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Shannon Evans, DO, IFMCP
1. Gut Health: Most of your immune system is in your gut and plays an important role in immune system balance known as homeostasis. When the immune system is functioning correctly, it protects your body from exposure to bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, and toxins.
Food can be the body’s best medicine! Earth-made foods are great. Manmade, processed foods are not! When reading food labels if you have no idea what the ingredient is, your immune system may not recognize it and may mount a response seeing this ingredient as foreign and unsafe — this can cause inflammation.
2. Stay Hydrated: Water delivers oxygen to all parts of our bodies and helps remove waste and toxins. If you are not drinking enough clean, filtered water, your immune system may be adversely affected. If you use well water, have it tested annually.
The general consensus for drinking water is half your body weight in ounces per day. A 150 lb person should drink ~75 oz of water per day. With demanding outdoor work or exercise, you may need more. If you are unsure how much water is right for you, ask your doctor.
3. Rest: Are you getting enough quality sleep? Sleep is so important in keeping your immune system working properly and helping it stay in balance. Studies have shown that if you are sleep-deprived, it can cause your immune system to overreact and create inflammation.
Some sleep hygiene tips:
- Be consistent (go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time—even on days off.)
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and relaxing.
- A few hours before bed, stop using electronic devices and remove them from your bedroom.
- Turn off wifi a few hours before bedtime (use a timer to turn your wifi off and on).
- Exercise/Movement is great but not close to bedtime!
- Stop eating a few hours before bed.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
- Get your body into a relaxed state and ready for sleep by using 4-7-8 breathing, prayer, or meditation.
4. Movement: When regular movement/exercise is combined with healthy eating it helps create a diverse range of beneficial bacteria (your microbiome) in your gut and helps build a healthy immune system. Consider what movement/exercise makes you happy — that’s the one you will practice routinely.
5. Coping with Stress: Stressed? Fearful? Overwhelmed? Constant, chronic stress can decrease your immune system function putting you at higher risk of getting sick, depressed, and/or anxious.
To relieve stress:
- Meditation/Breathing/Prayer: A great way to start is 4-7-8 breathing. Apps are available to help guide you in meditation/prayer.
- Movement/Exercise: Do movement you enjoy! If it is not fun, you may be causing yourself more stress!
- Consider Counseling: Counselors can help you navigate stress and suggest solutions.
- Self Care: Enjoy the outdoors, get a massage, or sauna treatment, read an entertaining book, participate in an exercise class or go out with friends — all serve to improve your health.
Dr. Shannon Evans, DO, IFMCP, is a Functional Medicine Doctor, certified by The Institute for Functional Medicine. For more information go to www.NewBeginningsFMC.com
Disclaimer: This article does not replace seeing your healthcare professional and solely reflects the opinion of its writer.