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5 Tips for Boosting Your Immune System

September 03, 2021 6 min read


Our immune systems are at the core of keeping us healthy, protecting us against infections, illness, and even chronic disease. When our immune systems are happy and healthy, we are happy and healthy. When our immune systems are out of balance and functioning at low capacity, we are at higher risk for everything from the flu to allergies to long-term health concerns.[1]

If you want to feel your best and stay well so that you can live life to the fullest, it is essential to care for your immune system. Luckily, there are many things you can do – from choosing healthy foods to getting proper rest – that can boost your immune defenses and keep your immune system strong.


The top 5 things you can do to support a strong immune system

If you want to know how to take care of your body and fight off germs, then these top diet and lifestyle tips are a great place to start:


1. Load up your diet with nutritious whole foods

The cells of your immune system need proper nourishment to fight off invaders. If your diet is lacking in certain nutrients like zinc, vitamin C, iron, and selenium, then your immune system won’t be able to function as it should. That can put you at higher risk for getting sick.[2,3]

Some of the important components of a healthy diet that support optimal immune function include:

  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins like A, D, E, C, and B vitamins
  • Minerals like zinc, iron, copper, and selenium
  • Antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols [2]

What to do:

Make sure to eat a well-rounded diet that focuses on whole foods – especially plant-based ones. Plan your meals so that they feature a variety of naturally colorful foods like leafy greens, berries, carrots, bell peppers, and more.

Focus on healthy sources of protein like nuts, seeds, and organic grass-fed meats as well as healthy fats like those found in olive oil and fish. And get extra immune boosts from herbs like turmeric, garlic, and ginger.[4] As always, stay away from sugar and processed foods as much as possible. Especially fried foods.


2. Prioritize sleep

Sleep impacts the way our immune systems function. Lack of sleep decreases immune activity and makes us more susceptible to infection and illness. Researchers believe that impaired immune functioning from sleep loss could contribute to several different chronic health conditions and disorders.[5,6]

So getting plenty of rest – and good quality rest – is essential if you want to have a strong immune response.


What to do:

Pay attention to your daily routines and make an effort to set yourself up for success come bedtime. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule, waking up and going to bed at the same time each day.
  • Keep your room dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. A white noise machine worked great for me and is recommended if you live in a city or other noisy area.
  • Give yourself downtime before bed to relax, calm down, and prepare for sleep. Try journaling, stretching, meditating, or doing some other activity that gets you centered.
  • Avoid screens at least a half hour before bedtime, and dim the lights as well. Bonus points for wearing blue light blocking glasses for 3 hours before bed.
  • Stay away from things like caffeine, alcohol, large meals, and stimulating activities in the time leading up to bed.

3. Get plenty of movement

Our bodies function better overall when we are physically active on a regular basis. And so do our immune systems.

Exercise helps to promote beneficial immune activity, decrease systemic inflammation, and protect us against illness and disease. Each time we work out, it actually enhances the activity of specific immune cells that create a stronger immune defense.[7]

But be warned – overdoing it can actually cause more harm than good. Workout routines that are too intense and hard on the body can actually impair immune function and increase inflammation.[7] So while you want to get active and challenge your body to get stronger, heavy exertion and repeated intense workouts aren’t recommended.  


What to do:

If you aren’t a regular exerciser, then try to gradually increase your physical activity each day. You don’t have to go to the gym every day to strengthen your body and immune system; walking around the neighborhood, playing sports in the backyard with your kids, going for a bike ride, or doing yoga or Pilates can all count towards daily movement. 

Try to get a good balance of strengthening, aerobic, and flexibility exercises into your routines. 


4. Calm your mind and manage your stress

The mind-body connection is a very real thing. The state our minds are in can have a major impact on the state our physical body is in – and vice versa.[8]

When we are under stress, particularly long-term, chronic stress, our bodies take a major toll. One of the most damaging effects of chronic stress is dampened immunity. Chronic stress floods the body with stress hormones that suppress immune function.[8]

So one of the best things you can do to fight off germs and stay healthy is to learn to manage and better cope with your stressors.


What to do:

Here are some tips to begin to calm your mind and manage your stressors:

  • Experiment with stress-reduction techniques like mindful awareness practices, deep breathing, meditation, journaling, yoga, and more. 
  • Make time for fun, relaxation, and your favorite hobbies. 
  • Spend time outside in nature, and soak up the sun’s rays on a regular basis.  
  • Stay social and connect with your support system often. Research findings suggest that feeling socially connected to others can actually strengthen your immunity.[8]
  • Seek support if you need it. Whether that be the support of family or friends or the support of a provider such as a coach or therapist, get the help you need to properly take care of your mental health and reduce the impacts of stress on your body.

5. Lean on natural immune boosters

Although we ideally should be able to get all the nutrients we need from the foods we eat, it isn’t always that easy and we can sometimes benefit from a little bit of help. Filling in the gaps with natural, high-quality supplements can help us to enhance the effects of our positive lifestyle choices and take our health to the next level.

Some of the supplements that may help to keep your immune system up and running well include vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, selenium, and probiotics.[9] There are also many different herbs and plants like elderberry, garlic, Echinacea, turmeric, licorice, and others that are thought to have immune-boosting properties and that may be supportive if you are wanting to strengthen your defenses.[4]


What to do:

Consider natural herbs and supplements to support your health – especially during times when you feel like you might need an extra boost or added care. Use your diet to your advantage, and if you are choosing supplements be sure to get high-quality products that are ideally made from real food sources.

Always consult with your healthcare provider before using any supplements to ensure they are right for you and your body.


Enhance your immunity by making healthy habits a priority

Caring for your immune system allows you to feel your best and protect yourself against infection and illness. To boost your defenses and build a stronger body overall, you’ll want to make healthy daily habits and positive lifestyle choices a top priority. 

Get started by focusing on healthy foods, getting good rest, exercising regularly, mitigating the effects of stress, and supporting your body with natural supplements. And be sure to take care of your body in other ways, too. Losing weight, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and other healthy lifestyle habits can all support a strong immune system as well.

You have the power to make healthy choices every single day that can affect how you feel in the short term and the long term. So start today by making positive changes that will set you up for a long and happy life.


References

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/immunesystemanddisorders.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352291/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723551/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7602650/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6689741/
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/work-hour-training-for-nurses/longhours/mod2/05.html
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254618301005
  8. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune
  9. https://www.umms.org/coronavirus/what-to-know/managing-medical-conditions/healthy-habits/boost-immune-system


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