Having a chronic disease can often feel debilitating. Getting through the day can be an uphill battle when you feel as though your body is playing on the opposite team, but there are things that can be done to help ease symptoms. Chronic illnesses can range in severity, but they all have one thing in common: they stick around for the long run. Dealing with a constant illness can be exhausting, and that constant fatigue can lead to a lowered immune response in the body.
Those with chronic diseases often suffer from such a lowered immune response, and when the immune system isn’t functioning properly, it can create a wide array of other symptoms that aren’t attributed to the specific chronic ailment the person is suffering from – such as widespread inflammation, frequent or recurring infection, and digestive problems. This doesn’t have to be an accepted way of life for everyone suffering from chronic illness, though. The first step in managing the symptoms of your chronic illness is to boost immunity.
What boosts immunity?
The immune system is the part of the body that controls the response to infection and sends signals to help ward off further infection. It protects the body against outside threats such as bacteria and viruses. When the immune system isn’t running at optimal levels, viruses and other harmful things can infiltrate the body’s systems more easily and cause damage that may not occur in someone with a healthier immune function.
For those with chronic illness, it’s a lot harder to keep the immune system on the up and up, but it’s not impossible. Things that can help naturally boost the immune system, even in those with compromised immunity, include avoiding smoking, eating a diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals, getting regular exercise, avoiding alcohol, and getting a good night’s sleep.
What foods will boost my immune system?
When taking the diet approach to boosting the immune system, there are plenty of foods (most often fruits and vegetables) that will get things running smoothly. Introducing citrus fruits into the diet, for example, will help boost vitamin C levels, which will increase the production of cells designed to help fight off infections. Other foods high in vitamin C include red bell peppers, spinach, and papaya.
Another mineral that is required for healthy immune function is zinc. Zinc helps the body to fight off infections and is also required to make DNA and proteins, which aid in proper development and function. Foods that are high in zinc include meat, shellfish, chickpeas, beans, nuts, and wholegrain foods.
Some other foods that include immunity-boosting minerals and vitamins are ginger, which is jam-packed with anti-inflammatory properties; almonds, which are full of vitamin E (an antioxidant); and green tea, which is packed with epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) – an antioxidant that has been known to reduce inflammation and boost the function of the immune system.
When getting enough vitamins and minerals through diet alone isn’t possible, choosing the right supplement is key in boosting immune function. Supplements should be chosen based on ingredients, dosage, and cost. When it comes to the dosage, speaking with your doctor will be a good starting point when choosing the right amount of each supplement you need to help manage chronic illness and boost immune function.
What changes could you make in your lifestyle to strengthen and protect your immune system?
The best lifestyle change (which also may be the hardest to accomplish) is getting a good sleep at the end of every day. During sleep, the body repairs muscles and tissues and synthesizes hormones. This is important for immune function, ensuring the muscles and tissues are healthy and the hormone levels in the body are where they’re supposed to be.
Exercise also plays a huge role in the function of the immune system. For those who suffer from chronic disease, even the lightest of exercise might be a feat in and of itself, but it’s important to get as much exercise as possible to help boost the immune system’s abilities to fight off further infection and combat chronic illness. Even just going for a walk can cause changes in antibodies and white blood cells, both of which are designed to fight off further infection. Cardiovascular exercise in particular has been proven to help rid the lungs and airways of certain bacteria, which lessens the risk of getting a cold, flu or similar infection.
What can I do to boost my immunity?
Along with the aforementioned tips of eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, and exercising, there are other things that can be incorporated into your lifestyle to help boost your immunity. Lowering stress, for example, can contribute greatly to the battle against chronic disease and decreased immune function. Participating in activities such as meditation, or even just the simple act of laughing, can reduce levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for keeping stress levels in check.
Vitamin D is also a contributing vitamin in the immune response as it acts as a modulator. Vitamin D can be found in some foods such as fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks, and other dairy products, but a simple way to get a good level of vitamin D is by simply enjoying the sunshine. As little as 30 minutes per day of sunlight can help you get all the vitamin D you need to help your body and immune system run properly and efficiently.
Featured image by Heather Barnes on Unsplash