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6 ways to help maintain your immune system

A balanced immune system is important to stave off illness

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This article is for informational purposes only. Consult your local medical authority for health advice.

With current concerns about COVID-19 and flu season around the corner, many people are worried about getting sick. You need a healthy immune system to defend against germs and pathogens that manage to slip past hand sanitizer. We have some practical tips to keep your immune system balanced.

1. Exercise often

Regular exercise promotes healthy circulation, which lets your blood cells work more efficiently. According to an article in the Journal of British Sports Medicine, “[p]erceived physical fitness and frequency of aerobic exercise are important correlates of reduced days with URT (upper respiratory tract infection) and severity of symptoms during the winter and fall common cold seasons.”

2. Get enough sleep

Sleep is essential to keeping our bodies healthy. Adults should get seven or more hours per night, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Researchers found that “sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes” in a recent study by the University of Tübingen and the University of Lübeck, Germany. Basically, by prioritizing a full sleep cycle, you can help your immune system.

3. Quit smoking

As if there aren’t enough reasons to quit smoking, here’s another one: it’s terrible for your immune system. As stated by the CDC, smoking hurts your overall health, including inflammation and decreased immune function. So if you're a smoker, it’s best for your immune system if you quit. Visit your local pharmacy to explore options that can help you kick this habit.

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4. Cut back on stress

Look for ways to reduce or relieve stress in your life, such as meditation and exercise. American Psychological Association research has found links between the mind and body. This could mean that managing your psychological health — including stress — may be beneficial to your immune system response. Gandhi said it best: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

5. Manage a proper diet

Most of us know that eating sugary cereal for breakfast is, well, less than healthy. Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, an assistant professor of medicine at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, states that nutrition plays a crucial role in your overall immune system health. Some of Dr. Surampudi’s suggestions include:

  • Limit red meat consumption
  • Introduce more vegetables in your diet
  • Eat whole grains
  • Eliminate sugary drinks
  • Drink more water

Drinking 10 full glasses of water each day helps keep you hydrated, stimulates your metabolism and helps your immune system. Try to cut out added sugars in sweets or other carbohydrates and stick with fruit as dessert. It might sound difficult, but you can feel so much better!

6. Avoid germs

One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy immune system is to avoid germs altogether. Cases of the flu are often spread from person to person. Or, you might unknowingly touch something that a sick person coughed on. Some practical ways to protect your immune system from viruses and bacteria include:

  • Wash your hands as much as possible
  • Try not to touch your face before you’ve washed your hands
  • Socially distance around groups of people
  • Wear a mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Adhere to COVID-19 quarantine protocols per the CDC
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The flu season can vary because there are different strains throughout the year, but it usually starts to pick up around fall and winter. You can help keep your immune system strong with regular exercise, rest, plenty of water and nutritious food. Your immune system health is a daily journey of doing what's best for your body and mind!

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