7 Conventional & not so Conventional LifeStyle Habits for a Boosted Immunity
Part 3/4 – “Immune Boosting Practices”
What is a healthy lifestyle exactly? Well, there’s a variety of ways we can look at this, both from an objective and subjective standpoint. Objectively, everyone’s going to have particular activities that personally aid them to live more well balanced, happy and thriving lives. Subjectively speaking, there are a few pillars deemed necessary to live a healthy lifestyle – that is, a life void of chronic illness, pain, emotional exhaustion, mental illness, physical well-being, and personal self satisfaction.
In this blog article we’re going to highlight the main subjective culprits, along with a few unconventional or under utilized tools to boost a strong immunity from stress, disease and viruses alike.
No surprise, exercise is a fundamental component of a boosted immunity. If the body doesn’t get the movement it needs, in the form of walking, aerobic and/or anaerobic exercise, we lessen our bodies chance to fight off acute illnesses like the flu and chronic diseases like hypertension, inflammation, heart disease, strokes and mental disorders like alzheimer’s and dementia.
Apart from doing our best to look like a modern day greek god or goddess – exercise keeps the body in a growing state. When we lack exercise our muscles and protective cells degrade, making us more susceptible to harmful compounds and bacteria. Exercise flushes away bad bacteria from our pathways and lungs, and increases our white blood cell count, which are known to help fight off infection.
Exercise & Happiness
Exercise is also correlated with increased happiness, by releasing positive neurotransmitters. The happier you are, the less stressed and depressed you are. Endorphins like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are natural mood boosters, which are signaled during/after exercise, and help to regulate a more logical, positive state of being.
There’s no real secret or “ah hah” moment here; exercise good. Sedentary lifestyle bad. With there being a multitude of forms of exercise, there is no reason not to be moving the body in some capacity every single day: walking, running, resistance training, HIIT training, swimming, biking, play sports, martial arts, and hiking are some stimulating options. Find what you enjoy, and do more of it. Variety is the spice of life.
2. Eat Well
It’s true when people say, “you are what you eat”. Yet people continue to shovel garbage into their mouth and wonder why they feel like crap. “You’re telling me refined sugar, gluten and processed oils aren’t going to aid in a stronger immune system?” NO. THEY. WILL. NOT.
These nutrient deficient options curb the immune system cells that attack bad bacteria. Crappy processed food and GMOs decrease our energy, release harmful free radicals into our body, store fat and increase our chances of catching chronic diseases and illnesses.
The solution is rather simple, eat natural foods; foods that haven’t been genetically modified; foods that come from the ground or are found in nature, and that haven’t been manipulated in any way [GMO grain fed beef compared to healthy farm raised grass fed beef for example) is the best advice and place to start.
What we eat is directly connected to our microbiome, which many experts now deem to be the bodies true power source.
Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia are associated with dysfunction in the microbiome.
Your body is made up of bacteria, viruses and fungi, nutrition helps control whether these become harmful or remain as healthy cell protecting compounds in the body. An unhealthy diet is directly linked to a weaker immunity. We are seeing this more now than ever with Covid-19. The virus is most harmful to those who are obese and lack proper dietary principles.
For what foods you should be eating, check out a recent blog article I wrote, which covers the popular, rather basic, fairly liberal, extremely immune boosting mediterranean diet. This also includes drinking more water. Also check out some immune boosting powders and spices in Part 2 of this 4 part series.
A proper consistent sleep is becoming more popular as the years go by, thankfully. Sleep is our recovery agent. This rest and rejuvenation time is built for us to literally heal the body from acute stresses. Without proper rest, our bodies stress and inflammation levels go from acute to chronic, weakening our bodies system to fight against disease harming compound.
When we sleep, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines . These proteins act as chemical messengers to regulate the immune response. Without proper deep sleep we limit the amount of protective compounds and messengers designed to help keep us healthy and strong.
Sleep is regarded as the most prominent manifestation of the bodies circadian rhythm, which harmonizes our hormones and signals proper functions of the body to take place at appropriate times – keeping us alert during the day, sleepy at night, hungry during the day, full at night. Sleep is also the biggest contributor to the release of anabolic hormones like growth hormone, testosterone and melatonin – all designed to strengthen and repair the body.
The next time you think about getting a crappy sleep “for the greater good”, think about how this will effect the things in life that really matter – a healthy, energized, productive, confident self – which allows us to be much more balanced and efficient with our time.
**Generally 7-9 hours for an adult is deemed a healthy amount of sleep.
4. Don’t Smoke & Limit Alcohol Consumption
No brainer award goes to this section. I guess this whole article should win the no brainer award, but we often forget just how connected and critical each one of these elements are on their own from protecting us against illnesses and diseases.
Smoking is as basic as it gets though. It’s horrible for us.
Complex roles of cigarette smoke have resulted in numerous diseases, including cardiovascular, respiratory and autoimmune diseases, allergies, cancers and transplant rejection etc.
This makes adaptive immunity (immunity that occurs after a vaccination or exposure to a pathogen) and innate immunity (nonspecific defense mechanisms that come into play immediately or within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body) susceptible to cigarette smoke. Smoking has been shown to reduce immunity against infections and paradoxically increases autoimmunity; talk about a bad habit to pick up.
Alcohol is another substance we witness harm the system in a dramatic way. Most notably, alcohol significantly weakens the host against defences, again limiting the role of adaptive and innate immunity to fight off diseases. It’s rather straightforward, and those who abuse their consumption are doing themselves no favours in the short term or the long term.
“Moderate intake on the other hand, isn’t that harmful and can even supply potential benefits. Moderate alcohol intake, which was measured as between 5 and 15 grams per day for women, and 5 to 30 grams per day for men. Generally speaking, one drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. That’s 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.“
5. Fun & Enjoyment
A strong immunity is enhanced when things like stress, hypertension and inflammation are regulated to normal levels, so it would makes sense that doing something that reduces any one of these would be an immune booster.
That’s why enjoyment and fun has to be talked about. Life is stressful. We have deadlines, bills, and news everyday that makes us see the world as a horrible place to live, full of conflict and hate…that’s one way to look at it.
With the proper awareness and balance however, these elements of life don’t have to be your reality. Yes, we still have to pay bills, complete deadlines and every now and then hear about what craziness is going on in the world, but we don’t have to consume it like a desperate hyena fighting over scraps.
Instead of being obsessed with the stressful or necessary evils of life, be aware of them, but move on, and bring your attention to what life should be about, fun and enjoyment. These two elements are our active responsibility to implement into our life.
Fun can be as simple as playing a sport you enjoy, doing fun things just for the sake of it – without any real intentional purpose behind it – making time for fun creative date nights, hanging out with friends and family (without checking our phones like a 13 year old girl) and being more spontaneous and free with our actions and decision making.
Fun doesn’t have to be complicated, and shouldn’t be, for that matter. Think about when we were kids. We just had fun doing stuff. It wasn’t game changing, it wasn’t overly planned or thought about, it was just about doing.
Finding time for fun is as essential for our overall well-being as finding time to eat well, exercise, and get a good night’s sleep. Of course those first 3 are traditional pillars, but life without fun is rather wasteful.
Just watch, the more fun you have, without neglecting the other pillars of your life, the stronger and healthier you will feel. The key is balance. As legendary strength coach, Dan John shared in an old article of his,
If you work too much, you’ll ignore important things and “burn out.” If you rest too much, you’ll become slothful and ignore real living. If you play too much, you’ll be like the grasshopper from Aesop’s tale who played all summer, instead of storing food, and starved to death in winter as a result.
You want to nurture all healthy areas of your life each day in some regard. And fun and enjoyment is one of these areas, without debate.
6. Actively Reduce Stress Levels
We’re all stressed, I get it. But it’s those who manage their stress gracefully that don’t let it truly bother their health, physically, emotionally or mentally.
There are ways to actively engage in practices that help reduce our stress levels. As we have now been informed over doing any area of our life and neglecting other important areas is a recipe for burnout and high cortisol. Here are a list of simple, enjoyable ways to reduce our stress.
- You can organize your month, week and day by using a journal, day calendar, or planner, giving you a clear overview of time, commitments and awareness
- Meditation is another incredible tool to relax the body and mind, moving from a sympathetic state (alert, focused, overly stimulated) of being to a parasympathetic state (relaxed and calm). You can use mediation to manifest positive outcomes and thinking, by focusing on the present sights and sounds, or by engaging in focused breath work, which is becoming one of the greatest tools at our disposal to improve our current state. 4-7-8 count breathing is a popular option.
- Reading Fiction before bed also shows incredible benefits. A recent study out of The University of Sussex indicated that a mere 6 minutes of fictional reading before bed greatly improves our ability to adapt into a restful state, by slowing down the heart rate and releasing tense muscles.
- Hang out in nature. Nature is a proven environment for boosting our mood and with that, our health. Natural sunlight and greenery are biological mood boosters. We’re naturally happier in nature, as being outside allows for restoration and the ability to disconnect. The more we can engage with our sense and feel connected to the earth, the healthier we’ll be.
7. Laugh More
Laughing is good for us. For one the act of smiling promotes other people to smile, which always makes us feel better – sure beats getting the ‘crook eye’ or even worse the ‘evil eye’ – and laughing also releases feel good hormones, like dopamine and serotonin. Laughing also curbs our bodies stress hormones and causes a boost to a particular white blood cell (NK cell – Natural Killer) that fights infections.
The key takeaway here, laugh more. Don’t take life too seriously. Watch funny shows, watch your favourite movies, joke with people, don’t be so sensitive, and join environments that elicit some organic laughter and good times.