Every day, the actions you take contribute to your immune health. Improving your immunity helps you stay healthy by fighting infections and reducing inflammation. To make your immune health a priority, take a look at these seven natural immune-boosting tips that you can easily add to your daily routine.
1. Make healthy choices
There’s no question that a strong link exists between diet and immunity. Natural foods are full of health-promoting nutrients that help fight off infections and protect your body from illness. The science is in: eating whole, organic fruits and vegetables is the first step in a healthy immune system that will reduce your chance of getting sick.
Here are our top picks for healthy foods that will give your immune system a boost:
- Berries – blueberries especially contain high amounts of antioxidants, important for fighting against harmful toxins in your system.
- Citrus fruits – fruits like grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes contain Vitamin C, a key vitamin for fighting off infections.
- Broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens – these contain antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins to support your immune system.
- Mushrooms – these are full of selenium, an essential mineral that supports proper immune functioning.
- Healthy fats, like olive oil and those found in salmon – healthy fats have omega-3s, which are critical to reducing inflammation in your body.
- Low-fat yogurt – probiotics in yogurt help to fight off infections.
- Garlic – fresh garlic has the ability to fight bacteria and viruses.
- Spices like ginger and turmeric – ginger and turmeric both help to decrease inflammation. Add them to a smoothie for an extra boost!
2. Fill up on vitamins and minerals
Our bodies need many micronutrients for a healthy immune system — think Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, selenium, zinc, and iron—most of which we get from our food. But here’s the truth: studies show that most people aren’t meeting the recommended amounts in at least one of these micronutrients. Being deficient could make you more susceptible to getting sick.
The best thing you can do to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients? Incorporate whole fruits and vegetables into your diet that contain all of the essential vitamins and minerals. Focus especially on Vitamin C, which has a very strong link to healthy immune system functioning.
You might also consider supplements like a multivitamin. Just remember that supplements shouldn’t be a replacement for a healthy diet and that what you eat is much more important. And, you should always consult with your doctor before taking any new supplement.
3. Moderate drinking and smoking
Drinking alcohol lowers your immune system defenses. If you do drink, drink only in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day on average for women, and two drinks per day on average for men. Try not to make drinking a daily habit so your body has time to recover after alcohol use.
Smoking is also known to impact the balance of the immune system, leading to an increased likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders. Smoking has many other ill effects on health as well and should be avoided entirely.
Staying hydrated pumps up your immune system by helping it fight off toxins and infection-causing bacteria. Our bloodstream is made up mostly of water, and our bloodstream is what transports important nutrients around our body. If we’re dehydrated, our immune system may not receive the key nutrients it needs to fight off infection in certain areas of our body. Water also is important for draining out invaders and other toxins.
So how much water should you drink per day? It depends on your body weight.
- If you measure your weight in pounds: divide your weight by two and you’ll get the number of ounces of water you should drink per day on average.
150 lbs ÷ 2 = 75 ounces per day
- If you measure your weight in kilograms: divide your weight by 30 and you’ll get the number of liters of water you should drink per day on average.
60 kg ÷ 30 = 2 liters per day
These numbers will give you a general idea of what you should be drinking, although everybody’s needs are different. You should be sure to drink even more water on days you exercise or are exposed to high temperatures or humidity.
5. Exercise moderately
Regular exercise offers a big boost to your immune system. It widens your blood vessels, allowing needed nutrients to travel to all of your organs, helping with any immune responses needed. Exercise also has positive effects on your white blood cells, which you can think of as your body’s soldiers that fight off infections.
The key here is moderation; too much exercise can actually decrease your immunity, as it puts your body in a high-stress state for too long of a period. Avoid doing over 90 minutes of vigorous exercise each day and vary your intensity and length of workouts, and include rest days for your body to recover.
Try incorporating timed walks, yoga stretch breaks, or use those stairs to drive that heart rate up. This is especially important for those sitting all day at a computer for their work.
6. Manage stress response
When your body is faced with stress, it releases a hormone called cortisol throughout your bloodstream. If there’s too much cortisol in your bloodstream for too long of a period, your immune system can be inhibited.
While stress can’t always be avoided, your reaction to it can. If you feel stress, try these quick stress reducers:
- Do this breathing exercise: breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for two, and then breathe out for six. Repeat until you feel calm.
- Download a meditation app, and follow a guided meditation practice.
- Take a five-minute walk outside.
- Write down what’s stressing you out.
If you need additional help with managing stress, consider reaching out to a therapist or seeking out other resources in your community.
7. Sleep well
When you’re asleep, your body is in the process of healing itself. The more high-quality sleep you get, the longer your body has for cell growth and regeneration. While sleeping, your body produces key immune-boosting cells, like cytokines and T-cells. You need plenty of sleep to have a well-functioning immune system.
Experts recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. You may be able to function on fewer, but you could be preventing your body from healing.
Talk to your doctor
These simple tips can be added to your daily routine to not only improve your immune system but also promote a healthy lifestyle. If you have any questions about your own immune health or are ready to make significant changes to your lifestyle, talk to your doctor first.
Note that while these tips may boost your immune health, they should not be considered medical advice, nor that they protect specifically against COVID-19. Consult your doctor, local health agencies, and government for COVID-19 policies in your area and for any specific health issues you may develop.