Your immune system is your strongest defense against illness. Everyone is born with an innate immunity that has the purpose of limiting or preventing infection by acting as a barrier to keep harmful materials from entering your body.
“Your immune system is made up of cells that help fight infection, prevent infection, and help the body to heal,” said Tara Carr, MD, an immunologist and allergist with Banner - University Medical Center Tucson. “The immune system is constantly surveying your body for problems, and at the first sign of an infection, some of those immune cells rapidly multiply and release chemicals to fight the infection.”
In these uncertain times, the best thing you can do to avoid getting sick is to keep your immune system healthy. Dr. Carr offers these immunity-boosting tips:
- Start or continue an exercise routine: Taking a daily walk or participating in an exercise routine a few times a week can flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways. When you get moving, your body temperature rises and this brief increase can help strengthen your immune system by preventing bacteria from growing.
- Get good sleep: There is strong evidence showing that sleep can enhance your immune system. But quantity and quality matters. The typical adult should sleep 7-8 hours per night and awaken no more than once per night in order to get the highest quality sleep.
- Nutrition and diet: Keep your immune system healthy by eating nutritious foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Hydrate: A hydrated body is better able to eliminate bacteria and other toxins and ward off infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hydrating with plain water instead of drinks containing calories, like soda.
- Reduce stress: Keeping your stress level down has many health benefits, including strengthening your immune system. Stress wears down your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illness and disease.
A strong immune system is the ultimate defense against illness, whether it’s COVID-19, seasonal flu, or something else. “The immune system functions best in a body that is healthy and well cared for,” said Dr. Carr.
If you’d like more information on immune-boosting steps, or if you’re feeling ill and need to see a doctor, schedule an appointment with a Banner Health physician.