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While it feels like so many things are out of our control, one thing we can do to positively impact our well being is to support our immune system. When the body comes under attack, from bacteria, viruses or allergens, the immune system launches a counter attack. Its job is to defend the body against disease causing micro-organisms.
A healthy body supports a healthy immune system, making it more difficult for illness to gain a foothold. A body battling disorders already or one suffering from dehydration or chronic sleep deprivation or fueled by a poor diet can’t adequately handle an invasion.
Check out these 8 ways to boost your immune system and benefit every other system in the body as well.
8 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Try these supportive tips to boost the immune system and optimize the body’s defense against infection and disease.
Increase Nutritionally Dense Foods
Eat more fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes. These foods are rich with essential nutrients that the body needs to operate at an optimal level, without the unhealthy fats and sugars that bog it down.
The following foods are especially important. They nourish the body and support the immune system: citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach and other dark leafy greens, almonds, turmeric, green tea, lemon balm, papaya, kiwi, berries and shiitake mushrooms.
Visit the fresh produce section of the grocery store first, and stock up. Then get creative, adding as many of these foods as possible into your daily meals.
Vitamin D is essential to help the body produce antibodies, maintain energy levels and reduce the risk of respiratory infections. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine a day boosts the immune system and energizes the body. Take a walk on sunny days or simply pull up a lawn chair and sunbathe.
Other important vitamins for a healthy immune system include A, B6, C and E. Vitamin C is easily depleted from the body and its lack suppresses the immune system. Try a potent form of this vitamin by taking Ester-C as a daily supplement.
Improve Gut Health
There is a crucial connection between gut health and the immune system. In fact, the intestines house 60 to 70 percent of the body’s immune cells. Additionally, 500 different types of gut bacteria thrive there.
Studies suggest that the friendly micro-organisms in the gut help regulate immune responses. That good bacteria also balances the immune system. However, gut bacteria with too many pathogens in it shifts the immune system into an inflammatory state. And unbalanced bacterial flora can lead to disease.
Add probiotics to improve the diversity of the gut flora, which helps boost immunity and improve overall health.
Adequate hydration helps the body flush out toxins and bacteria. And it ensures that oxygen is carried through the blood to every cell in the body. A well oxygenated body is a healthy one and the immune system functions best in a healthy body. The body needs water as well to produce lymph, which circulates white blood cells and nutrients to fight disease.
Recommendations vary on the amount of water to drink. Strive for at least 64 ounces a day. Fill a filtering water pitcher in the morning with 64 ounces of water and make it a game to empty the pitcher by the end of the day. Add lemon, lime, orange or cucumber slices to water for an added nutritional boost.
Also include herbal teas as part of the recommended amount. Lemon balm, ginger, nettle leaf and green tea are excellent choices, as they boost the immune system as well.
Stress taxes the body by keeping it in “fight or flight” mode and that can adversely affect the immune system. The hormone cortisol, released during times of stress, reduces antibodies and interferes with T cells’ (specialized white blood cells) ability to reproduce and receive signals from the body. Chronic stress also increases inflammation, which impairs immunity.
To lower stress and anxiety, practice excellent self care. Include mediation, breathing exercises, yoga or stretching in your day. Sing while cleaning the kitchen. Act silly with the kids. And as spring warms up outside temperatures, get into nature. Take a solitary walk. Plant a garden. Bird watch. Nature helps to relieve stress and centers us. And if you are outdoors on a sunny day, you receive the added bonus of vitamin D via the sun’s rays.
Check out this fun to use app, SHINE, for help managing stress and anxiety.
Get Enough Sleep
Many people are sleep deprived. Lack of sleep causes an inflammatory immune response, reducing the activity of T cells in the body. This in turn compromises the immune system.
Sleep restores and refreshes the body. Strive for 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. Create a nighttime routine that prepares the body for rest. Turning off electronics an hour before bedtime, a soothing warm bath or shower, chamomile tea and soft music all contribute to a restful night’s sleep.
Move Your Body
Regular exercise mobilizes T cells and boosts the production of microphages, cells that attack bacteria that trigger respiratory infections. It also increases the circulation of cells that fend off viruses and harmful bacteria.
Add 30 minutes of exercise a day, to boost the immune system. Incorporate activities you can easily do at home or in your yard. Walk around the yard. Pull up a video on YouTube and practice Zumba, aerobics or your dance moves. Gardening is an excellent way to move the body and produce veggies, berries and herbs, along with gorgeous flowers. Get the kids involved with races, tag, obstacle courses or tossing a ball.
Too much rigorous exercise weakens the immune system however. Strive for about 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Things to Avoid
The following substances harm the immune system.
Smoking damages the lungs, increases the risk of cancer and weakens the immune system.
Excessive alcohol intake impairs the immune system as well, reducing the body’s ability to defend itself from infection by decreasing immune reactivity. Consume alcohol in moderation, one drink a day for women and two for men.
Refined sugar lowers white blood cells’ ability to fight viruses and infection and feeds inflammation. Substitute raw organic honey, pure maple syrup or coconut sugar.
Improved Immune System, Improved Health
These simple ways to boost your immune system not only help to fight off viruses, colds and flus, they improve overall health.
All my life, I suffered with horrible seasonal allergies, especially in the fall. I experienced all the symptoms…itchy, watery, swollen eyes, cough, sneezing, stuffy head, headaches and sinus congestion. Twice a year, for six weeks at least, I felt miserable.
After upping my nutrition, and implementing the other practices listed above, I experienced my first allergy free fall, ever. The following spring, I remained allergy free and I’ve continued to do so. I realized the truth I stressed above. A body already beset by other conditions and struggling to operate on a poor diet cannot handle one more thing, in my case, allergens.
A healthy body, on the other hand, possesses a healthy immune system, and that body can better handle the various bugs, viruses and allergens that come our way.
I can’t promise you won’t get sick, ever again. However, you can improve your health by improving your immune system, and vice versa. And keeping that immune system strong helps to prevent other diseases and disorders as you age.
These 8 ways to boost your immune system help you feel healthier overall and give your body a better chance when fighting any invaders.
Boost your immune system with these:
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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.