Self-Care For a Healthy Immune System

Self-care has become a “catch-all” for all things pampering. From face masks to head massages, some would even think it unattainable. Newsflash: self-care actually means taking care of YOU! Though the spa services are a nice bonus, this primarily means keeping your body healthy and void of disease – and it all starts with a healthy immune system. Let’s take it back to basics with some simple self-care to help your immune system stay strong this season.

Make yourself a nice meal full of good-for-you ingredients

Did you know that sugary foods and drinks can have a negative effect on your immune system, even shortly after consumption? While maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge, you should know that the fate of your immune function can be right on your plate. And while we much prefer to approach food as fuel and not as a reward, eating for self-care means feeding your body things that will make it strong (which is a reward all on its own). Making a treat out of eating well is a great way to help you avoid getting sick. Increased complex carb and polyphenol intake is linked to increased immunity, so adding foods that are high in both, like peas, beans, whole grains and veggies, are a sure-fire way to feel good about the food you feed yourself.

Need a little inspiration? Stocked with immune-boosting ingredients like vitamin A-rich bok choy, anti-inflammatory ginger and immune-balancing mushrooms, this soup is a comforting way to do good by your body.

 

Plan an outdoor activity with a friend

Exercise celebrates what your body can do, and is a great way of showing yourself appreciation. And while moving your body is the best way to show it some love, it turns out physical activity is also good for immunity. Though exercise has been said to sometimes suppress immune function, emerging research supports the opposite, dubbing exercise as an immune system aid, helping improve your body’s defense mechanisms, promoting circulation and metabolic health, as well as helping to slow age-related illness. To edge this into self-care, try scheduling an outdoor activity with a friend, like a tread down the slopes, a skate around the park or even a walk down the street!

Add some luxe to your nighttime regimen

A good night’s rest is critical to a balanced, daily routine, but it also turns out that those who get less rest are more likely to fall ill. While you sleep, your body releases proteins called cytokines. While some of this kind of protein are responsible for keeping you asleep, many of them are responsible for regulating immunity, inflammation and blood production. Societal changes like busier schedules and wobbly work-life balance can have us looking at sleep as a treat, but it is the most elementary form of self-care that is worth way more than the literal 40 winks. Before calling it a night, help your immune system fight back with , and up your bedtime ritual by clearing any clutter, lighting a calming candle and skipping the screen time…seriously.

Keep a stress journal

Your immune system is home to a myriad of cells travelling through the bloodstream and arming your body against harmful bacteria and viruses. While stress itself can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms (see: 11:30 p.m. curbside meetups with the pizza delivery guy), who would have thought that it could have an actual impact on the way your body functions?! The stress hormone, corticosteroid, can suppress both your immune and digestive systems, inhibiting digestion and lowering your levels of white blood cells, leaving you and your immune defense to your own devices. While stress itself is inevitable, managing it may allow you to avoid getting sick. Give some thought to starting a stress journal. As a regular practice, this has been shown to help organize thoughts, clear the mind and facilitate problem solving.

Get a massage

Chronic stress has a significant impact on your immune function. High levels of stress can lead to depression and anxiety, leaving room for increased inflammation. Sustained, high levels of inflammation will impact your immune function over time as it becomes overworked. Chronic stress that leads to chronic inflammation can trigger auto-immune diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, psoriasis and IBS. A great way to relieve tension and improve sleep? A massage! Long hailed for their therapeutic benefits, massages are also wonderful for your immune system. A study by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center showed that a 45-minute Swedish massage could both decrease pesky cortisol levels, as well as increase your white blood cell count overall.

While seemingly time-consuming, taking care of your body is the best way to ensure you’re taking care of yourself. Good food, ample movement, restful sleep and meaningful connection are the pillars of good health, and by treating them like “to-dos” rather than ”nice to haves”, you’ll both improve your quality of life and enjoy it more overall.

SOURCES

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