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Boost Your Immune System in No Time

The immune system is your first defense against disease — but as we age, the immune system cells work less efficiently and can’t fight disease as well as they once did. The reasons for this are not 100 percent clear. However, there are things you can do to help keep your immune system strong and avoid getting sick.

Nancy Bryan, DO, an internist at Rush University Medical Center, offers three easy ways to boost your immune system in no time.

1. Get enough sleep. Skimping on sleep suppresses the immune system. Yet many people try to get by on four or five hours a night to fit more into their days. To keep your immune system strong, aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up for awhile and do a quiet activity, such as reading. To help determine the cause of sleep problems, take an interactive sleep disorders quiz at /www.rush.edu/sleep.

2. Eat a healthy diet. Fruits and green, leafy vegetables are rich in antioxidants, substances that protect cells from the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are produced by environmental exposure to toxins. They can damage your DNA, weakening your immune system. The recommended daily intake for fruits and vegetables depends on your age, gender and how physically active you are. Visit www.mypyramid.gov for specific recommendations.

3. Exercise. Physical activity increases the production of macrophages, cells that attack bacteria. During exercise, immune system cells circulate more quickly through the body and are more able to kill bacteria. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise four times a week to boost your immune system.

Nancy Bryan, DO, is the newest member of the practice Internal Medicine at Rush. Her area of interest is women's health, particularly anxiety in women.


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