Nothing short of sealing yourself up in a bubble can keep you germ-free. But you can make yourself a less likely target for infectious diseases — and better your chances of making a complete recovery when you do fall sick by building and maintaining a robust immune system. Here’s your to-do list:
1. Stop smoking! Of all the ways to suppress your immune system, smoking tops the list. One example: Smokers get the flu more often — and are more likely to die from it — than nonsmokers are.
2. Toss the toxins. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, chemical pesticides, and secondhand smoke can severely compromise your immune system, and may contribute to life-threatening autoimmune diseases.
3. Sleep tight. Too little, or poor-quality, sleep impairs overall immune system function and reduces the number of germ-killing cells in your body.
4. De-stress. Chronic stress causes a measurable downturn in your system’s ability to fight off or recover from diseases.
5. Get happy. Cheerful, optimistic souls have an army of battle-ready, infection-fighting T cells in their bodies.
6. Get a move on. Inactive folks take twice as many sick days as people who take almost-daily brisk walks.
7. Pal around. The more human connections you have, and the more you get out and about, the better you can fight off illnesses.
8. Eat well. Good nutrition strengthens your immune system. Poor food choices are major immunity busters.
9. Yuck it up. Laughter decreases stress hormones and raises your supply of immune-boosting hormones and endorphins.
10. Limit antibiotics. While they are sometimes necessary, they can suppress your immune system and make you more likely to fall ill again.