How can you improve your immune system to better resist diseases and infection? Follow this effective, simple and evidence-based advice:
- Look after your skin. The epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, contains a network of Langerhans cells that provide a physical barrier against infection. Because skin serves as the interface with the external environment, one of its functions is to defend against microbial attack.
- Move your body. Without doubt, regular exercise contributes to healthy living. It’s been shown to improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, help control body weight, and protect against a variety of diseases. Thus exercise plays a part in general good health and in a healthy immune system.
- Immerse yourself in nature. Get close to phytoncides, which are volatile organic compounds, sometimes called “essential oils”, given off by trees and other green plants, like vegetables (for example, garlic and onion plants and cedar, locust, oak, and pine trees). Phytoncides have antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal qualities that protect plants against insects, rotting and diseases by creating a protective microclimate around them. Studies show that “when people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.”
- Find your sleep pattern and stick to it. Determine your chronotype, which is a “body’s natural disposition to be awake or asleep at certain times.” To do that, start by taking the Automated Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (AutoMEQ) or search for a chronotype quiz online. Our internal cycles tell the body when to sleep, wake, and eat, and paying attention to them can strengthen our immune system.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking water supplies oxygen to cells and allows the kidneys to remove toxins from the body. Water also prevents and treats common chronic disorders: drinking 8-10 glasses of it per day helps lubricate the joints and thus combats arthritis; helps produce serotonin, a chemical the body makes for the nerve cells and brain to function, which keeps depression at bay; and helps the body produce enough immune and blood cells to help prevent leukemia and lymphoma.
This video, courtesy of the World Economic Forum, sums up these five ways to help your body resist infection and toxins.