Last updated on February 29th, 2020 at 08:07 am
Yes, it might be true that you can kinda improve your immune system by eating a garlic clove every now and then, but the real key to a strong, well-functioning immune system is good healthy habits. And genes of course, but since we can’t do anything about our genes, let’s focus on the things we can control – developing good habits. Here we’ll take a look at some ways to improve your immune function long-term through habits.
The Immune System: Key To A Long Happy & Healthy Life
The key to a happy, healthy and long life? It’s the immune system. It’s that part of your body that is pretty hard to describe, as it’s not a single organ, but an actual system of organs, cells and molecules that is perfectly developed to protect you from infectious and chronic disease.
We know the immune system is important. If you neglect it, you’ll get sick more often. I mean who’s going to fight infections and chronic diseases for you if it wasn’t for your immune system? Superman? Batman? The Avengers? Your mom? Dora the Explorer?
All those guys are great, but the immune system is more powerful than any of them.
The Immune System Is An Indicator Of Biological Age
Some studies found the immune system of healthy centenarians is pretty similar to the immune system of people 30-years old. The immune system is in that sense an indicator of your biological age. This means all we’ve got to do to live longer is to preserve the immune system we have.
The Best Way to Improve Your Immune System?
The best way to improve immune function isn’t taking a multivitamin once a month. It’s to develop immune-boosting habits and practice them regularly.
I know what you’re thinking: “Blah. Habits.”
But a habit like listening to music while petting a dog and laughing with a friend is not that bad, is it?
Note: This turned out to be a huuuuuge post, I got carried away, so I just divided it into two parts like they did with The Godfather. And then in a few years I might also come up with a Part III. Today I’m sharing 5 things you can do daily to improve your immunity and tomorrow you’ll find 5 more things here.
10 Healthy Habits To Strengthen Your Immune System
Here are 10 healthy habits to improve your immune system and keep you young, Part I.
HABIT #1. Keep A Good Diet
The immune system requires quite a few nutrients to function well. The antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A and selenium are just a few of those.
If your supply of even one nutrient essential for life is insufficient your immune function is going to suffer more than the main character of a Latin-American telenovela. And if you’ve also spent your childhood summers watching telenovelas with your grandma you’d know – those characters suffer a lot.
Not only does a small nutrient deficiency make your body easier target for infection, but it’s also a dream-deal for viruses.
It’s been shown that a deficiency in selenium, vitamin E or copper is actually beneficial for the development of different viruses. It makes them go totally crazy, getting stronger and replicating like there’s no tomorrow.
That’s a huge surprise to me as I would think that if there’s not much “food” for my own cells, then there won’t be much for the virus either. But hey, who understands those lunatics, they’re pretty unpredictable.
If your diet is far from where you wanted it to be – start small. Maybe you start by making a salad with every meal or drinking a green smoothie in the morning or 3 pm in the afternoon instead of coffee…Then little by little start reducing your consumption of foods that aren’t “nutrient” bombs and are very much processed. The more diverse and nutrient-dense you make your diet, the more satisfied you’ll be and your immune system will be happy as well.
Habit#2: Move Your Body
Whether you like it or not – exercise is good for you. It is. It’s shown that regular exercise reduces the levels of circulating inflammatory factors and oxidative stress, increases the recirculation of natural killer cells (immune cells that kill cancer and infected cells) and improves the decreased T-cell function that occurs naturally as we age.
Simply put: exercise improves immune function and keeps you young. You benefit from moderate daily exercise like walking, jogging, whatever feels of moderate intensity to you at any age.
Q: What’s moderate intensity?
A: They say it’s being able to still talk, but not sing. Like that’s gonna stop me from singing while I’m outside running like the wind.
#1 Benefit of exercise: Protects against infections
Regular moderate intensity exercise protects against infections (like the common cold), but also against chronic diseases like cancer. Studies confirm people who regularly exercise are sick not only less often, but also for fewer days.
BUT! This is only when you do regular moderate intensity exercise; not a triathlon program once a month. That kind of intense exercise is exhausting to you and your immune system and will leave you with a cold for weeks. Better less and more often.
#2 Benefit Of Exercise: Protects against cancer and cardiovascular disease
I somehow thought fiber and probiotics would be more effective at preventing colon cancer, but actually, regular exercise is the only factor that with no doubt reduced the risk of colon cancer in one study.
How fast you walk is also important: a follow-up study that observed more than 6000 men for over 25-years showed that men who walk faster have a lower risk of getting cancer, heart or cardiovascular disease than people who walk slower.
Morning Exercise Is Great
There are many reasons to exercise in the morning. Some of them are improved mood or increased productivity, but the main reason for me is to make sure I actually do my exercises. If I leave it for the evening, I’m 90% sure I won’t do them.
Habit #3: Laugh
Laughing boosts the immune function and is quite awesome:
- it’s easy to do
- there’s always time for it
- it’s quite inexpensive, actually, it’s free
- anyone can do it
- it releases stress
- according to research even improves the activity of natural killer cells – the cells that you need to kill dangerous cells in your body like cancer cells or infected cells
Smiling awkwardly when someone’s telling you the most boring joke ever is not enough though. You’ll need to really laugh at that bad joke to make the magic happen and raise those natural killers and your salivary IgA levels. IgA is a protein found in all mucosal membranes and the blood and is the first-line defense against a variety of pathogens.
Are You Healthier If You’re Funny?
Aaah, the question we’ve all been asking…Researchers wanted to know not only whether or not people who laugh more were healthier, but also whether or not the funny ones are healthier than the not-so-funny ones. I thought: Isn’t that the same?
You’re funnier, you’d also be laughing more, right?
Just because you’re funny doesn’t mean you’re laughing and just because you’re boring doesn’t mean that you won’t laugh at other people’s jokes. In fact, if you have a very good sense of humor, it might even be more difficult for you to let out a laugh.
It’s because you’ve got high standards.
Well one group researched sense of humor and health for 15 years. 15 years!!! They found that older women who had good sense of humor had a better chance at surviving a cardiovascular disease or an infection.
And to support this with my own one-day-study: Yesterday I was looking through the list of the oldest people ever lived (because I guess I’m weird) and what I noticed was not only that most of them were women, but also according to the interviews I read, were pretty funny. And they all made it to 110 and above.
Of course sense of humor is subjective and everyone thinks their sense of humor is amazing.
I laugh at my own jokes all the time. Does it mean that other people laugh at my jokes as well? From time to time. And sometimes it’s really awkward and lonely, but I laugh really hard to cover the silence (obviously also to boost my immune system) and I stare at everyone until they start smiling awkwardly, eventually laugh awkwardly.
Maybe they don’t appreciate it, but not only did they just hear the best joke ever – they also get health benefits with my help. You’re welcome!
Habit #4: Express Yourself
Sometimes when things get heavy we tend to bottle them up and keep them to ourselves (well at least some of us – some people just love to keep you busy with their problems).
We know it’s not healthy – people close to us tell us that. Turns out, they’re right! Keeping things to yourself is not healthy. But does this necessarily mean that expressing yourself is healthy?
And the answer is – yes, yes it is. Research has shown (says putting on a monocle), that expressing your thoughts, feelings and experiences through writing and maybe other forms of creativity give your immunity a huge boost.
Just writing down your feelings and your thoughts on paper for about 15-20 minutes a day would enhance the activity of natural killer cells and T-cells. We need these cells to fight off infection, cancer and other diseases.
This is quite amazing. And when you think about it – it does make a lot of sense. Self-expression can help cope with stress and stress is very toxic for the human body – as Gandhi put it: “Nothing wastes the body more than worry.”
To reduce stress and boost your immune system you simply need to write down your thoughts, get them in any form off your chest. You don’t need to share them with anyone.
Writing your thoughts down is enough as it will help you get clarity. It will also help you get to know yourself better, your needs and your goals.
You’ll understand that maybe not everything, but most things concerning your needs and priorities are up to you. Focus on them – not on the things in your environment you can’t do anything about. Feeling in control and making your own decisions is the key.
Self-expression is definitely a habit you should invest 15-20 minutes a day in. If you don’t have 20 minutes then take 5 minutes. And if you at some point get so good at life, that you don’t have any problems to express, then express gratitude.
This as well creates good vibes in your body and improves your health. In fact, express gratitude even if you have 99 problems like Jay Z.
Habit #5: Listen To Good Music
Another habit that doesn’t take time is pretty awesome and keeps you healthy is listening to music. Can life get any better? You can listen to music wherever you go and whatever you do – when you’re driving, running, walking, even when you’re working.
Relaxing and uplifting music helps us cope with stress and optimizes the levels of natural killer cells. Listening to music gives us a feeling of reward by increasing the levels of serotonin and endorphin. And not only that: it also decreases the levels of cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that runs pretty high in the stressful world we live in. We need to keep cortisol levels stable – not just to reduce stress, but also to reduce belly fat. That’s right: if you skip listening to music not only are you risking an infection, but also a fat belly.
You can also beat anxiety with music
Certain types of music (slow and steady rhythm) have something quite hypnotizing and are very relaxing to the human body – this not only reduces stress – it also makes anxiety go.
Pick your own style
Whether you choose relaxing (for example jazz, classical music) or uplifting type of music, it’s important that you enjoy it. Otherwise, it will probably not have the relaxing effect we all want and will not be able to improve your mood or reduce stress and anxiety.
For example when I travel with my dad in his car and we’re listening to one of his CD’s with Greek music – I don’t exactly have the feeling of reward.
But while I don’t feel relaxed, my dad is mass-producing serotonin and endorphin. Choosing the music you enjoy is important if you want to hypnotize yourself into relaxation.
Just Don’t Listen To This
There’s one type of music that research hates as much as I do and it’s techno. It is not a good choice if you want to improve your health – it increases cortisol, reduces serotonin, raises blood pressure and stress and personally makes me want to break things (mainly the radio).