7 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Today
Posted by Andy Thomas ● May 4, 2020
Your immune system is a big part of supporting your overall health. Your body is better prepared to fight off infections when your immune system is at the top of its game making you less likely to develop a cold, or the flu. With everyone trying to do all they can these days to fight off viruses, let’s look at things you can do everyday to help boost your immune system.
And remember, you’ll need to start working on these before you get sick for the most impact. Let’s look at seven things you can start doing today.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Quality sleep helps boost your immune system, mood, and other aspects of your mental health. The Mayo Clinic explains the science behind the connection between sleep and your immune system:
"During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep."
Basically, this means that your body needs that downtime to create the cells and proteins needed to stay healthy. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night. Some people need more and some need a little less, but try to get at least 7 hours per night, even if you’re a light sleeper.
2. Enjoy Moderate Exercise
Moderate exercise keeps blood and lymph fluids circulating properly, which supports immunity. It’s also been a good way to boost your mood with so much time at home and away from our regular routines. Depending on what’s available to you at home, here are some exercises that would be considered moderately strenuous:
- Walking or jogging
- Using an exercise bike, StairMaster or rowing machine
- Moderate-intensity weight training
- Dance-cardio workouts
Try for 15-30 minutes of moderate exercise daily—or more if you're inspired.
3. Manage Stress Levels
This has been very tricky lately. No one has escaped the impacts of the coronavirus on our day to day lives, causing stress over the course of a few months (with an unknown future ahead of us). Have a constant level of stress depresses the immune system. Anything that helps you reduce stress, that’s also healthy for your body, should be a priority. Try to do things that will give you physical relaxation and mental-emotional ease. For instance:
- Take a restorative yoga, chi-kung or tai-chi class. There are online options if group exercise isn’t available near you.
- Practice some form of meditation, e.g. breath meditation or body scan meditation or body, space & awareness.
- Spend time outside, being nourished by the natural world—among trees, flowers, mountains and rivers.
- Limit your consumption of news via TV, radio and social media feeds. When you feel yourself becoming agitated or feeling overwhelmed, that's your clue to turn it off.
4. Reduce Your Intake of Sugar
Eating sugar can have a surprising impact on your immune system. After eating sugar, there appears to be a decrease in your body’s ability to fight pathogens (germs). That’s because the sugar somewhat suppresses the body’s ability to make more white blood cells. To stay healthy you need your body in top shape to make enough white blood cells to fight off infection.
In addition to regular sugar, try to avoid artificial sweeteners too such as aspartame, saccharin, and others. Some of these have brand names such as Equal, Sweet and Low, and Splenda.
If you need to sweeten something use healthy, natural sweeteners in moderation. This includes organic honey (no sugar added), pure maple syrup, agave syrup, molasses, date sugar, stevia, coconut sugar, or brown rice syrup.
5. Watch What You Eat
Use Healthy Fats
Limit your intake of trans-fats such as shortening, margarine, and vegetable oils. Instead, use healthy fats and oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil. Butter can be used sparingly. Ghee, clarified butter, can also be used in moderation. Coconut oil is especially awesome for boosting immunity, because of its antiviral and antibacterial actions.
Eat more plant-based foods
These low-fat and fiber rich foods will help you
- A rainbow of fresh, organic vegetables: steamed, stir-fried, baked or raw.
- Fruit. Fresh is ideal. Dried fruits can be good if eaten in small amounts since the sugar content tends to be high.
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios without a lot of salt and oil. Raw nuts are ideal.
- Seeds: sunflower, chia, hemp
- Whole grains: rice, rye, barley, oats, quinoa, millet, amaranth
Support your natural balance with probiotics
The National Institutes of Health published a study that states probiotics may provide benefits including disease prevention and disease treatment for a variety of conditions including viral infections, eczema, and allergies. Read the full study here.
Include probiotic-rich cultured foods such as yogurt, kefir, sour cream, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha in your diet. These foods nourish the human microbiome which directly supports the immune system to fight viruses.
Tip: Make sure to look for the "live active cultures" label, to receive full probiotic benefit.
6. Consider Adding Immune-Boosting Nutritional Supplements
A healthy balanced diet provides most of the vitamins and minerals that the body needs—but supplementing can be helpful in a capsule or chewable format, especially if you haven’t been eating well for a few days in a row.
- Vitamin C—abundant in citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes) as well as the rainforest fruit camu-camu.
- Vitamin D—available via moderate amounts of sunshine, or through a supplement.
- Vitamin B6—provided by a balanced diet because it is found in many foods, e.g. turkey breast, grass-fed beef, pistachios, tuna, avocado and sunflower seeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids—best source is fish oil via wild-caught salmon, tuna, sardines, or a supplement such as krill oil or cod liver oil.
- Zinc—available in capsules or lozenges to dissolve in your mouth when you feel the first symptoms of a cold.
- Elderberry capsules or syrup—Tends to shorten the effects of a virus, especially when taken just as symptoms of a cold or the flu begin.
7. Maintain a Positive Outlook
Science has shown that an uplifted and optimistic attitude boosts the immune system. That may be easier said than done these days. But try to find joy and positivity every day, even if it’s just the little things like a blooming flower in your yard, looking at pictures of past fun events, or giving your pet a hug. Your immune system—along with your friends, pets, and family members—will thank you! If you notice yourself veering off into a negative path, try to bring it back to positivity with a thought, a compliment or another positive outlet that brings your train of thought back to the good things in our lives.