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How to Use Your Immune System to Stay Healthy

When the Immune System Breaks Down continued...

Nor can your body fight off every invader. Despite its marvels, the immune system does break down from time to time, says Polsky. “There are diseases that we have no control over, but lifestyle aspects are very, very important,” he tells WebMD.

Not eating healthily, being sedentary, not getting enough sleep, and being under chronic stress can all contribute to a weak immune system. When your immune system is depleted, bacteria, viruses, or toxins can overwhelm the body. The result? You get sick.

Building Healthy Immunity

There’s no single pill or supplement you can take to boost your immune system. Instead, adopting these healthy living habits can help improve your immunity for a lifetime.

Go for a walk: Sitting around not only can leave you feeling sluggish, it also can make your immune system sluggish. Exercise, on the other hand, helps boost immunity.

“We know exercise is good for immune function,” says Polsky. The good news, he says, is that you don’t need elaborate exercise programs and personal trainers. “Even fast walking – getting your heart rate up for 20 minutes three times a week -- is associated with increased immune function,” Polsky tells WebMD.

Researchers aren’t sure exactly how exercise helps strengthen the immune system. Studies show that people who exercise have better-functioning white blood cells (the ones that help fight off infection) than people who don’t exercise.

Also, exercise is associated with the release of endorphins. “These are natural hormones that affect the brain in positive ways,” Polsky says. They ease pain and promote a sense of relaxation and well-being – all of which can help you de-stress and sleep better, which in turn improve immunity.

Eat a healthy diet: Proper nutrition is essential for your immune system to work well. A diet high in empty calories not only leads to weight gain, but it can leave you more prone to infections. Plus, being overweight is associated with a number of health problems that can also drag your immune system down.

“When the immune system is down, you want to avoid things like alcohol and sugar, especially because microbes love sugar,” says Stephen Sinatra, MD, a certified nutrition specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

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