It’s back to school season, Vixens! Whether you’re returning to a (virtual) classroom, an office, continuing to work from home or something in between, you are probably going to be exposed to more people and spaces that you have been for a while. Combined with the changes in temperatures, possible sleep disruptions and an increase in stress levels and we’re at risk of catching all sorts of communicable things.
To help all of us stay healthy, we put together this list of 8 little lifestyle changes you can make to help boost your immune system, and to keep it functioning optimally in the days to come.
We covered this in our sun safety post, and you already know that water is the best. Someone has probably told you that you need to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. Instead of stressing about 8×8 or downloading apps to keep track, try drinking a glass of water when you wake up. Since your body is dehydrated from sleeping this will address it. Then all you have to do is drink when you feel thirsty. If you like warm drinks in the winter, try non-caffeinated teas, which are also hydrating. If it feels right drink a glass of water 30 minutes before bed.
Play in the sun
While this will be harder to do as they days get darker, try and spend some time in natural light. Weather permitting, go for a walk in the morning as the sun is rising to get some light on your hands and your face. As solar powered creatures, sunlight is one of the key ways our bodies manufacture vitamin D. This plays a role in helping our immune systems produce antibodies; low levels of vitamin D, on the other hand, have been correlated with a higher risk of respiratory infection. But what if getting sunlight isn’t possible? On the darkest days, supplement with vitamin D in a form that your body can absorb, and go back to taking advantage of the sun when it is possible.
You don’t need us to tell you that regular exercise contributes to overall health, physically, physiologically and psychologically. As a bonus, a healthy body means a smoothly functioning immune system. Some forms of exercise, like tai chi and yoga, are particularly suited for reducing stress and improving the strength, balance and flexibility. Dancing is another great way to improve those things while boosting muscle tone, adding cardiovascular exercise and challenging our brains with new ways of moving and being.
Remember your A-B-C-D-Es
Back-to-school means all the alphabets, and micronutrients. Vitamins and minerals are essential to maintaining a healthy immune system and supporting one that is stressed. Vitamins A, B2, B6, C, D, E, zinc and magnesium have been studied in relation to immune response, and seem to play a key role in helping us avoid illness. Depending on your diet and lifestyle, you may want to take a multivitamin supplement but if possible, eat a healthy diet rich in natural sources of nutrients. This will help boost your overall health while supporting your immune system.
Get your 5 a day
We know, we already said eat a healthy diet, but here is another specific thing. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, are loaded with macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein) that ensure our bodies and our nervous systems function optimally. In particular, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, and broccoli help support liver function, a key part of our bodies’ natural detoxification process. What does detoxification have to do with immunity? A system that is regularly cleansed has more energetic resources to fight off things that will harm us. Also healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and avocado, may boost your body’s immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation. Although low-level inflammation is a normal response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system.
Balance your diet
Just in case we didn’t hammer the healthy diet point home enough, we’d like to remind you that probiotics, or “good” bacteria support your digestion and your immune system. While science tries to understand the link (and ayurvedic medicine tells us that all disease begins in the digestive process) we know that probiotic supplements help prevent and combat colds. Again, we suggest you try and get your probiotics from naturally fermented food sources, like yogurt and kimchi so that they are in forms that your body can recognize. Curbing your sugar intake can also have a positive impact on digestion and decrease inflammation which supports your immune system.
It’s not news to anyone that constant low-grade stress drains your ability to stay strong. If you have big or little stressors daily, your system is constantly pushed to overcome that stress. There are a range of lifestyle changes you can make to manage stress, including dedicating time for exercise, self care, meditation and connecting with people you care about. Another way to manage stress is to dedicate time to creating things you enjoy – whether it’s choreographing a new routine, making a meal, singing at the top of your lungs, or drawing something, doing things that “refill your tank.”can lift you up.
We have a whole post about how you can sleep better, and we love getting our rest. Sleep is a necessary regenerative process for your body. When you are sleep deprived your natural immune cells, or T cells, go down, and inflammatory cytokines (inflammation cells) go up. That means good sleep results in strengthening your immunity. In a study in 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night, so if you want to avoid that unpleasantness try and get to bed a little bit earlier. If you are having trouble sleeping, you may explore taking a magnesium supplement with your last glass of water to help you slide smoothly into slumberland.
Stay healthy, Vixens.