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Get Ready to BOOST Your Immune System

Simple, everyday strategies to strengthen your body’s natural defenses

Today, more than ever it’s important to have a strong immune system so your body can protect itself from infection and disease. The good news is there are some easy, science-backed ways to build and maintain a healthy immune system.

Here, board-certified family medicine physician Dr. Maria Novella Papino- Higgs of CalvertHealth Primary Care in Solomons shares her top tips for taking your immunity up a notch.

“Having a healthy lifestyle absolutely makes a difference,” said Dr. Papino-Higgs. “Good sleeping habits allow our body to recharge our batteries on a daily basis, helping to keep our brain and body strong and recover faster if we do get sick.” She said at least 7-8 hours of sleep are usually recommended.

She said it’s important to note “smoking, alcohol and drug consumption can inhibit the function of our white blood cells and lower our resistance to infection, too.”

Healthy Diet Boosts Your Resistance

According to Dr. Papino-Higgs, eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise are vital building blocks to a strong immune system. “Proper nutrition is important,” she said. “You want to feed your body with the right nutrients such as a diet rich in colors: greens, red, yellows, oranges and purples! Citrus foods, kiwis, apples, berries, carrots and spinach are all full of antioxidants, which can boost your resistance to infections.”

She went on to add, “If a good diet is the best fuel, regular exercise keeps your car tuned up. Being sedentary or inactive can leave you feeling sluggish and it’s the same for your immune system.

“Trying to walk at least 30 minutes every day and bringing your heart rate up can definitely help to increase your immune function,” said Dr. Papino-Higgs. “You don’t need to start an elaborate exercise program. A simple walk to keep your joints and body going while connecting with nature will work wonders.”

She stressed there are simple things we can all do to keep our immune system strong like drinking plenty of water, washing your hands often and making sure you are up to date on immunizations.

Immunity Decreases with Age

“Immunizations are the foundation of good health,” said Dr. Papino-Higgs. Your immune system is smart, but vaccines train it to be even smarter – helping it to recognize and fight off certain disease-causing illnesses.

She went on to add, “It is even more important for pediatric and geriatric populations to be up-to-date since kids immune systems might be still underdeveloped to fight infection and the elderly might have a weakened immune system.

“Maintaining a healthy weight keeps you focused on practicing good habits and making the right choices,” she said. “Therefore, having a regular sleeping pattern, favoring fresh produce over processed foods, drinking plenty of water, avoiding excess alcohol and too many carbs, and trying to walk at least 30 minutes a day, will all contribute to strengthening your immune system.”

Stress Suppresses Your Immune System

According to Dr. Papino-Higgs, prolonged exposure to stress can have a detrimental impact on your immune system. “Chronic stress keeps your cortisol levels always high and weakens your immune system by lowering white cell production and your body’s ability to fight infection.

“That’s why it is so very important to have a good stress management strategy,” she explained, “either with exercise, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, good sleep, reading a good book or having a great hobby to keep your stress in check.”

There are times when Dr. Papino- Higgs said it makes sense to take supplements. “If your immune system is weakened, for example by medications or is under constant stress, supplements such as vitamin C, antioxidants, multivitamins and probiotics are all good sources,” she said.

On a final note, she added, “Strengthening your relationships and having a good support system made up of family and friends plays a big role in decreasing your stress and increasing your endorphins. Love and laughter are the most natural remedies I know and you don’t need a pill for it!”
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