Caring for yourself is important at all times in your life, but especially during and after cancer treatments. Boosting your immune system can help fight off secondary infections and prevent relapses. Beyond that, the same steps taken to boost your immune system also improve your mental health, leading to a happier, fuller life. In Jean LaMantia's Immune System Boosting Quick Start Guide, she outlines two main goals for achieving a healthy immune system. They are 1) Supporting your immune system and 2) Reducing chronic inflammation. She goes on to explain why.
All of us have rogue cancer cells in our body. A healthy immune system can recognize and destroy these cells. A weak immune system cannot.
Luckily, with simple, can-do steps, you can boost your immune system. As always, consult your doctor before initiating any changes. #1: Physical Activity Physical activity includes housework, exercise, and means of transportation. LaMantia explains how important physical activity is:
Physical activity works directly on your immune system to protect you. It also reduces chronic inflammation and is also a great stress reducer. Physical activity also has indirect pathways to help you. It can lead to loss of body fat. This is important because visceral fat, which is packed between the organs, is a known cancer-promoter.
You do not have to run a marathon to get physical activity. Start with where you are at, even if this means a slow walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. #2: Sleep Sleeps allows your body to heal. This includes its immune system, vascular system, muscles and skeleton. As explained in LaMantia’s Immune Boosting Quick Start Guide,
too little sleep is associated with type 2 diabetes, weight gain, increased blood pressure, mental, emotional and physical fatigue, and an impaired immune system. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night with a target of being asleep by 11:00 pm.#3: Stress Management
When you are stressed, your body changes the way that your immune system works, often times shutting it down. LaMantia clues us in on ways to reduce stress.
Some examples are exercise, meditation, journaling, art and music. Enjoy a regular routine of activities in your week that are stress-relieving for you.#4: Being in Nature
Research backs up how great nature is in boosting your immune system. LaMantia explains that
trees contain wood essential oils called phytoncides, which you breathe in as you enjoy the forest. The phytoncides increase the number of natural killer cells in your immune system defense force. You can walk through a forest or simply sit and enjoy it. Both have been shown to be helpful.#5: Laughter
We’ve all heard the old adage, “laughter is the best medicine.” In some ways, it is true! Laughter, whether real or fake, boosts the spirits, reduces stress, and boosts the immune system. LaMantia tells why:
It can increase the number of natural killer cells in your immune system, as well as improve sleep, blood flow, blood sugar levels, and reduce stress, anxiety and pain.
So when you’re offered the choice to cry or laugh, laugh! If you want to give your immune system a little boost, then work these five simple steps into your daily life. Jean LaMantia is a registered dietitian, author and cancer survivor. She is the author of The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook and editor of the Canadian Dietitian Oncology Network Newsletter. "I’ve spent my entire adult life collecting, analyzing, and distilling an incredible amount of knowledge about nutrition, about cancer, and about that area where the two overlap. And I’ve applied that knowledge in my own life, and the lives of countless others. I’ve been both a patient (during my battle with the disease) and a caregiver (during my father’s)," she writes. For more information, and to download the full Thriving After Cancer Immune Boosting Quick Start Guide, visit www.jeanlamantia.com.
about the author
Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.