The human body’s immune system can be a powerful tool to fight off the potential deadly effects of illness and disease. While many people are naturally equipped with proper functioning immune systems, there are factors that can significantly lower or increase your body’s immune system strength. In this article, I will present nine ways you can give your immune system a natural boost. It’s important to note that this info will help guide you towards being better equipped to have a strong immune system, but will not protect you from contracting any disease.
1. Get quality sleep
The first step to knowing if your sleep is affecting your immune system, is to know if you are getting enough quality sleep. A nightly minimum of six hours of uninterrupted sleep is necessary for good health, with seven to eight hours being ideal. I recommend keeping a sleep log next to your bed and tracking your bed time and wake up times for a week to see what your sleep averages look like. If you are under six hours a night or are on the low end of six hours, your immune system could be functioning at a sub optimal level. Three simple strategies you can use to start improving your sleep quality include, stopping screen time an hour before bed, keeping your room as dark as possible, and having a consistent bed time. If you want to dive into more detailed information about how sleep quality can affect your health and performance, check out these three articles.
2. Eat more fruit and veggies
Yes, we should probably all be eating more fruit and vegetables. They are packed with great amounts of vitamins and minerals that are needed for optimal health. Many fruits and vegetables also include antioxidants that reduce harmful effects of inflammation in the body. Certain vitamins have also been shown to help reduce the duration of a cold.
3. Get more healthy fats
Another great way to fight off the damaging effects of inflammation that can cause your immune system to work overtime is to increase your healthy fat intake. No “healthy fat” is not an oxymoron. Healthy fats like those in olive oil and salmon may also help decrease inflammation in the body. Since inflammation in the body can suppresses your immune system, it’s important to give your body the right nutrition to help limit the effects of long term inflammation caused by disease and poor immune system function.
4. Increase your healthy bacteria consumption
Not all bacterial is created equal. Healthy gut bacteria helps boost your immune system response. There are two common categories of gut bacteria. The first are probiotics. The second is prebiotics. Probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempha. Prebiotic food sources include, asparagus, bananas, garlic, onions, artichoke, and whole grains. Sometimes boosting your gut health can be as simple as adding these types of foods into your daily diet. Check out this article for more ways you can improve your gut health.
5. Reduce or eliminate added sugars
You may have herd that reducing sugar intake is good for your health. That might be a bit confusing because I just mentioned previously that you should increase the amount of fruits you consume that have fruit sugar in them. The sugars that you want to avoid are the ones that are added to your food to help them have a sweeter taste. An easy way to see if the food you’re eating have added sugars, is to check the nutrition label. Most of the time you will see “added sugar” amounts shown in grams. As a general rule, I advise consuming a diet with less that 10 grams of added sugar per day. Of course if you can eliminate added sugars form your diet, that would give you the best chance of eliminating the inflammation response triggered by added sugar in your diet.
While working out can cause an inflammatory response in your muscles, tissues, and joints, this is not that same type of inflammation that is caused by illness. Boosting you immune system is another one of the many health benefits exercise can have. Even if you are not trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or strength, you should consider staying active to encourage a healthy immune system. This is especially important as you age.
7. Drink enough water
The importance of water and optimal health cannot be ignored. Without water, you cannot survive very long. While many of us take our hydration for granted, being dehydrated can increase you susceptibility to illness. You may have herd that 8 glasses of water is all you need to stay optimally hydrated, but this general recommendation may not be enough for some people. For more detailed info on how much water you should be drinking, check out our podcast episode on if you really need 8 glasses of water to stay hydrated.
8. Work on managing stress levels
Turns out being stressed is another thing that can cause your immune system to be lower When we get stressed, inflammation can increase which can lead to lower immune system function. Lowering your stress levels can be difficult considering there are so many different things that can cause a stress response in the body. The good news is that just by incorporating a healthy diet, more quality sleep, and regular exercise, you can boost your immune system and help fight off stress at the same time!
9. Choose immune system supporting supplements
If your diet is full of healthy nutritious foods that provide optimal levels of vitamins and nutrients, then there is minimal need to incorporate supplements into your everyday diet. If you are concerned that you may not be consuming enough healthy foods with high vitamin and mineral amounts, then supplements can be a valuable way to ensure that your body is not lacking. Certain supplements have also been shown to have immune system supporting benefits. Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, Elderberry, Echinacea, and Garlic have all been studied to help improve immune system function. For more information on supplements and whether you should look into adding some into you your diet, take a listen to our podcast episode called “Do supplements really work?”.
10. Take home point
Remember, these immune system boosting strategies won’t prevent you from getting sick, but they can help your immune system become stronger so you are more resilient to the effects of an illness or disease. We advise that you also speak with your doctor about incorporating these strategies so they are appropriate with your current health status.