The best way to stop spring and summer sickness from spoiling your plans is to give your immune system a boost.
But your immune system is complicated, and the one-size-fits-all approach that supplements offer don’t often work wonders. However, there are actions that can be taken to keep your body ready to fight infection.
“There are several simple things that people can do to take care of themselves,” says Dr. Julie Taylor, a family medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “I tell my patients the way they eat, their physical activities and their overall behaviors play a large part in improving overall health.”
Maintain a vitamin-rich diet
It is not a coincidence that infectious diseases are common in poorer countries, where malnutrition and limited health care lead to weakened immune systems. The ability to fight off infection directly connects to nutrition, which means the body requires a regular supply of nutritious food.
Vegetables and whole grains are vitamin-rich and give your immune system the supplies it needs. Vitamins A, B2, B6, D and E are all important for proper immune function. Vitamin C may work with the other vitamins to benefit the immune system, but there isn’t concrete evidence of this.
Don’t smoke and limit your alcohol intake
Another great way to help your immune system is to stop hindering your body’s defenses.
Smoking causes inflammation in your lungs that your immune system has to constantly fight. Cigarettes also contain high levels of tar and other chemicals that dampen the immune system. Together, these factors leave smokers much more susceptible to infection.
Binge drinking compromises the immune system for up to 24 hours after getting drunk, and the effects are even worse for alcoholics. The long-term effects of too much alcohol make heavy drinkers much more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis and HIV.
Manage your stress
Too much stress lowers the numbers of T-cells throughout the body. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that are a critical part of the immune system.
Regular exercise benefits almost every part of the body, and the immune system is no exception. It is believed that regular exercise, which improves heart health, also helps immune cells circulate throughout the body easier.
Wash your hands
Poor hand hygiene is the number one way that foodborne illness is spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water is an easy and effective way to prevent exposing your body to disease.
“You may not be able to do anything about family history, but you can do a lot of other things to make sure you stay in good health and that you have a healthy immune system,” says Dr. Taylor.