One of the most important ways families can ward off cold, flu and other illnesses are by boosting immune system functions. Here are some cardinal rules for the upcoming season as well as all year round.
1. Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of foods high in antioxidants is an important part of maintaining good immune system function. A healthy diet rich in immune-boosting foods can help your body build infection-fighting white blood cells, repair injury to cells, and do whatever else it needs to do to protect itself against infection and illness.
10 foods to include in your meals:
- Brightly Coloured Vegetables
- Leafy Greens
- Dark chocolate
- Lean Meat and Protein
2. Get Enough Sleep
Research has shown that sleep is essential for adults’ and kids’ immune system health as well as general well-being. Lack of sleep has been linked to a variety of cognitive and physical health issues including increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart problems. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to a disruption of hormonal function and reduced inability to fight off infections.
One study showed that losing even as little as a few hours of sleep in just one night can increase inflammation in the body and interfere with its ability to keep itself healthy. “Sleep is crucial to immune system function,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. “People underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep.”
Studies have shown that moderate, regular exercise may boost immune system function. But how you exercise makes a difference. Research shows that moderate regular exercise may increase white blood cell activity and increase these immune cells’ circulation throughout the body. As little as 30 minutes can boost immune system activity.
In contrast, too much exercise can have a negative effect, and may actually decrease immunity. Studies have shown that immune system function becomes decreased in athletes who engage in prolonged, continuous, high-intensity workouts. Several studies have linked upper respiratory illnesses with periods of prolonged intensive training.
4. Manage Stress
Can psychological factors such as stress affect your immune system? A wide body of research suggests that there is a link.
Both chronic and temporary stress can have physiological effects that can lower a body’s ability to fight off infections. Stress has been shown to lower the number and effectiveness of natural infection-fighting cells.
While some degree of stress is unavoidable for both grownups and kids, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that your child may be stressed. Try to manage your child’s stress and do what you can to keep your own under control.
5. Avoid Bad Habits that Suppress the Immune System
Do you have a smoker in the house? Do you and your kids prefer to sit around the house rather than get out and play outdoors or exercise? Do your family meals consist more often of high-fat fare than fresh fruits and vegetables? Does your family consistently not get enough sleep at night?
These bad habits can all add up to weakened adults’ and kids’ immune system function, making your family more susceptible to cold and flu and other infections and illnesses.
Written By: Shahzma Talib, Certified Nutritional Practitioner