With Covid-19 and the upcoming flu season, it is critical we all have a strong and healthy immune system. The immune system is your body’s defense to fight infections, disease, speed recovery and prevent serious complications. A weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to multiple health issues, chronic diseases, flu and Covid-19 complications.
I experienced firsthand the consequences of having a weakened immune system. Over 12 years ago, I was taking a medication for my Crohn’s disease and one of the side effects was a weakened immune system. Unfortunately, after 4 months of treatments I developed a fingernail infection which was not responsive to antibiotics and later diagnosed as a fingernail melanoma. My healthcare team believes my weakened immune system impacted my cancer development. Since then I have worked hard to make small healthier choices to build a stronger immune system. Now is the PERFECT time for you to do the same before the flu season is in full swing.
Here is some information to help you get started! Research has shown healthy lifestyle habits are key to building and maintaining a strong immune system. These habits include:
1. Handwashing: The single most important way to stay healthy and prevent spread of germs. The CDC recommends using soap and water for 20 seconds. No clock available, hum the happy birthday song twice. Alcohol based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol can be used if soap and water are unavailable.
2. Vaccinations: Provides protection against specific diseases by stimulating your immune system to produce immunity from that disease. CDC recommends a flu shot for everyone 6 months and older with a few exceptions. It is especially important for people at higher risk including those 65 and older and those living with chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, Asthma and Kidney Disease.
3. Healthy Eating: Research has shown there is no specific food or nutrient that boosts your immune system. The fact is your body needs a variety of foods to provide the vitamins and minerals to keep your immune cells healthy. Eat more nutrient “dense” foods which are higher in fiber, limit “empty” calories like added sugar, saturated and trans fats and sodium. MyPlate is a great tool to help you eat a healthier, balanced meals and snacks.
4. Limiting Alcohol: Excessive alcohol can make it harder for your immune system to fight infections. if you consume alcohol, do it moderately. For women that means no more than 1 drink/day, for men up to 2 drinks/day. One drink = 5 oz. wine (red is healthier),12 oz. regular beer or 1.5 oz. 80 proof distilled spirits.
5. Regular Exercise: Exercise increases blood flow and circulation of immune cells to kill bacteria and viruses. As little as 30″ 5 days/week of moderate walking can help your body fight disease. Time limited, good news, breaking the 30″ into three 10″ moderate exercise sessions achieves the same benefits.
6. Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Obesity affects your immune system’s ability to function and fight disease. Healthy eating and regular exercise are 2 key habits that can help you maintain a healthy weight and boost your immune system functioning.
7. Getting Adequate Sleep: While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances which protect you from bacteria and viruses. It is recommended most people get between 7-9 hours of sleep/day; teenagers require slightly more.
8. Stop Smoking: Nicotine has been shown to suppress the immune system and increase your risks of multiple chronic diseases. There are many resources available to help you stop smoking.
Now it’s time to turn this education into action to boost your immune system and lower your risks of infections, disease and complications. Small changes = significant health rewards! Start today to change your tomorrows for a longer, healthier life.
Scherrie Keating RN, BSN, CDCES, CDC, NDPP Lifestyle Coach, Certified Ageless Grace Educator
Founder, Diabetes Kare Consulting, LLC
Creator, Diabetes Prevention for Life Program