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Maintain A Healthy Immune System

By: Aarti Patel Email By: Aarti Patel
December 2010
Maintain A Healthy Immune System

Our immune system is the first line of defense when it comes to fighting illnesses and infectious diseases. It is a complex system of tissues, cells and organs that work together. With the stress of all the holiday activities and colder temperatures, our body’s immune system is often compromised as we get carried away with the festivities that are associated with this time of the year. Besides taking the flu shot this winter, here are some things you should do to keep healthy and have your immune system functioning at its best.

Avoid staying up too late at night: With holiday parties in full swing, it’s difficult not to stay up late. Do remember that lack of sleep elevates the stress hormones, compromising your immune system. If you know you’re going to be out late, try napping during the day to maintain a regular amount of sleep and feel refreshed.

Keep alcohol intake to a minimum: Alcohol compromises the immune system by suppressing the functional activity of white blood cells, which could eventually lead to infections and disease. A nutritional deficiency is also created as alcohol impairs our ability to make intelligent food choices and causes us to eat more. Besides, alcohol disrupts the sleep pattern, which in turn impacts the immune system. While one to two drinks may have health benefits, any more than that will not.

Avoid sugars and fats: Sweet treats and fatty foods are found in abundance during this season, but did you know that a diet high in sugar and fat can depresses the immune system? Sugar also creates a state of fatigue by causing an increase in energy followed by a rapid decline in energy. When the body is in a state of fatigue, the immune system is compromised. Many holiday treats contain both fats and sugar and are high in calories. Eliminating them might even give you an added bonus—arresting weight gain! 

Pay attention to your body: If you think you’re tired, you’re tired. Most of us ignore these messages of fatigue and stress, and instead of paying attention to how we feel, we keep going and going until, guess what, we’re sick! Nurture your body and learn to listen to your emotions. Treat your fatigue and stress as if it were an illness—get rest and find ways to relax. Manage your activities so that your emotional needs are also met. It sounds selfish, but you must do it.

Maintain a healthy diet: Good nutrition is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system. Add natural antioxidants to your diet. Foods such as yogurt, green tea, oranges, kiwi, garlic, sweet potatoes, berries and spinach all boost your immune system and help prevent infections. Have some of these foods on a daily basis. A recent study also shows that naturally occurring chemicals found in the skin of almonds may ward off infections and increase the overall response of the immune system.  How about a handful of almonds every day?

Get enough exercise: Moderate, consistent exercise improves immunity by efficiently transporting the white blood cells throughout the body. Consistent exercise also reduces stress and promotes better circulation and induces sleep. With improved circulation, toxins are removed from muscles and organs and the immune system is thus strengthened. If it’s too cold to go outside, exercise indoors.  Listen to your favorite music and march in place or dance for 15-20 minutes twice a day. You’ll be surprised at how good you feel.

Hydration: Yes, it’s winter, but you still need 10-12 glasses of water a day! Water maintains moisture in the mucous membranes of our mouths and nasal passages, which helps to fight off viruses our bodies may encounter. Water also flushes out toxins from our kidneys, oxygenates our blood and keeps us healthy in the long run.

A happy and healthy holiday season to all!

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