Strengthen Your Immune System – Fight Off Viruses
How to Better Prepare Yourself for Viruses and the Flu
By now we’ve all heard the key precautions for avoiding the coronavirus, flu and any viruses. These include, avoiding those who have been exposed, and wash our hands frequently.
by Greg Montoya
However, studies have shown that strengthening your immune system can better help you stay healthy. Also, minimize the impact of exposure to viruses that can lead to the flu and other health challenges.
A study at the University of Michigan found when 17 healthy individuals were infected with the flu, only half got sick. Meanwhile, the other half felt fine. The study also found that changes in blood occurred 36 hours prior to flu symptoms showing up. In addition, all study participants had an immune response, whether or not they felt unwell.
Following are suggested, “good practice” steps that help you strengthen your immune system going forward.
Exercising is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your immune system. Exercise causes the body’s white blood cells and antibodies to circulate faster. This means they can detect and zero in on virus bugs a lot faster. Exercise also helps reduce stress hormones, decreasing your odds of getting sick.
A study publicized in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found people that exercised a minimum of five days a week had approximately half the risk of getting a cold than those who were less active. They surveyed 1,002 participants. If they did get a cold, they noted less severe symptoms. Also, sweating during exercise has protective benefits. Studies show that raising your body temperature can help kill germs. Exercising 30-60 minutes most days of the week, moderately or vigorously helps strengthen the immune system. You don’t need to go to the gym either, especially in the face of a pandemic. Head outdoors for a vigorous walk, work out with free weights at home, join an online streaming exercise program, etc. All of this will help!
Pay Attention to What You’re Eating
80% of the immune system is in “the gut”. This means that when it’s healthy, you can fight off infections faster and easier. Poor gut health leads to a weak immune system, leaving you susceptible to infection. More importantly, eating a lot of processed foods has the potential to cause many issues. These include increased inflammation, cancer rates, the risk of auto-inflammatory and allergy-related diseases.
Many medical professionals advocate the Mediterranean eating style. This is loaded with vegetables, fruits, healthy fats (found in olive oil, nuts, and fish) and whole grains. This style of eating is high in important nutrients which are a wealth of antioxidants. These include Vitamin C and Zinc which fight infections and reduce inflammation. A 2018 study published in the Frontiers in Physiology journal found that seniors between 65-79 years of age following a Mediterranean style diet exhibited an increase in disease-fighting cells including T cells. Also, they took a 400 IU Vitamin D supplement a day for a year.
Fermented foods also are highly recommended, including sauerkraut, kefir, miso, and yogurt. These help develop good bacteria in the gut. Thus, supporting a healthy immune system.
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The Surprising “Other Benefit” to CBD
Some studies suggest that cannabinoids like CBD are immuno-suppressant, which can explain the relief experienced by some CBD users with autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation. Other studies show that regular cannabis use can increase white blood cell counts. Especially in immunodeficiency disorders such as HIV. Thus, suggesting an immune-boosting effect against viral-induced infections.
Eat Plenty of Protein
The amino acids in proteins help transform B cells, T cells, and antibodies. These are key players in the immune system. Most importantly, creating germ-fighting compounds that identify and eliminate harmful cells that enter the body before they cause an infection. Research on protein (plant-based) shows that protein can decrease LDL (bad cholesterol levels). Also, lower the risk of heart disease.
There are several sources of proteins, some not as healthy as others. Avoid highly processed and saturated fat options. Choose proteins that include nuts like almonds, vegetables like broccoli, eggs, oats, etc.
There is an astonishing link between mental health and the immune system. When dealing with chronic anxiety or stress, the body generates stress hormones that end up suppressing the immune system. Studies at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that individuals dealing with stress were more vulnerable to developing colds or the flu.
Other effects of stress included the production of cytokines, molecules that induce inflammation. It’s known that people dealing with stress and anxiety are less likely to follow healthy lifestyle habits. These include getting enough sleep and eating right which definitely affects immunity. We may not be able to avoid stress in our lives. But, we can adopt strategies that can help manage it like exercising (including yoga) and meditation.
Consume Antiviral Herbs
Antiviral herbs are natural flu remedies and do a great job of fighting viral infections and boosting the immune system. These herbs have several other health benefits, including offering digestive, cardiovascular, and anti-inflammatory support. Top antiviral herbs include Echinacea, Calendula, Garlic, Astragalus root, Cat’s claw, Licorice root, Olive leaf, Ginger and Oregano. Also, herbal teas are a great way to receive the antiviral benefits of antiviral herbs every day.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting plenty of sleep is one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system. When the body is sleep-deprived, it ends up causing stress hormones like cortisol. These make it even more difficult to sleep. Thus, suppressing your immune system.
A 2015 study published in the Sleep Journal found people who slept a minimum of 7 hours a night were 4 times less likely to get a cold. This is compared to those who got 6 or less. In addition, people that got 8 hours of sleep had higher levels of T cells than those who didn’t. If you’re having trouble getting quality sleep, like millions of other Americans, start a melatonin treatment. Studies now show melatonin is a little known, yet powerful viral inhibitor. Also, melatonin works synergistically with Vitamin D.
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Lymphatic drainage is a procedure that stimulates the flow of lymph. This is a fluid that carries oxygen, white blood cells, and important nutrients to tissues and organs throughout the body. A lymphatic massage (aka lymphatic drainage) can help sustain a healthy immune system. The lymphatic system functions as a key part of the immune system. The system includes the liver, spleen, thymus gland, lymph node and tonsils. It helps transfer the metabolic waste out of the body.
New NASA inspired air purifier has been tested against several RNA viruses to date. All with the same results, rapid 4-6 log reductions in air and relatively quick high reductions on surfaces. At the time of this writing the world is facing a pandemic with COVID-19 (also an RNA virus). These technologies have not been tested against this virus yet. But, they may be a logical first line of defense to consider.
The ancient thousand-year-old wisdom behind smudging (burning) high-quality sage (California white is the best), may also be a time-tested way of helping reduce the impact of both airborne and surface pathogens.
At a minimum, having lots of indoor plants rid the air of common toxins, indoor pollutants and boosts mental well being. Also, makes your home look amazing by bringing nature inside!
In conclusion, strengthening and maintaining a healthy immune system using these “best practice” steps listed above is the best defense against the flu, viruses and other infectious diseases.