5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Woman and her husband sleeping comfortably

Now more than ever it is time to think about our health, and what we can do to boost and support a healthy immune system. When it comes to prevention, everyday defenses such as washing your hands often and avoiding sick people are great.

Boosting your immune system, however, goes beyond that so that if you do get sick, it is less severe and doesn’t last long. Here are five easy things you can do to boost your immune system:

1. Keep active every day, no matter how little

It’s almost universally understood that exercise is very good for your immune system. That probably goes double for older adults! In addition to the natural tendency to slow down as we age, our immune system naturally loses some of its effectiveness. We lose skeletal and muscular flexibility, and good blood flow in our extremities is a bit harder to come by. A regular program of movement and exercise can help.
The challenge for most seniors is overcoming the mental and physical obstacles toward exerting onesself when eating chips in front of the TV may be a much more appealing option.
Seniors need to commit to 20 minutes of walking, deep knee bends, yoga, swimming, or stretching every day. Of course, your overall health will dictate what you can do but you must gently find your limits and work to extend them over time. The payoff will be an improved quality of life, and a better immune system response than you may have thought possible.

2. You are what you eat

Another key component of a healthy immune system is a healthy gut. “Eighty percent of your immune system is in the gut, so when it’s healthy, we tend to be able to fight off infections faster and better,” says Yufang Lin, M.D., of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “When it’s not, our immune system is weaker and more susceptible to fighting off infection.”
Dr. Lin recommends a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats while limiting your intake of starch, processed foods and red meat. This way of eating is high in nutrients and vitamins while limiting foods that cause general joint and body inflammation such as red meats and fried food.
Every senior (really everybody) should be having a mixed green salad every day. Fermented foods like yogurt can be good but beware of the sugar content in many common yogurt brands. Solid adherence to a good diet will build good bacteria in your gut, and a healthy gut means a healthy immune system.

3. Manage your stress

Most of us are under increased stress at the moment, and our options for dealing with it are limited. When you are under heavy stress or experience anxiety, your body produces a stress hormone that subdues your immune system.
People who are stressed are more susceptible to developing illnesses like colds and viruses’. They tend to sleep less, which further compromises the immune system. Although it is impossible to entirely avoid stress you can create habits to manage it like finding ways to exercise. Talk to a loved one on the phone or in a virtual meeting. Cut back on the amount you are eating and try not to eat late at night or before going to bed.

4. Get plenty of sleep!

When sleep deprived, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol to keep you awake and alert, which then suppresses your immune system. Getting enough sleep creates higher levels of immune system defense, so try to get at least seven hours of shut-eye a night. Your immune system works like a computer, if you work it too hard without rest, it will overheat.

5. Consider vitamin supplements

There is no such thing as one pill to prevent you from getting ill, but a moderate dose of vitamin D (especially if you are already low) and vitamin C could offer some form of protection against viruses. Make sure you invest in good quality supplements. Take these vitamins with meals that contain fats or oils to increase absorption.
When cooking, use ingredients like garlic, ginger, rosemary, oregano, and turmeric. All have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Much of the supplement equation, however, goes back to eating the right foods. “When my patients ask me about taking supplements to enhance their immune system, I always go back to food, food, food,” says Dr.Lin.

Nutritionists help Collingswood residents elevate their immune systems.

At United Methodist Communities in Collingswood NJ, we have the advantage of meals prepared with senior nutrition in mind. One of the many advantages of an assisted living lifestyle is how many elements of stress and health are managed for residents and families, decreasing worry and strengthening immune systems for everyone.

For more information on assisted living at our Collingswood Community please visit our website at https://umcommunities.org/collingswood/

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