Spring forward: How to prepare your immune system for the changing seasons

March 16th, 2017 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized

While the official start of spring is right around the corner, there's no telling when cold conditions will completely subside and warm weather will finally be here to stay.

That means your body will experience a roller coaster of temperatures, which may increase your chance of catching a cold - even as flu season comes to a close. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to prepare your immune system for the transition from winter to springtime.

Here are nine simple ways to boost your immune system just in time for the new season:

1. Spend time in the sun
As long as the weather permits it, spend as much time outside as possible! Research by Oregon State University found that vitamin D plays a large role in keeping your defense system strong

"It's essential that we have both an innate immune response that provides an immediate and front line of defense, but we also have protection against an overreaction by the immune system, which is what you see in sepsis and some autoimmune or degenerative diseases," said Adrian Gombart, an associate professor of biochemistry and a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. "This is a very delicate balancing act, and without sufficient levels of vitamin D you may not have an optimal response with either aspect of the immune system."

"The daily amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age."

The daily amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age, according to the National Institutes of Health. Adults aged 19 to 70 should get 600 IU per day, while adults 71 and older should get 800 IU per day. Most people can acquire the daily amount through sun exposure, but others may need more. Reach out to your doctor if you're unsure, as he or she can recommend vitamin D-rich foods or supplements.

2. Lay off the sugar
Refined sugars have never had a great reputation when it comes to your overall health, but did you know that they negatively impact the body's defense structure? According to lifestyle blog Sun Warrior, sugars increase inflammation and damage cells, which gives them the ability to completely destroy the immune system. Avoid refined sugars as much as possible. To curb a sweet craving, eat more foods with natural sugars that are balanced out with nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  

3. Pay closer attention to your diet
For the immune system to run properly, it needs to be fueled correctly. Removing refined, processed items from your diet and replacing them with nutritious, natural choices will give your immune system the fuel it needs to thrive properly. 

Eat more fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.Eat more fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Spring is the perfect time to start over and eat healthier because of all of the delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables available, according to Eat Right, an initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Spinach, strawberries and asparagus are especially nutritious options that can be used in various dishes during the spring.

4. Take probiotics
According to Dr. Mercola, it's estimated that 80 percent of the immune system resides in the digestive system, which makes maintaining digestive health the key to a strong defense system. Taking probiotics every day can regulate your digestive tract. Talk to your doctor about taking probiotics and other options for keeping your gut healthy.

5. Exercise regularly
By exercising on a regular basis, you'll improve your cardiovascular health, lower your blood pressure, maintain your weight and strengthen your immune system to ward off various diseases and illnesses. According to Harvard Health Publications, a regular fitness regimen may directly relate to a boosted immune system because it promotes good cell circulation.

This spring, take advantage of the warm weather and go on more walks, jogs and hikes. Or, continue visiting the fitness center for at least 150 minutes every week.

6. Find ways to de-stress
You know that stress has an influence on your mental health, but have considered how it negatively impacts your physical health too? According to research published by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that students who were under stress had a lowered immunity and fewer natural defense cells that fight viral infections. With these findings, researchers concluded that stress management is critical, not only for mental wellness, but also for a strong immune system. 

As the season changes, find ways to keep your stress levels down. Spend time with the ones you love, take up a new hobby or treat yourself to a day at the spa when it's necessary.

7. Rest properly
Without enough sleep, your body doesn't have the chance to recover from the day and recharge for the next. This can weaken the immune system, and ultimately increase your chance of getting sick as the seasons change. To be well-rested, The Sleep Foundation recommends older adults get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. If you don't normally hit these numbers, consider taking a nap during the day.

8. Stay hydrated
According to Mind Body Green, water helps produce lymph, which carries the white blood cells and immune system cells. By drinking water throughout the day, you'll  transport all of the vital vitamins and nutrients your body needs to thrive. Generally, you should be drinking at least eight glasses of water per day, but your doctor may suggest more or less based on the status of your overall health.

Talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking every day.Talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking every day.

9. Reconsider your bad habits
There's a reason they're called "bad habits." Smoking, for example, is detrimental to the immune system, according to Smokefree.gov. When inhaled, the levels of tar and other chemicals found in cigarette smoke break down the defense system, increasing your chance of developing illness, disease and even certain cancers. If you're a smoker, it's in your best interest to break the habit. Talk to your doctor about your options for quitting.

Much like smoking, alcohol suppresses the immune system, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking in excess can increase your chance of developing disease and illness. If you consider yourself a regular drinker, it's time to think about cutting back. Reducing the amount you consume alone can lessen your chance of compromising your immune system.

At Sunrise, we are always encouraging our residents to make healthy lifestyle choices to fuel strong immune systems. For more information about our assisted living options at any of our residences, don't hesitate to contact us today.

Source: Sunrise Senior Living

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