Your immune system works hard every day to keep you healthy. Here are six simple ways to give your immunity an immediate and effective boost.
Winding down and relaxing after a long, hard and stressful day does one's physical and mental health a world of good. Taking a walk is one way to do that and doing so close to nature is even better.
"When we walk in a forest or park, our levels of white blood cells increase and it also lowers our pulse rate, blood pressure and level of the stress hormone cortisol," said Dr. Aaron Michelfelder, professor of family medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Research in Japan has shown that walking close to greenery could help fight cancer. Plants emit chemicals called phytoncides that protect them from insects and rotting. When a person breathes in these chemicals, the level of "natural killer" cells within his body increases. These cells are part of the immune response to cancer.
"When we get to nature, our health improves. Our stress hormones rise all day long in our bloodstream and taking even a few moments while walking to reconnect with our inner thoughts and to check in with our body will lower those damaging stress hormones. Walking with our family or friends is also a great way to lower our blood pressure and make us happier," added Michelfelder.
Cut refined sugars
Research has shown that just 30 minutes after consuming sugar, a person's immune function can drop by as much as 50%.
Eating too much sugar has also been linked to heart disease, gallbladder disease, ulcers, colitis, overeating, obesity, mood swings and addictive behaviors, such as alcoholism.
In 1922, U.S. sugar consumption was five pounds per person per year; that figure soared to 135 pounds in 1990.
Refined sugar comes in many forms, including sucrose (cane sugar), lactose (milk sugar), maltose (grain sugar), fructose and corn syrup. Most frozen, cured, canned and processed foods are likely to be high in sugar. Sugary processed foods often lack the essential nutrients necessary to metabolize the sugars properly. They are also often low-fiber foods, itself another contributory factor to disease.
Research has shown that depressed individuals have weaker immune functions, while those individuals who are happy and optimistic have stronger immunity, better overall physical health and enhanced mental functioning. Broadly speaking, positive emotional states enhance immune function. For example, play, love, faith, hope and self-acceptance help to boost and balance the immune system.
Many studies have suggested that negative emotions suppress immune function. Grief, bereavement, depression, fear and panic have been shown to lower immunity, while stress and anxiety elevate the release of adrenal corticosteroids, which depresses immune function. Louise Hay, in her book Heal Your Body, described anger, criticism, guilt and resentment as "the mental thought patterns that cause the most disease in the body." All in all, pessimists tend to have poorer health over the long-term as compared to optimistic individuals.
Therefore, it is in your best interest to choose to look at life more positively, relax, distance yourself from negativity and find help to deal with persistent negative emotional issues.
Building on the previous point, laugh more. Research has shown that laughter can boost immune function and even reduce inflammation. Watch comedies, read jokes and have fun.
Spend time with supportive people
Studies have shown that supportive social relationships improve health, including boosting immunity. On the other hand, isolation and loneliness suppress immune function. Even hugs improve immunity. Get connected and spend time with family, friends and support groups.
Finally, meditate. Meditation has been shown to help produce beneficial effects in both the brain and immune system.
Sources for this article include:
Trivieri, Jr., Larry, and Anderson, John W. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. 2nd ed. New York: Celestial Arts, 2002. Print.
Mercola, Joseph, and Pearsall, Kendra. Take Control of Your Health. Schaumburg: Mercola.com, 2007. Print.
Murray, Michael, and Pizzorno, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print.
About the author:
Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth.
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