getting regular check-ups. This can allow your doctors to catch problems before they develop into a more serious illness. Your health care provider can also talk to you about the best ways to support your immune system and even check if any of your vitamin levels are low.
UAB Medical West in Birmingham, Alabama Cares About You Health
Wintertime is especially taxing on your immune system. Luckily our caring medical staff can help you come up with a personalized plan to keep your immune system strong and healthy in the winter months. To learn more, contact UAB Medical West - serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance!