Immunity is a word we’ve heard pretty often this year. With a virus circulating and the world going into a lockdown, you’ve probably wondered a few times how your own immunity is faring and how it would stand up against common viruses.
As we head out of lockdown thanks to the vaccine roll out – and the added insurance of a Covid-19 antigen test – boosting your immunity could be a good way to ensure that your road out of lockdown is a smooth one. And so, we’ve collated some tips on how to improve your immunity below.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet
A diet consisting of a range of vitamins and nutrients that feed the body well is the first step to living a healthier lifestyle, and is vital in supporting your body’s immune system. Eating your five-a-day, as well as other key sources of nutrients such as fibre and good fats, contributes to a healthy and functioning immune system.
The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of high intensity activity each week. Regular exercise can help improve the body’s defences by allowing immune cells to perform effectively, and can boost metabolic health. It also improves immune regulation, protects cardiovascular health and can help improve mental health. All of these benefits contribute to your resistance to nasty bugs and diseases.
Smoking contains chemicals that can interfere with the immune system in a whole range of ways, especially the lungs, making you much more susceptible to respiratory illness. In addition, smoking throws off the balance of the body’s immune system meaning that you can be more susceptible to autoimmune illnesses (when the body attacks its own cells).
Drink less alcohol
Though we’re all excited to be back in the pub and see our friends, drinking less alcohol is an effective way to boost your immunity. Alcohol can adversely affect your immunity by impairing immune cell responses in specific organs, and can cause inflammation in the gut, leading to higher risk of infection. So, while you’re taking steps to keep yourself and others safe from Covid-19, like taking a Covid-19 antigen test before meeting at the pub, consider drinking less while you’re there too.
Getting a good night’s rest
Lack of sleep can make it harder for the body to fight off infection by interfering with the immune system. The immune system performs a number of responsive functions during sleep, aiding in the body’s recovery, so lack of those precious eight hours can make it more difficult for the body to recover from infection.
Furthermore, sleep allows the body time and resources to boost immune memory, where the immune system learns and remembers how to deal with dangerous antigens, allowing the body to build up immunity to common viruses and bacteria. Lack of sleep can also negatively affect how your body responds to vaccines, a response which is critical in the current climate.
The health benefits of minimising stress are wide ranging and boosting immunity is one of them. Although stress is an issue that originates in the mind, it can have many negative effects on the body, including increasing cholesterol through the release of adrenaline and leading to worse cardiovascular health, and affecting how the digestive system functions, meaning food is broken down more slowly leading potentially to gastric ulcers.
The effects of stress on the body make it much harder for the body to fight off infection and the release of the stress hormone cortisol has an adverse effect on your body’s inflammatory response. Reducing stress in your life can be difficult but making small changes such as, practicing mindfulness and getting regular exercise and sleep can all help to reduce the effects of stress on the body.