Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? There are millions of cells in the immune system, and it seems like there are equally as many products promising to protect them. Your employees are targeted with marketing campaigns and advertisements for supplements, teas, and many other immune-boosting solutions. But is there something that isn’t on the drugstore shelf that could make a positive difference in our immune-fighting powers?
Exercise: Straining muscles and building defenses
The immune system is complex. Its function depends on many moving pieces and influences. Did you know that exercise can boost your immune response?1 When a person engages in physical activity, the sympathetic nervous system is ignited. Heart rate increases, triggering a slight change in blood pressure and respiratory rate. When this happens, our bodies release hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream. This causes an anti-inflammation process in the body, therein positively impacting immune response. A certain amount of inflammation is normal and is our body’s standard response when we are trying to heal a wound or injury. Too much inflammation, however, can be linked to autoimmune conditions, chronic diseases, and general discomfort.2
Finding immunity at the farmers’ market
Whole, fresh foods are a key ingredient in a recipe for a strong immune response. Promoting protein-packed, vitamin-rich foods can directly impact an employee’s health and well-being. Vitamin A works to protect skin and tissues, while vitamin C stimulates the creation of antibodies. We often hear about antioxidants and for good reason. These substances can protect your cells from free radicals, which are associated with cancer, heart disease, and other conditions. What should you encourage your staff to add to their grocery basket? Lean meats, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, citrus fruits, red bell peppers, seeds, berries, and nuts are all great choices to add to next week’s grocery list.
Breaking the habit (before the habit breaks your immune response)
A healthy lifestyle can positively impact immunity, so it’s no surprise that unhealthy behaviors can do the opposite.
The first line of defense when we are under immune attack are our mouths and nose. Smoking damages the lining of both.
Skipping out on sleep – Our body needs sleep to fight infection. Sleep deprivation can reduce the production of antibodies and cells we need for a positive immune response.3
Not drinking enough water – Did you know that water carries oxygen to your blood cells?4 In addition to its many other benefits, it’s crucial to immune support. Adversely, drinks like alcohol chip away at the lining of the mouth and esophagus, making it easier for bacteria to infiltrate our bodies.
So, how can you positively impact your employees’ immunity?You can’t do their grocery shopping or ensure they get 30 minutes of daily exercise, but you can make a positive impact on their health. Consider the following opportunities to increase access for your staff:
Host a flu shot clinic. Increasing access to this resource is a great way to protect your staff against the flu this season.
Bring vendors to your worksite. Consider hosting a small farmers’ market with local businesses in your area. This will increase access to whole, fresh foods.
Partner with local wellness facilities. Consider bringing fitness professionals to the worksite to increase access to wellness opportunities. Additionally, encourage employee participation in Blue Cross NC’s Blue365 discount program.