Strengthening your immune system

By David Sauro

How can you help your immune system be healthy this winter season? More than any other time, it is important to have a strong immune system to help the body fight COVID and the flu. This article focuses on the impact that sleep, stress, and sugar have on your immune system.

Sleep is a natural immune system booster and one of your body’s main sources of recovery, both mentally and physically. Quality sleep, or lack of it, has a major impact on the strength of your immune system. Monika Haack, a Harvard Medical School doctor in Boston, stated, ‘we have a lot of evidence that if you have an adequate amount of sleep, you definitely can help to prevent or fight any kind of illness.’ Studies show that proper rest energizes your body’s T-cells, which are immune cells, that go to war to fight off virus-infected cells. Good sleep is key to avoiding a weakened immune system.

Stress, whether it comes on quick or builds over time, it’s important to understand how stress impacts your health, including the effects it has on your immune system. With the pandemic affecting us in so many different ways, there are many more people dealing with anxiety than ever before. Stress is different for everyone, and how we relieve it is, too. Whether it is deep breathing, meditation, prayer, exercise, or going for a walk, find activities that help you reduce stress. Like other healthy-living strategies, what works for one may not work for another. Find and know what works for you, your body, and your mind, and try to make it a part of your day.

Sugar isn’t always so sweet once it reaches your immune system. When you go overboard with sugar, it repels cells in your immune system meant to attack bad bacteria, allowing viruses to spread more freely. As with all food that may taste good but isn’t good for you, moderation is key. Excess sugar contributes significantly to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, all of which can suppress your immune system. Lowering your sugar intake will generally decrease inflammation and your risk of sickness and strengthen your immune system.

If you can stay consistent with healthy lifestyle choices, you will have a stronger immune system, feel better, and your energy level and overall mental and physical health will benefit. Boosting your immune system can be done by incorporating practical lifestyle changes as mentioned above, along with diet, exercise, and taking care of your emotional well-being. Always listen to your body and consult a physician or healthcare professional when considering making major health and wellness changes. Be Well!

This is the first of a three-part miniseries on having a Strong Immune System. We want to hear from you, whether it is about this article, COVID-19, or anything else health-related.
Originally published in The Barnstable Patriot 1/21/22