The Commonwealth at York

While there aren’t any magic pills that can help make your immune system any stronger, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make that will help to support your immune system operating at its best.

While we know that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can weaken an immune system, it’s also true that consistent sleep, managing stress and maintaining a healthy diet can help to set the stage for a stronger immune system.

This winter, take steps to help ensure that your body and mind will feel their best with these 3 simple ways to help boost your body’s immune system.

Your body’s best defense against disease truly comes from the restorative power of sleep. Studies show that consistent sleeplessness can wreak havoc on a variety of your systems, by lowering your immunity, causing memory issues and weight gain, increasing your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure and leading to poor balance and possible accidents.

Research shows that most adults need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep each night to get the full, restorative benefits of a good night of sleep. If sleeping is a challenge for you these days, there are steps you can take to help support getting a good night of rest.

Try turning off all devices and screens one hour before bed. Take a relaxing bath or listen to soothing music to prepare for your bedtime. Wear comfortable clothes, ensure your thermostat is set to a comfortable temperature and avoid late night snacking, caffeine or alcohol. Finally, aim to go to sleep at about the same time each night, to help your body’s clock develop a rhythm.

Manage Stress
Finding ways to manage stress during a global pandemic can seem like an enormous challenge, but it is possible. The reality is that major life events will occur over the course of a lifetime. Developing healthy coping and stress management techniques now will be paramount to your weathering the storms of change as time goes on.

When stress begins to spiral out of control, it not only damages your immune system, it can cause memory issues, weight gain, fertility problems, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease and a long list of other health issues. Your body’s stress response is not designed to be lasting or sustained, and during difficult times, it’s important to take steps to turn it off and allow your mind and body to feel rest and at ease.

There are a variety of ways to help turn off your body’s stress response and manage chronic stress, including mindfulness practices and meditation. Moderate and vigorous exercise can help to relieve stress, as can deep breathing and taking a walk in nature. Talking to a friend or counselor, journaling and listening to music can help to relieve pent up stress, as well.

Nutrition & Exercise
A nutritious diet and some daily movement can go a long way to help your body’s overall health. Even small amounts of movement and exercise can help to improve circulation, decrease stress and anxiety and help stimulate hormones that help boost your mood and send messages to your body that all is well. Making sure to eat a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains also helps to lay a solid foundation for overall gut health.

Maintaining a healthy diet should be focused around eating foods that make your body feel good, staying hydrated and avoiding excessive caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Taking a daily fifteen minute walk, riding your bike or taking a virtual yoga class all qualify as healthy forms of exercise and movement that, when done regularly, will do your body well.