The immune system is your body’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It works by identifying and eliminating these pathogens, helping to maintain your overall health and wellness and thus enabling you to lead a healthy and active life. The immune system also facilitates healing processes, ensuring a speedy recovery from illnesses and injuries.
The events of recent years have us all wondering how we can boost our immune system for optimal strength and performance. We’ve learned that masks, frequent hand washing, and limiting contact with those who are ill are great ways to limit our exposure to germs and viruses, but how can we fortify ourselves from the inside out? We have compiled a list of the top 10 ways to boost your immune system.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for boosting the immune system, allowing our bodies to fight illnesses and preserve optimal health. During sleep, the body creates and releases immune cells, such as cytokines and T cells which assist in identifying and eliminating infections. Sleep also improves the function of memory T cells, so they can better recognize and eliminate foreign invaders. If you are struggling with getting 7-8 hours of consistent sleep nightly, try incorporating some good sleep hygiene practices such as limiting blue light exposure and sleeping / waking at the same time each day.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet has a direct impact on immune health since such foods contain essential nutrients that help the body’s defense mechanisms. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats ensures that our bodies get the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they need to function at their best. A healthy diet supports immune cells and the gut microbiome, which are critical to the body’s ability to fight infection.
A few foods that have immune-boosting properties are citrus fruits, broccoli, almonds, yogurt, garlic, ginger, and shellfish. Including these foods as part of a balanced diet will help your immunity soar.
3. Practice Good Hygiene
Good hygiene practices prevent illness and boost the immune system by reducing the risk of exposure to harmful pathogens. Hand washing, for example, eliminates germs and bacteria that might cause diseases, reducing the load on our immune systems. Proper food handling and preparation practices aid in the prevention of foodborne illnesses, while a clean living environment decreases the prevalence of hazardous germs.
Hand washing is probably the easiest way to keep germs at bay. Always use warm water and generously lather both the front and back of the hands for at least twenty seconds. Don’t forget to scrub underneath the fingernails!
4. Take Probiotics
Gut health and immune system health are closely linked, due to the fact that a healthy gut microbiome improves the body’s defense mechanisms. There are many bacteria, viruses, and fungi living in the gut, all of which play a role in the immune system. These microorganisms interact with immune cells, assisting in the regulation of inflammation and the integrity of the gut barrier, which keeps hazardous pathogens out of the circulation.
A few probiotic-rich foods are yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, even pickles. As for supplements, there are numerous probiotic supplements available on the market, containing different strains of bacteria. Some common probiotic strains you’ll find include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
5. Quit Smoking
Smoking affects the immune system by introducing hazardous chemicals and poisons into the body, impairing immunological function and compromising general health. There are toxins in tobacco smoke that damage immune cells, impair their ability to respond to infections, and increase inflammation, making it more difficult for the body to heal and recover from illness. Furthermore, smoking impairs the natural defenses of the respiratory system, such as the cilia and mucus lining, making microorganisms more likely to infiltrate and cause infection.
Quitting smoking will help far more than just the immune system. Nicotine wreaks havoc on nearly every vital organ and system of the body, so quitting is essential to living a healthy lifestyle. If you need help to stop smoking, there are many quitting aids and resources available, even alternative therapies such as hypnosis and frequency therapy.
6. Exercise Regularly
Second on our list of the top 10 ways to boost your immune system is through regular exercise. Exercise boosts the immune system by increasing immune cell circulation and the production of infection-fighting proteins. Regular physical exercise increases the number of natural killer cells and T cells in our bodies, improving our ability to identify and neutralize hazardous germs. Exercise also lowers stress hormones like cortisol, which can suppress the immune system when levels are high.
The immune system is not picky when it comes to the types of exercise it needs to stay healthy. No need for high intensity here –thirty minutes of walking, gardening, or swimming is plenty to keep your immune system fortified.
7. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated actively boosts the immune system by allowing necessary nutrients and immune cells to move more efficiently throughout the body. Adequate hydration promotes the correct function of mucosal membranes in the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, which act as important pathogen barriers. Drinking enough water also aids in the removal of toxins and waste products, minimizing the buildup of toxic compounds that could impair immune function. Keeping a water bottle with you throughout the day serves as a reminder to drink up–even if you don’t feel thirsty.
8. Manage Stress
Chronic stress takes a significant toll on the immune system, leaving our bodies more susceptible to illness and infection. When we experience long-term stress, our bodies release elevated levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which can suppress immune function. This suppression hinders the production and efficiency of immune cells, diminishing our ability to fight off pathogens effectively. Additionally, just as with a poor diet, chronic stress disrupts the balance of the microbiome which further compromises immune health.
Today’s fast-paced world doesn’t always make it easy to keep stress levels low. Remember to make time daily for the things you enjoy, practice deep breathing exercises, or start a meditation practice to help both manage stress and keep it from becoming chronic.
9. Limit Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol use is proven to harm the immune system by reducing its effectiveness and making the body more vulnerable to infection and disease. Excessive alcohol consumption alters gut microbiota balance, gut barrier function, and permits dangerous germs to enter the bloodstream. Alcohol use also suppresses the formation and function of immune cells such as natural killer cells and T cells, impairing the body’s ability to recognize and neutralize invaders.
In the same way that quitting nicotine is vital for whole-body health, limiting alcohol intake has the same benefits. Your best bet? Aim to limit consumption to one drink per day.
10. Get Plenty of Vitamin C
Increasing Vitamin C intake is one of the most well-known methods of the top 10 ways to boost your immune system. Vitamin C actively supports immune health by assisting with many cellular operations inside the immune system. It is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes damaging free radicals and protects immune cells from oxidative damage. Vitamin C also boosts the formation and energy of white blood cells, which improves the body’s ability to fight infections. Furthermore, this important vitamin strengthens the body’s epithelial barriers (protective tissue), acting as an important line of defense against infections.
We touched on the immune-boosting power of citrus fruits and other foods, but a daily multivitamin is a great way to supplement your daily intake as well. Look for high-quality brands that have at least 2000 mg of vitamin C per serving.
As you review this list of the top 10 ways to boost the immune system, you’ve surely noticed many of these tips are reflective of any good wellness regimen. All of the body’s systems rely on a basic set of needs to keep them healthy and fueled for optimal performance–and the immune system is no different. As you incorporate these strategies into your daily routine, you are also fortifying and strengthening your digestive system, nervous system, vital organs, and improving overall wellness. Even choosing just 3-4 areas to focus on can do wonders for your health. So get started today–your immune system will thank you!