Owner system

Boost your immune system with advice from this immunologist

IIt’s no secret that the immune system keeps us safe and healthy and, for reasons that may seem obvious, it has been a priority in recent years. Let’s be clear: vaccines are a crucial part of the immune arsenal, and there is evidence that nutrition, fitness, and hydration can help our bodies fight off the germs that make us unhappy. But, other factors also help your immune system thrive, says Tatyana Souza, PhD, former immunologist and pharmaceutical researcher for Pfizer and current owner and founder of Coolidge Yoga. Your immune system is a complex symphony of processes, inextricably linked to the rest of your body, but you don’t have to go to the store and buy one of Dr. Souza’s immune system boosters: his biggest recommendation is rest.

“Rest is one of the most important things for your body and your immune system because it gives your bodily functions a chance to work hard, in unison with each other, to keep you healthy” , explains Dr. Souza. Dr. Souza views rest as time spent with very slow, deliberate breathing, calming relaxation activities, and most importantly, in his opinion, sleep.

The immune system has many agents and processes to protect the body against foreign invaders and destroy them. These are usually pathogens, viruses, pathogens or free radicals, she says. Things like vitamin C and other antioxidants break down or eliminate things like free radicals, which is why they’re considered immune-boosting vitamins. However, your immune system can’t use these tools as effectively when you’re tired or constantly in a stressed fight-or-flight state. As a result, according to Dr. Souza, what your body needs to do its best job is downtime, rest, and quality sleep.

“When you’re sleeping, certain areas of your body couldn’t be more active,” says Dr. Souza. Your liver processes toxins, your kidneys filter waste, your digestive system gets things done, and even your brain processes waste. All of these things are important for your immune system because your body needs to break down and bind waste, toxins, and convert food into energy to help you feel and function your best, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The key element to Souza’s belief in rest is that when you’re activated and your heart rate increases, you’re often in “fight or flight” mode. According to Johns Hopkins University, fight-or-flight mode is a mechanism in your autonomic nervous system to stay alive, flee danger, and move quickly in times of peril. For example, being chased by a bear will activate this response in your nervous system.

The response, according to the Mayo Clinic, signals your body to release a surge of hormones (think adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol) to help you think faster, move faster, and use energy. energy. “This mechanism of the nervous system is useful and necessary for humans,” says Souza. However, when this red alert hormonal response occurs, the hormones are signaling your digestive system to suspend its processes. Your kidneys shut down, as does your liver. This actually makes your immune system less effective at warding off pathogens. Imagine all of these processes like stores in a mall closing their doors, she says, and then everything is on deck to get your heart, senses and muscles away from the “bear” chasing you.

The fact is that many things can activate this response. “Your fight-or-flight response can be triggered by an argument with a loved one or a big mistake at work,” says Dr. Souza. “The problem with that is that it’s easy to get triggered in that state. manywhich means that many important bodily processes are interrupted.”

The solution? Complete rest and relaxation. Sleep is essential at all ages and developmental stages, but it’s especially important when you’re stressed. It’s also important to make sure you’re taking steps to regulate your stress levels throughout the day. A very useful strategy recommended by Dr. Souza is deep, slow breathing, at about 7 seconds of exhalation and 7 seconds of inspiration (or four full breaths per minute). If that sounds too advanced, the good news is that there is research that supports the significant impact of 5-Second Breaths on the nervous system (like this 2019 study).

“Your breathing has a unique ability to influence your heart rate,” says Dr. Souza. “If you want to slow your heart rate and tell your body, ‘we’re safe, there’s no danger here,’ deep breathing is a good way to do that.” When you calm down and your fight or flight response subsides, your parasympathetic nervous system takes over and tells all the “stores” to reopen and carry on with business as usual. This activity, as usual, is what helps you stay healthy, prevent disease, and feel your best.

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