By Dr. Timothy Chifamba
In the face of a pandemic, one may seek to know how to best protect themselves from affliction. The body has an in-built system of protection, commonly referred to as the immune system. It protects the body from bacteria, viruses, fungus and foreign material. How can one ensure that the immune system is working at its optimum? Here are 7 scientifically proven ways to “boost” your immune system.
It is easy to underestimate the power of getting out there and moving. Human beings are designed to move. When we exercise, we allow for improved circulation of protective blood cells around the body. It also allows for the inhalation of oxygen and the expulsion of deadly carbon dioxide. It strengthens the bones and leaves one in a good mood. The additive effect of these benefits of physical activity are improved protection from disease
Get Enough Rest
You may have heard the saying, “I am not a machine,” used in conversation. Ironic! Even machines need to rest and the manual which comes with each device comes with instructions on how to care for it and how much of a break it needs now and then. The human body gets fatigued and in its weary state, it does a very poor job at warding off intruders. As an adult, get a nightly rest of 7-8 hours. When we are asleep, the body is rebuilding tissue. It has been demonstrated that when we sleep the body produces cytokines proteins which are instrumental in the body’s response to infection. When we are sleep deprived, the body creates less cytokines resulting in increased vulnerability to illness.
We are what we eat. The “garbage in, garbage out” mantra does not only apply to computers; it applies to human beings as well. There are foods which boost the immune system. These include food rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Antioxidants and Zinc. In addition, we are to drink a lot of water. Water, the often forgotten nutrient, allows the body to effectively carry oxygen to cells. It also allows for the adequate disposal of toxins which the body creates. If the toxins are allowed to accumulate, they can result in a compromised immune system and ultimately disease.
When we are stressed, the body produces the hormone corticosteroid. This hormone has the effect of suppressing the immune system through reducing the number of lymphocytes (protective cells) in the body. Stress management is, therefore, key, if we are to maintain an immune system at optimum performance. There are many proven ways of successfully managing stress, these include: exercise, muscle relaxation, meditation and deep breathing. It also helps to find someone you can talk to about what’s troubling you. This can be a friend or a professionally trained psychologist or counsellor.
It has been demonstrated in recent studies that prayer is an effective method of managing stress. When stress is controlled, the immune system functions much better. However, it may depend on an individual’s perception of God. In a study that examined the effect of prayer on stress, Blake Kent of the Baylor University found that “where the perception of God is secure, warm and loving, then prayer is associated with positive mental health outcomes and coping with stressors, but when the perception of God is distant or disconnected, prayer is associated with negative outcomes.”