In this section:
> Stress management
> Technology and stress relief
> Less Salt
> Lower cholesterol
> Healthy Snacks
> Boost your immune system
> Tempt your elderly or frail relatives outdoors
> Avoiding back pain
> Getting the most from your GP
> Advice on prescribed drugs
> Difficult conversations
> Moving the person you care for
> Relaxation tips
> Laughter therapy
Boost your immune system with these simple tips
As a carer, even a minor cold can make you feel run down and zapped of energy, and I’ve heard many people say, ‘I just haven’t got the time to be ill.’ So what can you do to boost your immune system and help ward off illness? Unfortunately, there are no scientifically proven ways of boosting immune function because it’s such a complex system. However, generally adopting a healthy lifestyle can support your whole body, including your immune system, and help keep you well.
First off, what is your immune system? Your immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend your body against ‘foreign’ invaders, such as bacteria or viruses, which can cause infections.
Top up with multivitamins and minerals
Eat a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Fresh fruit and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals to help keep you body healthy and functioning well. There is some evidence that not getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet, such as iron, zinc, copper and vitamins A, B6, C and E, can alter immune response, but the links are still not conclusive in humans.
However, if you think your diet means that you might not be getting certain nutrients, for example, you don’t like vegetables, taking a daily multivitamin or supplement can have several health benefits, whether it boosts your immune system or not.
The jury is still out about whether vitamin C can support your immune system, but drinking orange juice and eating fresh fruit will only do you good, so up your intake, especially if you’re feeling under the weather.
Clock in on a good night’s sleep
Despite extensive research, sleep still remains a bit of a mystery, and whether it affects our immune system is yet to be discovered. However, it’s been suggested that sleep may either allow your body to replenish energy stores and repair itself, or give you the chance to conserve energy. Either way, we all feel better after a good night’s sleep. To help you sleep better, make sure your room is quiet and comfortable and isn’t too hot or too cold. Also, only use your bedroom for sleep rather than working, eating or watching TV.
The deep sleep recording has helped many Carewell members get a better quality sleep.
Get a boost from regular exercise
Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise can benefit your immune system over the long term. Moderate exercise has also been linked to a temporary boost in the production of white cells, the cells that attack bacteria, and can therefore help keep infections, such as colds and flu, at bay.
It’s often hard to find the time to exercise if you’re a carer, but try to fit it around your daily schedule. A good way to do this is to take the person you care for out for a walk when the weather is nice. Lesley Tart has some useful tips on how you can encourage the person you care for to get some fresh air.
Several Carewell forum members have recommended getting up slightly earlier than the person you care for to have some free time to focus on your own needs. This is a perfect time to exercise. Go for a jog or walk, or if you can’t leave the house, doing some simple exercises in the house, such as squats or using hand weights, will give you the same morning boost.
You can reduce your chance of catching a cold or another infection by washing your hands on a regular basis. It may sound obvious, but it’s a common mistake. Washing your hands with soap and water is the simplest and one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness. In our care homes, our care workers adhere to the following technique to minimise the risk of spreading and contracting an infection.
• Rub your hands together to create a soap lather.
• Make sure you wash the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
• Rub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
• Rinse your hands well under running water.
• Dry your hands using a clean towel or an air dryer.
It’s also a good idea to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to use when water isn’t available.
How do you avoid getting ill? Share your tips for boosting your immune system in the forum
Produced in collaboration with Bupa’s Health Information Team, May 2012