If you take a moment to think about your immune system, you’ll quickly come to the realization that it is truly extraordinary. There are millions of different types of bacteria and viruses, but your immune system manages to keep you safe from nearly all of them. Sure, you may pick up the occasional bug, but when you compare this to all the diseases that are out there, this is a drop in the ocean.
However, your immune system needs you to give a helping hand if it is to stay in top shape. There are lots of different ways you can do this, but the first place to start is with eating a good diet. A good diet means a balanced diet – you need to have foods from all the five food groups if you are going to get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that you need. For example dairy products have lots of vitamin A and B12, both of which can help to boost your immune system. On the other hand, foods that are high in fats and sugar will suppress your immune system – you need some of these for energy, but if you have too much it can actually stop your white blood cells from attacking bacteria.
Another good way to keep your immune system on top of its game is to lower your stress levels. Of course, this is easier said than done, but there is very strong evidence that hormones such as cortisol – which you produce when you are under stress – are very strong immune system suppressants. This isn’t a problem during short periods of stress – such as when you are in physical danger – since you want all of your energy focused on dealing with the emergency. However, if stress lasts for a long period of time – which is what often happens with our hectic modern lives – then it can have a significant impact on the immune system.
One proven way of combating stress is meditation – such as transcendental meditation, Zen, One Taste or even yoga. In fact, there have been a number of studies that have confirmed this, including ones from the highly respected Harvard Medical School. Other studies have shown that when seniors do regular relaxation exercises, they are less likely to come down with viruses or develop cancer. In fact, meditation has many other positive health effects besides helping your immune system – such as reducing the risk of arthritis and heart disease – so it should be an important part of your daily fitness routine.
Finally – and this should be no surprise – if you are going to have a healthy immune system, then you should only drink alcohol in moderation and avoid smoking entirely. Drinking too much alcohol depresses your immune system, and is linked to diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. There is even some evidence that it makes the immune system attack the liver, contributing to cirrhosis in alcoholics. Similarly, smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day can make you four times as likely to get tuberculosis and pneumonia, as well as a range of other lung diseases.