How To Strengthen Your Immune System: Water, Sleep and More
By Dr. Molly Casey
This is the month of immunity. I’ve written about the basics of the immune system and germs. I’ve explained that the commander in chief of the immune system army is the nervous system, and that clear communication and a relaxed state of being is imperative for optimal immune system functioning. I explained there are three types of stress -- and that it’s essential to eliminate stress completely whenever possible. When one can’t eliminate the stress, it’s necessary to mitigate the effects to ensure an immune system army that provides your best chance of getting and staying healthy. But every army needs rest and recovery to perform at its peak, and that’s the next foundation for providing that first line of defense, the immune system.
Recovery and Rest
Recovery and rest cannot be understated in a fully functioning, optimally performing immune system. Often when you hear this phrase, you hear it in the opposite order, rest and recovery. I state it this way -- recovery and rest -- for a reason. I refer to the basic needs in order of importance.
I equate the more important basic need to be the one we can live the least amount of time without; conversely, the least important basic need is the one that we can live without the longest. Therefore, clear and optimal communication is number one because we humans require impulses and communication from the brain to the rest in order to breathe, for example. De-stressing and deep breathing are next in our foundation because we require oxygen -- we can only live minutes without that. The third group of essential requirements are clean water and proper sleep.
Humans can live about 10 days without water, but things get really dicey after that. When looking at boosting the immune system for proper functioning and optimal performance, often people will jump straight to supplements, but that’s not right. The biggest bang for the buck is always found in the basics. Once those are solid, the others can have a much greater effect.
Clean water, meaning filtered and clear of heavy metals and bacteria, is best for your water consumption. Unfortunately, most tap water in the United States tests positive for a variety of different substances that you’d rather not ingest if you had the choice. So get yourself a quality water filter. At minimum, do your best to drink filtered or bottled water. Every cell of your body requires water. When you are dehydrated, you impede and interfere with the function and performance of every cell at some level.
Water also helps with detoxifying; it keeps things moving through your body and plays a role in cleaning and getting rid of waste. Think of your immune system army; is it better equipped to fight off germs if it is inhibited in cellular function? Of course not. That’s why it’s important to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. Do you think your army performs better if it has the water necessary to clean and rid waste -- including the germs it has already destroyed? Of course it does. Boost your immune system function and recovery by getting and staying hydrated with proper amounts of clean water daily.
Proper sleep is a weapon. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) in 2016 reported that, on a regular basis, 1 in 3 Americans are sleep deprived. The Sleep Apnea Association reports that at least one night monthly, 70 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep. These numbers are astounding and life has only gotten busier. People are consistently under-rested and overtired. This is not rocket science. People, communities, processes, bodies, and immune systems function better with proper rest.
Bigger and more is not always better. Top athletes have doctors and scientists who study and map out their training, as well as their rest and recovery, because it is imperative. Constantly burning the candle at both ends or simply not getting enough quantity or quality of sleep hurts you, your body’s immune system army, and ultimately your health. The best sleep habits are consistent, meaning going to bed and getting up at the same time daily. Create your sleep space to be as dark as possible and without interference of electronics -- meaning no TV, no phone, and no distinctly bright alarm clocks.
While everyone varies a little bit, most humans need between seven and nine hours of sleep nightly. Kids need more. During this time of decreased activity and more time at home, rest more. Sleep more. Get on a regular sleep schedule. It’ll serve you and your health immensely.
Remember, optimal defense is built over time and the repetition of habits that support the function of the system as a whole. This gives the immune system the best chance to take down any enemy ever, aka germs. While there certainly may be appropriate times in life when external intervention to assist in fighting off the germs may be necessary, in my professional opinion, strengthening the host (body) and it’s immune system is quite often overlooked in this society of instant results/gratification. That’s why the series of articles this month is to help bring you back and remind you that strength is built when you support and nourish the body and the immune system as a whole, giving it what it needs to have the best fighting chance to keep you protected from foreign invaders.
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