If you think your immune system is weak or winter makes it weaker, just making 3 of these 10 changes can improve it dramatically.
1. Get plenty of sleep and rest. Your body rejuvenates and strengthens when it's at rest so try and get between eight and ten hours a night.
3. Get moving! Exercise makes our body stronger, increases circulation of blood and nutrients, and helps flush the body of toxins.
4. Drink plenty of water. This also helps flush the body of toxins and keeps you well hydrated.
5. Music cleanses the soul. Listening to your favorite music is a great way of reducing tension. You'll know what kind of music gives you goosebumps or cheers you up so focus on those to lift your mood.
6. Turn down the volume though! Excessive noise can have an impact on your immune system and can leave you stressed or with a thumping headache so avoid having the TV turned right up, music blaring or the kids within 5 metres of you!
7. Laughter is the best medicine. It may be a cliche but it's actually true. Laughing reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and increases your immune system cells that attack viruses.
8. Try not to take too many antibiotics or tablets. If you reach for a paracetamol every time you feel a headache coming on or regularly take antibiotics you could be damaging your immune system - your body will start to rely on the tablets rather than itself to get better.
9. Have more sex! When you're ill it's not exactly the first thing on your mind but increasing how much sex you have acts in the same way that exercise does. It releases 'feel good' hormones and gives you loads more energy. Energy your body needs to carry on fighting the diseases.
10. Give up smoking, or at least try cutting down. You don't really need an excuse to give up the fags with all the warnings that are out there but it's worth thinking long term about you and the people around you.
Sleep and your immune system
A good night's sleep can differ from person to person. For example, as you get older you need less sleep than when you're a teenager, but on average you should be aiming for between eight and ten hours every
A good nights sleep can differ from person to person. For example, as you get older you need less sleep than when you're a teenager, but on average you should be aiming for between eight and ten hours every night.
Sleep has loads of health benefits but for boosting your immune system it has two distinct ones:
Firstly, getting a good night sleep relaxes you. If you're stressed or anxious your body releases more adrenalin and too much of this hormone lowers your immunity.
Secondly, when you're asleep your body produces a hormone called melatonin, which helps prevent certain diseases. Not getting enough sleep, or sleeping in a room that isn't dark decreases how much melatonin your body produces - lowering your immunity and leaving you more open to disease. Even if you have a dim light in your room your melatonin levels can stop being produced completely!
Getting less than eight hours a night obviously makes you more tired and when you're tired it's easier for bugs to attack you because your body hasn't got the energy to fight them off. Any more than 10 hours sleep EVERY night means you can be as open to disease as when you don't have enough sleep. Too much melatonin has been linked to diabetes and in particular Parkinson's Disease.
Exercise and your immune system
The government is always talking about fitting more exercise in to lose weight but it can also stop you from catching colds and makes you happier - probably not while you're doing it though! They recommend increasing your heart rate for 30 minutes every day, and doing any form of exercise for more than this length of time will boost your immune system too.
This is because when you exercise your body releases endorphins, or 'feel good' hormones. This increases your energy levels and the more energetic you are the more energetic your immune system will be.
And, hand in hand most of the time with exercise is being outdoors. Most people spend 90% of their time indoors breathing in filtered air or other people's germs. Being out in the cold, as long as you're wrapped up properly, kills any germs that are lingering.
Food allergies and your immune system
People get food allergies for all sorts of reasons but having either a really weak or really strong immune system can be two of them. Some people also think that they have an allergy to something but in fact it might just be an intolerance.
A food allergy is your immune system's response to a food that your body mistakenly thinks is harmful. Once it decides that a particular food is harmful, it creates antibodies to fight it. If your immune system is weak it will make the decision lazily without considering everything. However, if it's too strong it will be overly keen and make too many decisions.
The next time you eat that food, your immune system will release massive amounts of chemicals, including histamine, to protect the body. These chemicals then cause allergic reactions. It's also possible for food allergies to disappear as you get older or when you're pregnant because changes to your lifestyle can affect your immune system - many people just don't want to test this to find out though!
A food intolerance, on the other hand, has nothing to do with your immune system, your body doesn't think that the food is harmful it just doesn't like it!
Sick days, doctor visits and your immune system
The average worker takes 8.4 days off sick from work each year, so taking more than that in six months is well above average!
On the same hand though, having no days off at all can sometimes mean that you're going into work when you shouldn't be and sharing the germs around - not good for your immune system or anyone else's. A study by Covonia recently said that one in three of us blamed our colleagues for giving us two colds a year!
This is the same for doctors visits. The average person will visit their doctor 6.3 times a year and almost half of these visits are for colds or viruses that cannot be treated by the doctor. It's not great for your immune system either to surround yourself with other sick people and germs!
It is natural for your body to get the odd cold or bug - it's its way of preparing for infection in the future. It's actually better for your immune system if you don't go into work, rest properly and eat healthily because it will give your body a better chance of fighting it. It will also make your system stronger in the future. Many people soldier on and a simple three-day cold can last for weeks and get worse.
Smoking and your immune system
Smoking, and breathing in secondhand smoke, are terrible for your entire body, not just your immune system. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. And, of these, at least 43 are known carcinogens (ones directly linked with increasing the risk of cancer). Your body sees all of these chemicals as foreign bodies and every time you smoke it tries to attack them - making your body tired and worn out. Smoking also releases hormones which trick your body into feeling relaxed and this then masks the feeling of fatigue