Building a strong immune system is important to prevent you from falling ill easily. Your immune system helps to identify viruses, harmful bacteria and help regulate antibodies to remove foreign antigens from your body to keep your healthy.
The defense system of the body is made up of all your organs, including individual cells and proteins. Parts of your immune system include lymphoid organs such as the bone marrow, lymph nodes, the spleen, and the tonsils. For instance, the lymph nodes produce cells that fight illnesses; and the spleen is contains white blood cells to remove damaged blood cells from your system.
Sounds like a challenging task to keep your immune system healthy since it means keeping so many organs in your body in good, working condition! Unfortunately, there isn’t one miracle pill to take that will boost your immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet and incorporating some of these daily habits should be able to boost your immune system:
CUDDLE YOUR PET Did you know that having a pet at home lowers your blood pressure and stabilise your mood? If you ever own a pet, you know how much fun and affection they can bring. Having a furry companion around you can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Studies have found that:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- Patting a dog or a cat can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine – both are responsible for giving you the feeling of pleasure, love and joy.
- Pet owners have lower levels of triglyceride and cholesterol levels as compared to those without pets.
- Visit to the doctor’s office is about 30% less for pet owners over 65 years old as compared to those without pets.
Not forgetting that you will be motivated to go for longer walks with your dog. Studies have shown that dog owners are more likely to meet the daily exercise requirement if you own a dog. Walking your dog allows you to strengthen your bond with your dog and it keeps the dog and the owner healthy!
SLEEP MORE When you sleep at night, your body goes into repair mode to heal the damage inflicted to your body during the day. The relationship between lack of sleep and immune system is not straightforward. However, studies have shown that our T-cells decrease and proinflammatory cytokines increase if we don’t have enough sleep. Simply speaking, you are at risk of falling ill easily. “Try to get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a day”, Dr. Siew said.
MAKE FRIENDS Studies conducted by Brigham Young University found that a lack of strong bond with people around us may have negative impact on health equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Being alone is not necessarily bad, but being lonely is a health threat. Having one or two good friends are not sufficient to reap the benefits of having an active social life. Having a diverse social connection with people is important. Taking part in social activities and joining an interest group can help increase your immunity level. Who knew that having more friends can add a few more years to your life?
LAUGH MORE As the saying goes, ‘laughter is the best medicine’. It is true that sharing a good laugh with people can improve your health and induce positive physical and emotional changes in your body. Laughter strengthens your immune system, improves your mood, and diminishes pain. Studies have indicated that sharing a good laugh with people around you decreases stress hormones and increases immunity and antibodies, thus improving your resistance to diseases.
EAT MORE SUPERFOODS ‘Eat more broccoli!’, ‘Just one more piece of apple.’! You probably heard a lot of that when you were young. You might want to thank your parents for nagging at you to eat your greens. Some superfoods you want to include in your diet are:
- Oats and barley – Contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities. It can boost immunity and encourage wounds to heal faster.
- Garlic – Contains active ingredient called allicin, which is effective against infection and bacteria. Reduces the chance of catching a cold and getting colorectal and stomach cancer!
- Sweet potatoes – Gives you a healthy dose of vitamin A! Vitamin A is crucial for the production of connective tissues to build strong and healthy skin. Most people don’t see the skin as part of your immune system but it is the first line of defence to keep out any potential harmful bacteria or viruses.
- Citrus fruits – Eat more oranges, grapefruits and lemons. These fruits have high vitamin C content. Vitamin C is an important building block for a proper immune function. Studies have shown that flavonoids in citrus fruits have the ability to reduce inflammation and impede cancer development in humans.