Boost Your Immune System With Three Simple Steps
Spending time indoors can be a threat to our immune system, whether you live in a hot climate and are spending more time in air conditioning or a cooler climate in the winter with lack of healing benefits from the sun. I am going to share how I have learned to avoid illness and to cope with living in northeast Ohio.
According to Nick Hall, a psychoneuroimmunologist at the University of South Florida, there are three things you can do if you feel an illness coming on. Being empowered in your health can prevent the need for antibiotics and medications that interfere with the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, known as the microbiome. Recurring use of antibiotics can kill the good bacteria in the gut, leading to a leaky gut that increases the risk for food allergies and sensitivities, auto immune diseases and other illnesses. The immune system is now known to be THE system that governs all the other systems in the body, such as the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and nervous systems. Inflammation is now known to be responsible for illness and disease, and keeping this system in balance is how we can stay healthy. Here are our Top Three Ways To Boost Your Immune System:
1. Warm your CORE temperature with a hot bath, sauna, electric blanket or exercise. This is like turning up the dial on your immune system to trigger an army of protection to fight off microbial and viral invaders. If you feel a sore throat or cold coming on, warm up your body and trick your body into thinking it has a fever.
2. Go to bed 30 minutes early or increase the amount of sleep before midnight. The human growth hormone is needed to repair the body from daily stress and helps boost the immune system. It is activated during the third stage of sleep, known as slow-wave deep, delta wave sleep. Studies have shown that we get more deep sleep in the first half of the night and more REM (rapid eye movement) sleep during the second half of the night, towards morning. It is interesting that deep sleep is highest in individuals who remain the most active and that lean body mass is positively correlated with higher delta sleep. As if we need another reason to exercise and remain active? Staying fit and going to bed a little earlier can help boost the effect of the human growth hormone to dial up the immune system.
3. Skip the wine. Studies have shown that deep sleep is reduced by 10% with one drink, 20% with two drinks and so on. Sorry, but that hot toddy may not be the best way to fight off an infection, unless its effect is to warm your body temperature. In the past, I have became ill after a late night out. Now if I feel run down, I say "no" to fun and "yes" to sleep and a date with my electric blanket!
In addition, lifestyle habits impact inflammation. Being mindful and aware of your body is associated with improved mood, a sense of optimism and a healthy stress response. Other ways to avoid illness is by practicing good hygiene, hydrating properly to avoid thirst, exercising regularly, eating a balanced, low inflammation diet and breathing mindfully from the diaphragm. These might seem obvious but worth mentioning.
Another way to reduce inflammation is with Integrative Dry Needling therapy, which is offered at our clinic. Studies have shown that cellular markers of inflammation within muscle tissue decrease after a dry needling session, resulting in decreased muscle tension and sense of well being. Dry needling has a full body, systemic response that affects more than just the neuromuscular system. If inflammation is what leads to illness, then reduced inflammation leads to improved health and wellness.
Why wait for your immune system to be under attack. Take a pro-active approach to your health and avoid illness altogether. If pain or dysfunction is stopping you from exercising or being fit, we can help! Here's to not only SURVIVING the winter, but plowing through it and THRIVING!
DeKlerk A. (2012). A comparison between ultrasound therapy and dry needling in the treatment of active trapezius trigger points. 1-132.
Lecture Notes from the Institute for Brain Potential, Preventing and Managing Chronic Inflammation: Special Focus: Nutritional Interventions presented by Nick Hall, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, University of South Florida.
written by Janine Laughlin, PT January 2016 - revised August 2023