Nutritional Immunology: The Fundamental Four
Being healthy isn’t rocket science—most experts agree that good health is based on a few basic principles. Nutritional Immunology, which is the science that studies the link between nutrition and the immune system, incorporates four fundamental guidelines in outlining a simple formula that focuses on strengthening the immune system and helping the body fight disease and stay healthy. Those four principles are: eat right, sleep well, exercise regularly, and be positive.
While all four principles are essential to good health, feeling great certainly starts with eating right. Food is the fuel for the immune system, and the science of Nutritional Immunology is centered on the explicit link between proper nutrition and the health of the immune system.
Nutritional Immunology teaches that when we eat a healthy, well-rounded diet consisting mostly of a variety of whole plant foods, we stand a better chance of maintaining optimal health. Fruits and vegetables contain not only the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need, they also contain other naturally occurring micronutrients, such as phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides, that keep our immune system strong.
It has become increasingly evident that sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining good health. The amount of sleep we need varies, although most studies indicate that adults generally need 7–8 hours of sleep, while children and teenagers need even more.
The Mayo Clinic shares a few simple tips to creating habits that encourage better sleep.
· Stick to a sleep schedule: Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off.
· Pay attention to what you eat and drink: Don't go to bed either hungry or stuffed, and limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. Be wary of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol before sleeping too.
· Create a bedtime ritual: Do the same things each night to tell your body it's time to wind down. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual.
· Get comfortable: Create a room that's ideal for sleeping.
· Limit daytime naps: If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the midafternoon.
· Include physical activity in your daily routine: Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep.
· Manage stress: When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer.
In addition to eating right, this is one of the most important things you can do to promote good health. Our bodies were not made to sit at the desk all day and then sit in front of the TV or computer screen all night; our bodies were made to move, and we need to maintain an active lifestyle to enjoy good health.
Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous or long. The American Heart Association suggests the following: “At least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember. You will also experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day.”
Focusing on having a positive attitude is often overlooked when we think about good health, but stress has a huge impact on our immune system. Stress can cause headaches, back and chest pain, heart disease, heart palpitations, upset stomach, high blood pressure, sleep problems, and decreased immunity.
And that’s just the physical impact of stress. In addition, stress can cause over-eating or under-eating, angry outbursts, social withdrawal, relationship conflicts, unexplained crying, increased smoking, and drug or alcohol abuse.
Finally, stress has been linked to anxiety, restlessness, worrying, irritability, depression and sadness, anger, burnout, forgetfulness, lack of focus, and feelings of insecurity.
When we focus on these four fundamental rules of good health, we can enjoy greater health and well-bring and stronger immune systems.
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