Your immune system is an intricate, codependent structure of white blood cells, antibodies, complex proteins, networks, and organs. Some parts of the system act as literal barriers, preventing viruses and bacteria from reaching organs like your brain, while others hunt and remove invaders from your body.
Though your immune system is effective against many disease-causing germs and viruses, it requires time to familiarize itself with the enemy. In many scenarios, it must be able to recognize an illness-causing pathogen as a danger before it can be removed from your body. This is typically only possible once you’ve developed specific antibodies after having been sick or receiving a vaccine. Here are some important words to know when understanding how your immune system works.
When an antibody recognizes the antigen of an invading pathogen, it binds itself to it tightly. Once attached it acts as a beacon, signaling other elements of the immune system to attack the invader.
Immune system limitations against COVID-19
It’s important to know that a strong immune system will not prevent you from contracting COVID-19.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a novel pathogen, meaning those who contract it have no existing antibodies to mount a defense. For that reason, it remains imperative to continue practicing social distancing, good hand hygiene, and cough etiquette.
However, developing a strong immune system while you’re healthy can sustain your body as it familiarizes itself with the new virus in the event you get sick. Taking steps now to boost your immune health can also help you fight other common bugs such as cold or flu viruses.
More research is necessary, but it’s believed that quality exercise and activity, nutrition, emotional and psychological wellbeing, and lifestyle choices can benefit your immune system. Here are tips, tricks, and myth busting facts to help you feel as healthy as possible.
Boost your immune system through exercise and physical activity
“Moderate intensity physical activity is associated with better immune function, lower levels of anxiety, and perceived stress,” says Liz Joy, MD, senior medical director of Wellness and Nutrition at Intermountain Healthcare. Here are five ways to get more physical activity in your day.
Moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with a healthier immune system, but high-intensity, high-volume training may suppress immune function, especially if you’re unaccustomed to it. Remember to balance your workout program.
Healthy lifestyle practices
Getting quality sleep, eating nutritious meals, and managing your stress are meaningful ways to elevate your immune system.
Sleep is one of the most important health behaviors for optimal immune function, mental and physical health, and quality of life.
The CDC and American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends 7 or more hours of sleep for adults, 8-10 hours for teens, 9-12 hours for school age children, 10-13 hours for preschoolers (including naps), and 11-14 hours for toddlers (including naps) in a 24-hour period.
In times of stress and uncertainty it becomes even more important to engage in strategies that can help manage stress such as regular exercise, healthy meals, relaxation/mindfulness, self-care and connection (within the COVID-19 guidelines for social distancing). Each of these health behaviors are associated with better sleep.
Engage in some type of mindfulness/meditation practice regularly to reduce the effects of stress on the body’s immune system. Consider daily meditation using an app like Headspace or try Intermountain’s daily online live guidance at: Online Mindfulness Schedule
Enhancing your immune system through food
Nutrition is a critical component of your immune response. “Just like poor nutrition can deteriorate your immune system, quality nutrition can be the foundation for strength,” says Charlotte Hunter, a registered dietitian at the LiVe Well Center in Salt Lake City. “Balanced nutrition, can enhance your ability to resist infections and remain healthy.” Modest amounts of a combination of these 5 essential vitamins and minerals will keep your body healthy.
While it’s generally considered safe to take a multivitamin, there’s little evidence to suggest that taking high doses of certain vitamins and minerals individually will decrease your chances of getting sick. The best approach to preventing illness is to eat a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart healthy fats, and lean proteins to provide your body with the best variety of nutrients.
Ideas for healthy snacking
Struggling with having too many tasty snack options while working from home? Here are some tips to help keep calorie consumption down.
While you may not be able to completely avoid getting sick, a strong and healthy immune system can be your first line of defense. Focusing on your immune health can also help take the edge off your symptoms if you do get sick.
COVID-19: Best practices for a safe work environment
As businesses open back up and people begin to go back to work, many states are experiencing in increase in positive cases of COVID-19. While not completely unexpected, one of the areas of concern where COVID-19 can spread easily is workplaces.
When people are in close contact with each other for a prolonged period of time – like at home or a workplace – the opportunity for COVID-19 to spread can increase. Here are seven best practices for a safe work environment.
Wash your hands often
Avoid touching your face
Wear a face covering
You can spread COVID-19 to others even if you don’t feel sick. Remember to cover your mouth and nose with a face covering when you’ll be around other people.
Cover coughs and sneezes
Clean and disinfect at work
Practice social distancing during meetings, conversations, and tasks
Maintain social distance during meals and breaks
It’s everyone’s responsibility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can protect yourself and others by being vigilant about taking the steps that reduce exposure.
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