Winter is coming - and you know what that means.
Fun family times over Thanksgiving and Christmas are guaranteed, but also you may experience more plus, colds and sniffles than normal. Cold weather makes your immune system exert itself, leaving you more vulnerable to infections.
If you want to lower your chances of getting sick this winter, here are three practical immune-boosting tips you can use to keep yourself healthy and infection-free:
A protein called dermcidin made in sweat glands and released on to your skin when you sweat protects you against invading germs. Not only that, a good workout boosts your immune system. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, 45 minutes of brisk exercise five days a week lowers sickness rates by 50%. Even a single session of moderately intense physical activity has been shown to boost the immune system. In fact, people who exercise regularly experience many protective benefits relative to those who don’t - for example, a decrease in inflammation. Health experts believe lower levels of inflammation can also lower risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Stress can very quickly depress your immune system. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress levels, while also boosting the immune system. Mindfulness meditation means simply focusing on the sensations of the present moment - for example, by bringing your attention constantly back to the feeling of your breath as it passes in and out of the nostrils and the chest. This simple exercise allows us to anchor ourselves in the present moment. In an experiment carried out at UCLA, fifty HIV-positive men practiced mindfulness meditation daily for between 30-45 minutes for eight weeks, while another group was given a one-day class in the method but did not practice it. Eight weeks later, the non-practicing group showed a sharp reduction in immune cells that are normally reduced in response to the HIV virus. In contrast, men who practiced meditation maintained their levels of immune cells. What’s more, the more they meditated, the higher their immune cell count rose. Although we don’t understand how exactly meditation benefits the immune system, the benefits are clear to see - so why not take a meditation class at your local yoga studio or settle down at home for 15-20 minutes daily with a guided meditation MP3?
Manage alcohol consumption
It is common knowledge that malnutrition and cirrhosis of the liver, seen in advanced alcoholics, can directly suppress the immune system. However, increasing evidence suggests that light to moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages like wine or beer could have limited health benefits. It is important to realize that drinking patterns, beverage type, amounts of alcohol consumed and gender differences will all influence how alcohol affects your immune system. In general, regular alcohol consumption is considered a health hazard - so why not switch and enjoy a delicious mocktail or a healthy veggie and fruit drink instead?