The secret is out (and it’s not found on a drug store shelf)! There are lots of ways to boost your immunity naturally – many that you can do without too much extra effort (just healthy decision making).
Here are 10 secrets to boosting your immunity this winter.
3. Avoid Tobacco Smoke.
I’m not going to pretend that it is news that smoking and your health don’t mix. Continued exposure to smoke causes low grade inflammation in the body; in this state, your body is extremely susceptible to disease, ranging from the common cold to cancer. If you are a smoker, the fastest way to improve your overall health is to quit.
It’s also important to avoid second hand smoke as it also impacts your health a great deal.
Smoke (first or second hand) raises the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia. Exposure to second hand smoke increases the occurrence of middle ear infections in children. Second-hand smoke can also trigger asthma attacks and aggravate allergies.
Smoke undermines our basic immune defenses. Your immune system will produce a weaker immune response when it’s bombarded with smoke; in short, it is less prepared to handle the viruses and bacteria that you come in contact with on a daily basis. Second hand smoke kills healthy lymphocytes (disease fighting cells). Our immune system is designed to “seek and destroy” the germs that constantly assault our body. If the defenses are low, more of those germs will make it through and lead to illness. If you foster an internal environment that germs like, they will take root and a cold will develop. Maintaining a healthier internal body environment keeps viruses and bacteria from setting up camp and keeps you well.
The best thing to do is avoid smoke-y situations. Try not to spend time with others while they smoke. Avoid areas where smoking is permitted; this includes designated outdoor areas where those that choose to smoke congregate.
4. Drink Less Alcohol.
Drinking less alcohol is another way to naturally improve your immunity. An occasional drink or two is not likely to harm your immune system, however 3 or more drinks is an entirely different story. If you drink enough to be impaired (“tipsy”), you are drinking enough to weaken your immune system.
The consumption of alcohol impairs the function of normal B-lymphocytes (disease fighting cells). These cells are the ones responsible for producing antibodies against any foreign invaders (bacteria, virus, fungus, or other unwelcomed guests). Combine a few drinks with other immune-compromising activities – not enough water, second hand smoke, a cheeseburger instead of a salad – and you run a higher risk of coming down with a cold.
Excessive consumption of alcohol also increases the change of lung infection and may lead to further immune deficiency. We know that alcoholism is commonly linked to liver disease and failure, but research is starting to show that there may be an autoimmune factor as well; the immune system actually turns on the body’s own tissues, as if in its own inebriated state. This, combined with the reduced flow of oxygen caused by “blood sludging” (when alcohol combines with red blood cells which block small blood vessels), causes organs and, in turn, the immune system to under-deliver.
Drinking less alcohol does not have to mean none at all (though for some, it may). Like anything, moderation is key. Look at your calendar and choose which celebrations you’d like to enjoy a glass or two of wine, or maybe a beer over the game. Limit the amount at each event and limit the number of events (especially over the holidays) that you imbibe in. And don’t forget to rehydrate before, during and after for your best chance at immune boosting!
Check back again for the more ways to power through this cold season (and weather) to maintain a happy, healthy you.