For the first time ever, August is immune health month. Most viruses spread in the winter months and disappear in the summer. Covid 19 is different and doesn't seem to care about the weather.
Addressing immune health in the middle of the summer gives us a wealth of new lifestyle ideas to boost the immune system. Stress reduction, sleep and exercise are key in strengthening the immune system to deal with any virus that comes along.
Stress causes the body to secrete the hormone adrenaline along with an increase in immune cells. The immune cells go on high alert to stop an attack on our immune system in the exact same way and at the exact same time as stress is giving us adrenaline to run or fight. Have you ever powered through an extremely stressful time with amazing energy and focus while avoiding the common cold that everyone else had - only to find yourself sick in bed as soon as the stress is over?
Our stress system is designed to turn on to avoid a danger then turn off to rest and repair as if you ran from a lion and are now safe. Today’s stressors don’t turn on and off like they used to. In today’s world stress tends to be constant – a difficult family situation and the monthly bills. In a world where stress doesn’t turn on and off we need to learn ways to intentionally turn off the stress response.
The simplest way to turn your stress system off is with deep breathing. This simple breathing technique can turn off the stress response and help allow the immune system to rest and recharge for when it’s needed
Sit or stand up straight. Take a slow deep breath in – counting to 5. Hold the breath there for a count of 5 then take a slow breath out counting to 8.
Sleep is extremely important in strengthening our immune systems and dealing with stress. Sleep specifically increases growth hormone to repair your whole body and reduces the stress hormone mentioned above. These hormonal changes work to refuel, regenerate and improve your immune response so your body is better prepared to deal with any viral or bacterial infection. (1)
During times of stress or increased exposure to sickness you can work harder on extra sleep. Stock up on sleep! – more sleep, more rest and more cellular repair. Sleep and rest are not laziness, but necessary activities to heal your cells and increase your immune system.
Aim for 8-10 hours of good rest or sleep daily. Some people only really need 6 hours of sleep per night, but they still need a couple more hours of rest daily.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, click here to set up a time to talk in person so we can work together to get you a good night sleep.
Exercise, sunshine and fresh air for your immune system. Exercise is good for stress reduction; it is stimulating the lymph part of your immune system and if the exercise is outside in the sun (or fog) you’re getting vitamin D for immune health.
Lymph immune fluid relies on body movement to move. Running, jumping and especially trampolining is excellent for the lymph part of your immune system, simply circulating immune cells.
Vitamin D is made in the skin in response to sunlight and modulates the immune system – improving immune response to pathogens and helping to prevent the autoimmune response. Each person’s vitamin D response to sun is different – you can aim for half as much time as it would take your skin to burn or an average of a half hour at least 3 times a week. I try to expose my arms and legs while shading my face and chest to prevent more sun damage.
This is the first year I’m talking about immune health in the summer when Vitamin D is plentiful so take advantage of the sun while it’s here. Usually winter is flu and cold season because viruses transmit easier in the winter.
Right now you can take advantage of the summer sunshine to boost your immune system. Spend more time outside getting sun for Vitamin D, moving your body for Lymph flow. Get plenty of sleep – while this may be harder in the summer when it stays light late, it’s still vital to immune health and this summer your immune health is more important than ever. And last, but most importantly use exercise, sleep and deep breathing to reduce your stress response so that your immune system is well rested in case you need it to fight a virus.
Stay tuned in the next couple weeks as I talk about summer foods and supplements for immune health and schedule a time to talk if you have questions.