Creating a Resilient Immune System- an article I wrote for the Desert Leaf Publication
Desert Leaf Publication. House Calls. November
Creating a Resilient Immune System
by Amanda Saffer
Now, more than ever, it is imperative to focus on our health. To feel our best, we need to do what we can to support ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. One way to do this is by cultivating resiliency toward stress, viruses, and whatever else life throws our way. The good news is that there are many simple yet effective lifestyle modifications we can make to create more balance in our lives and resilience within the immune system.
The following are some helpful tips.
Get restorative sleep.
Healthy sleep habits are an essential aspect of overall physical and mental health. Sleep affects your ability to learn and your creative capacity. Deep sleep is also vital for brain detoxification and growth. Sleep is the glue that holds us together. To function optimally most healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
The following are some ideas for getting enough restorative sleep:
Buy an eye mask if your room is too bright; it will help you get the best undisturbed sleep.
Keep your room a little cooler at night while you are asleep; 70–72 degrees is optimal.
Block any blue light in the room; this light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin and interferes with the circadian rhythm. Also, put all your devices on Night Shift (iOS) or Blue light filter (Android) mode at least three hours before bedtime. Doing this turns the blue light emitted from devices into a more soothing yellow light that doesn’t inhibit melatonin.
Put devices in airplane mode to turn off cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth functions. This will stop radio-frequency emanations, so they will not interfere will your circadian rhythm/sleep cycle.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon if you are sensitive to it.
Add magnesium-rich foods, such as greens, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, to your diet to relax/wind down before bed; it will relax your muscles and mind.
Chronic stress may promote inflammation and reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off antigens. Things to do to manage stress: turn off the news to refocus on things that bring you joy, take a walk in the sunshine, and journal to release emotions. Expressing gratitude or helping others is also a shortcut to feeling a sense of abundance, happiness, and reducing stress.
If you are feeling stressed and uneasy, regain awareness by breathing. Sitting still and taking time out to mindfully breathe stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and places the body and mind in a state of relaxation.
A great breathing exercise to try is the 4-7-8 technique promoted by Dr. Andrew Weil: Inhale for 4 seconds through your nose (be sure to engage your diaphragm, so that it moves downward and your belly expands). Hold for 7 seconds. Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat four times.
Nourish your body with real, whole foods.
Along with getting optimal sleep and reducing stress, choosing the proper foods to nourish your body will significantly determine your health. The famous quote often attributed to the Greek philosopher Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” speaks to food’s healing capabilities.
The next time you feel like a snack, reach for real, whole food. Fruits and vegetables are packed with numerous vitamins and minerals and are as essential for life as air and water. Not only do they keep your body and mind healthy and functional, but they also may protect you from a variety of diseases.
A good rule of thumb is to “eat the rainbow.” Consuming a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables increases the number of detoxifying, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients you’ll take in. Each color is the result of compounds in the produce that have beneficial properties for health.
Carotenoids, beta-carotene (orange/yellow) decrease inflammation, keep the immune system strong and the skin healthy, and play a role in fostering a healthy gut microbiome. They are found in carrots, orange, and yellow bell peppers, pumpkin, lemons, ginger root, bananas.
Folates (green) may support the immune system, help detoxify the body, and are good for blood health. They are found in arugula, avocado, asparagus, cucumbers, lettuces, spinach, green tea.
Anthocyanins, flavonoids (blue/purple) are potent antioxidants, help balance mood, and support cognitive functions. They are found in blueberries, purple cabbage, purple onion, eggplant, purple grapes.
Lycopene (red) promotes heart health, may improve skin quality, and is anti-inflammatory. They are found in apples, beets, cherries, radishes, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon.
Allicin, quercetin (white/brown) are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They are found in almonds, apples, oats, tempeh, garlic, mushroom, cauliflower, tofu.
Experiment with the ideas suggested to determine which ones work best for you and could become healthful habits in supporting your immunity and overall well-being.
Amanda Saffer is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach practicing in Tucson. Comments for publication should be addressed to email@example.com.
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