With cold and flu season fast approaching and the Covid virus still looming, it’s important to take measures to stay well this fall and winter season. And while we may know how washing our hands and keeping a safe distance can help lessen the risk of becoming ill, other measures, such as avoiding alcohol and drugs, can help give the immune system an extra boost.
Sobriety helps our bodies and minds in so many ways, and it can also help improve how our immune system functions and keep illness at bay. Here we’ll cover how sobriety can help strengthen the immune system and some extra measures you can take to help you stay healthy as we finish out the year.
Build a Better Immune System
Drug and alcohol use can suppress the immune system’s response and lead to some negative health consequences. We know how excessive substance use can impair things like judgement and memory, and it also disrupts immune system pathways in the body and makes it more difficult for the immune system to not only defend the body but recover as well. This can be as simple as the common cold or a slow healing cut or can pose more significant risks, such as pneumonia, whole-body inflammation, and cancer.
During recovery, communication in the body changes and we can notice many positive differences during sobriety. And, as the focus turns from alcohol and drugs, people take on more personal care measures they may have neglected while addicted. Getting enough sleep, hydration, exercise, and nutritious foods is critical for our body and brain, and essential for a weakened immune system. The following are ways sobriety can help strengthen the immune system:
Better Quality Sleep
Proper amounts of rest help the body recover from physical and mental stresses. Substance use disrupts sleep… Even when intoxicated to the point of passing out. More than just feeling tired, poor-quality sleep can worsen symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and affect the immune system response.
Improved Gut Biome
While we may pay little attention to our stomach and bathroom habits until something feels bad, our gut biome works overtime to protect us from illness and disease. As the first point of contact, alcohol and other substances damage the cells of gastrointestinal system structures and the immune system T cells, reduce the number of good microorganisms, and increase the risk of microorganism and bacteria leakage into the body.
Increased Immune System Cells
Substance abuse affects our body’s natural antibody response. This is because the number of T and B cells is reduced. (Think back to the gut biome) These immune system cells detect and fight harmful bacteria and viruses that enter the body. A delayed or poor immune system cell response makes it much harder for the body to produce antibodies and fight off infections.
Tips for Staying Healthy During Recovery
Our immune system is complex, but there are measures you can take to help enhance your immune system’s response to illness. Many may find these tips simple, while others may find it takes a bit to get into routine. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, with practice, these measures can become second nature and help you go in to the winter season with a stronger immune system.
Exercise helps maintain weight, sleep better, and feel better… think reduced anxiety. Excessive weight and stress can have a negative effect on our immune system.
We all know to eat our veggies. But we can improve our plate when including a variety of whole foods, including fruits, lean protein such as fish, chicken, or vegetable options, and whole grains. And you don’t need to cut off sweets… just keep in moderation.
Up to 60% of our body is water and our body systems rely on water for survival. Water supplies nutrients to all of our cells, helps maintain body temperature, lubricates our joints, transports nutrients in our bloodstream, helps flush wastes out, and so much more.
Get Your Zzz’s
Although sleep may seem like a passive state, a lot is happening inside the body when you fall asleep, including an improved immune system. And with a sharpened mind and immune response, you can help stave off illness this season.
Boost Your Wellness Today
Whether you’re questioning your relationship with alcohol and cutting back or starting your sober journey from drug and/or alcohol misuse or addiction, your actions today can help bring a healthier tomorrow.