By Dr. Roxanna Namavar
You’ve heard it before, but it’s true. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick, and take longer to recover if they do become ill. Getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep per night will not only help your immune system function at its best, but it will also boost metabolism and mood.
Exercise, in moderation
Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) improves immunity. There are several theories as to why this may be, including an increase in circulation, more efficient movement of the lymphatic system, and stress reduction. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking or riding a bike most days in a week. Very strenuous workouts (more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise) aren’t necessarily good for building immunity, as they can deplete the body’s resources.
Proper hydration plays a role in optimizing nearly every function of the body. Dehydration also contributes to fatigue and slows metabolism. Aim to drink around eight to 10 glasses of water per day; more if you’re exercising or in hot weather.
Get enough vitamin C
Taking vitamin C is a simple way to support your immune system. Deficiency lowers immunity and greatly increases susceptibility to infections of all kinds: viral, bacterial and fungal. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant and supports a great number of cellular functions essential to the immune system; it has also been shown to especially support lung function. Citrus fruits and tomatoes, along with many other fruits and vegetables, are good sources of the vitamin. Individual needs range from 75 mg to 125 mg of vitamin C per day.
Consider supplementing with vitamin D, too
Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with greater susceptibility to infection. Many adults and children are deficient in the vitamin due to low sun exposure and inadequate amounts of vitamin D in the diet. Most people can achieve sufficient vitamin D levels with five minutes a day of full open-air sun exposure to the hands and face. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fishes like salmon or mackerel, cheese, egg yolks, and with vitamin D-fortified foods such as orange juice and dairy products. Adults typically need between 600 and 800 IUs per day, but needs can vary, so be sure to consult your doctor. It’s also possible to have too much vitamin D, so follow your doctor’s recommendations.
These simple free or low-cost interventions can make a powerful difference in your health. Consult your health care provider before starting any new exercise program or supplements.
Dr. Roxanna Namavar is a board-certified psychiatrist and fellow in the American Academy of Anti-Aging who specializes in functional and integrative medicine.