In sports it is often said that defense wins championships. When it comes to the human body you could say that defense wins health. In this case, the quality of the immune system, or defense as it were, determines the quality of health. With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic taking place over the past year it should be no surprise that how we live strongly influences the strength, health, and balance of our immune system and thus our overall health. (Read more about how a healthy immune system can help athletes reach peak performance)
Good Defense = Good Health
Impressively connected and enveloping, the immune system is found in every part of the body. Healthy immune systems constantly regulate, monitor, and defend the body from potential harms such as native mutant cells (e.g., cancerous cells), foreign microorganisms (e.g., viruses), and dangerous compounds (e.g., toxins). Any major breakdown in the immune system can be devastating to the host’s health. Doing these five key things can help ensure your defense is firing on all cylinders: 1. get quality sleep, 2. curate a health-promoting diet, 3. manage your stress, 4. exercise regularly, and 5. regulate substance use.
Sleep quality and quantity are tightly related to immune system health and strength. While a person may sleep for 8 hours a night if it is not quality sleep that person may benefit from getting fewer hours of quality sleep. Of course, sleep needs vary for each individual but the sleep you do get should be quality. During quality sleep the body has time to recover and rejuvenate itself, allowing the immune system to properly function.
“Growing evidence demonstrates that short sleep duration (< 6 or 7 h/night) and poor sleep continuity are associated with the onset and development of a number of chronic illnesses, susceptibility to acute infectious illness, and premature mortality.”
Takeaway: Adequate amounts of quality sleep helps to fortify your immune system.
Curate a Health-Promoting Diet
Inside the intestines resides anywhere from 70-80% of the immune system. So how you treat your gut is a big part of how you are treating your immune system. Keeping your gut balanced is key and supplying your body the nutrients it needs is crucial for immune system health and overall health. That being said, diet goes beyond just the food you eat, it also involves the supplements you take and how you hydrate. (Read more about athletes, their guts, and their immune systems)
Nutrient dense, health-promoting foods offer the body necessary building blocks, compounds, and micronutrients. Typically plant-based whole foods are the best health-promoting foods for the human body. In fact, some plant-based foods contribute antiviral and antimicrobial properties helping our immune system defend the body. Without the necessary nutrients offered by a well balanced health-promoting diet our immune system is left without resources to carry out its functions.
Intense communication and interaction takes place between the gut microflora and the 70-80% of the immune system that is housed in the gut. Proper balance of the bacteria that collectively makeup the gut microbiome is required for a number of reasons including having a broad range of bacterial functions, diversity in the nutrients used and/or provided by the bacteria, and a wide spectrum of communicative compounds that are released from the bacteria. Taking an effective probiotic daily, such as LYVECAP STRONG, populates the gut microbiome with a proper mix of beneficial bacteria shown to promote health and wellness.
Picking an effective probiotic can be tricky. The characteristics of an effective probiotic, as compared to a questionable probiotic, include having specific researched strains mixed in proper balance and then having that mixture researched and tested in human clinical trials. On the other hand many probiotics are simply okay with selecting non-researched random strains, of researched species, and then never testing the mixture or balance of those random strains before marketing them to the public. With a sharp eye you can determine whether or not a probiotic truly has been clinically proven to positively affect the immune system in humans by carefully reading the products claims (e.g., “research-derived potencies” does not mean a certain probiotic mixture has been researched, or that the potencies have been researched in combination. It simply means that the species or strains chosen have shown promise on their own, not in combination, at the potencies used in said probiotic).
Dehydration can lead to increased susceptibility to illness. Water is vital to the functions of the body. When the body is dehydrated it cannot carry out functions necessary for health and protection. Water is a precious resource for the body and making sure you are hydrated assists in the proper functioning of the immune system and the body in general.
Takeaway: Eating health-promoting foods, using an effective probiotic, and properly hydrating makeup a health-promoting diet that helps to fortify your immune system.
Manage Your Stress
Long-term unmanaged high stress can deteriorate the body from the inside out. One mechanism of chronic high stress that impinges on the immune system is the constant production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a very important bodily hormone when produced in the proper amounts. One of the functions of cortisol that makes it problematic during times of constant productions is its ability to suppress the immune system. Constant suppression of the immune system is like having a shield that is always down, it is not very effective against potential harms.
Takeaway: Proper stress management helps to avoid the immune system depression associated with chronic high stress.
Regular exercise and a powerful probiotic (LYVECAP STRONG) work synergistically to improve gut health, immune system health, and overall health.
Regular moderate exercise is one of the top health-promoting activities in existence. While prolonged severely intense exercise may leave your immune system more susceptible, regular moderate exercise actually fortifies your immune system. Regular moderate exercise benefits your body and immune system as it can reduce inflammation, promote good gut health, assist in stress management, and help with cell regeneration among other things.
Takeaway: Regular moderate exercise helps to fortify your immune system through a number of mechanisms.
Regulate Substance Use
Smoking introduces many toxins to your body. These toxins have a wide range of effects that collectively work to destroy the body and immune system (e.g., inhibited growth and function of immune cells). Additionally, smoking is a known catalyst for producing cancer cells, this creation of more cancer cells can preoccupy the already hampered immune system as it tries to monitor and regulate these mutant cells, leaving it undermanned to fight against other potential harms.
Moderate or Eliminate Alcohol Use
In regard to alcohol use, the best health-promoting practice is complete abstinence. When abstinence is not in the plans, drinking in moderation limits the known negative effects of alcohol on the immune system. High amounts of alcohol use can weaken the immune system and slow down recovery time for the body, as it also increases the risk of cancer, liver disease, and more.
Takeaway: Eliminating smoking and moderate or no alcohol use are great ways to help fortify your immune system.
Fortifying the strength and health of your immune system in a natural way extends the buffer between you and illness. Illness presents an inconvenience that is most always unwanted and unwelcome, as it takes us away from living life to the fullest. So, fortify your immune system, bolster that buffer, and do your best to live your life free of illness by doing these five things: 1. get quality sleep, 2. curate a health-promoting diet, 3. manage your stress, 4. exercise regularly, and 5. regulate substance use.