As an entrepreneur, you know getting sick can result in costly delays or even lost business. This summer, take advantage of some natural immunity-boosting practices to keep yourself healthy and your small business running smoothly.
According to the National Institutes of Health, your body’s natural immune system is its first line of defense against harmful, illness-causing germs and substances entering the body. When your immune system functions properly, it can be easy to overlook its vital role in protecting your health. But the realities of running your own small business, such as working long hours, not taking adequate breaks or sleeping poorly, can negatively affect your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.
Help protect your health and give your immune system a boost by:
• Getting enough sleep – Getting enough sleep is integral to a well-functioning immune system, according to the Sleep Foundation. High-quality sleep is associated with a well-balanced immune defense. In contrast, poor sleep and sleeping disorders — like insomnia, sleep apnea and circadian rhythm disruption — can interfere with your immune system. During sleep, the immune system becomes active, using a natural inflammatory response to help you recover, fortify immunity, repair wounds and fight off infection. Improper sleep, meanwhile, has been connected to short-term illnesses and chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart problems, according to the foundation. Your recommended hours of sleep per day changes as you age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but adults should generally sleep seven or more hours per night.
• Eating a balanced, nutritious diet – Help your immune system prepare itself to fight infection and disease by eating a balanced diet consisting of a range of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Among the many factors that can depress your immune system, a poor diet can impair the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies, according to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Diets that consist primarily of ultra-processed foods, refined sugar and red meat, while low in fruits and vegetables, can result in chronic gut inflammation and suppressed immunity. Instead, consider filling your plate with the vital nutrients your body needs to protect itself, such as whole fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Not sure where to start? Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate tool can help you create healthy, balanced meals.
• Exercising regularly – Regular exercise essentially “primes” your immune system by causing it to release beneficial messenger molecules, enabling it to respond more quickly to an infection or disease-causing pathogen, according to information published by the University of Washington. While the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or two days of muscle-strengthening activity per week, any physical activity is better than none. If the demands of your small business have you too busy to hit up the gym, try walking around the block during your lunch break or starting your day with some light yoga.
• Drinking in moderation – As a small business owner, you might enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two to unwind after a long day. However, drinking too much can weaken your immune system, putting you at higher risk for various harmful medical conditions, such as liver disease or cancer, respiratory symptoms, slow or incomplete healing of wounds and pneumonia, according to GoodRx Health. Reducing or limiting the amount you drink can reduce the damage to your liver and immune system commonly associated with alcohol use and improve your overall health.
• Quitting smoking – Did you know that smokers’ overall health is worse, and they are sick more often than nonsmokers? According to the CDC, smoking harms the immune system and can make your body less successful at fighting disease. It also increases your risk for several immune and autoimmune disorders and could potentially worsen any pre-existing conditions. Smoking can be a difficult habit to break, but doing so can improve your immune system and reduce your risk of heart disease, lung disease and other smoking-related illnesses.
• Reducing your stress levels – Stress can significantly affect your mental and physical health. Chronic stress can increase negative feelings, like anxiety and depression, and reduce the number of lymphocytes in the body — the white blood cells that help fight off infection — according to the Cleveland Clinic. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more vulnerable you are to viruses and illnesses like the common cold. Fortunately, a number of the tips listed above, such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation, can help reduce your stress levels and improve your immune system.
Before making any changes to your wellness routine — including changes in diet and exercise — always consult your doctor or other healthcare professionals.
The American Independent Business Coalition (AIBC) helps our members by enhancing three key areas of their lives — their careers, personal lives and general health — through the provision of unique member benefits. To explore the health benefits available through your AIBC membership, visit aibcoalition.com.