Boosting Your Immune System to Stay Healthy in Recovery

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There’s no doubt that, in the wake of COVID-19, more people are becoming aware of the importance of protecting their health. From face masks to social distancing, lots of people are doing everything they can to prevent themselves and their loved ones from getting sick.

While it’s wise to take precautions and to try and reduce one’s chances of being exposed to germs and pathogens, a big part of staying healthy means boosting one’s immune system. That way, even if one is exposed to germs and bacteria, their body will have a better chance of fending off potential illnesses.

How can people in recovery protect themselves? How can recovering addicts boost their immune systems?

The Benefits of a Healthy Diet on Immune Response

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Diet plays a considerable role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Malnourishment can lead to lowered immune response. Conversely, maintaining a healthy diet can serve to boost sufficient and effective immune response.

Scientists are still uncertain as to the exact role (or roles) that diet plays in immune response. However, there is compelling evidence that certain dietary deficiencies can suppress immune function. If a person is not getting enough zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E, they may also struggle with insufficient immune function.

The solution isn’t necessarily to take vitamins and supplements to get enough of the above nutrients. Doing so can help, but a better solution would be to eat foods rich in zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E.

Exercise and Immunity

There is a wealth of information on the benefits of exercise. People should make a point to get regular exercise each week, for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons why exercise is important is because exercise can help boost one's immune response. Physically active people are simply better guarded against illness.

Regular exercise has been found to increase T-cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that plays a central role in boosting immune function. T-cells are at the core of adaptive immunity, meaning that T-cells help tailor the body’s immune response to specific pathogens. When people exercise, they increase their body’s T-cell count, effectively boosting their immune function and assisting in warding off illness.

And there are other theories as to how exercise boosts immune function:

  • Physical activity might help to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways due to increased respiratory function while exercising.
  • Exercise can cause changes in white blood cells. During exercise, it's possible that the increased circulation of white blood cells through the bloodstream may increase immune response.
  • When people exercise, their body temperature rises somewhat. Such a temperature increase may help prevent bacteria from growing and spreading within the body. This phenomenon is similar to what happens when the body experiences a fever, just on a lower order of magnitude.
  • Exercise can help improve one’s mental state and can slow down the release of stress hormones. Heightened stress can increase one’s risk for contracting illness, so lower stress hormones from exercise may help protect people from getting sick.

Getting Enough Sleep

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Getting a sufficient night's rest every night is probably one of the most underrated and undervalued methods of maintaining one's general health. When people don't make a strong enough effort to get sufficient rest, the resulting adverse health effects can be considerable.

Dr. Eric J. Olson, with the Mayo Clinic, had this to say about sleep and its connection to the immune system. “Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.”

“Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep…”

Clearly, something as simple as getting enough sleep at night plays a huge role in one's overall health.

Lifestyle and Immunity

The health of one's immune system is not something that can be turned on or off with the flick of a switch. There is no “quick fix” for the immune system. Instead, a healthy immune system is one that is best achieved by maintaining a comprehensive lifestyle of daily habits and routines that all serve to promote immune health.

Here are some daily habits and commitments that can help promote proper immune function. It's best to commit to doing all of the following:

  • Eat a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Exercise frequently.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get plenty of sleep at night.
  • Don’t consume alcohol.
  • Practice proper hygiene to avoid infection.
  • Do your best to minimize stress.

When people do all of the above and practice those habits and routines daily, they give their immune system the support and care needed to function correctly.

The Importance of Seeking Help

Sometimes, maintaining a healthy immune system while in recovery is as simple as eating well, getting enough sleep at night, getting regular exercise, etc. But for those in recovery who experience a relapse back onto drug and alcohol use, it’s going to take more than daily health habits to get that person’s life back on track.

One of the key components for staying healthy while in recovery is to be willing to seek help when help is needed. And that can mean anything from talking to a doctor about how to boost one’s immune system, or it can mean seeking help at a treatment center because of a relapse.

Don’t be afraid to seek help in order to have the healthiest life that you can have. If you or someone you care about has relapsed, be sure to reach out to a qualified treatment center today.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.