While bolstering your immunity is easier said than done, several dietary and lifestyle changes may strengthen your body’s natural defences and help you fight harmful pathogens, or disease-causing organisms.
Here are tips to help strengthen your immunity naturally.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely tied. Sleep is a time when your body produces and distributes key immune cells, heals and regenerates. Adequate sleep is critical for a healthy immune response.
In fact, inadequate or poor quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness.
Getting adequate rest may strengthen your natural immunity. Also, you may sleep more when sick to allow your immune system to better fight the illness.
Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, try limiting screen time for an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from your phone, TV, and computer may disrupt your circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle – although you can actually turn the blue lights off in settings.
Other sleep hygiene tips include sleeping in a completely dark room or using a eye mask, going to bed at the same time every night, and exercising regularly. There are many natural ways to help you sleep like vitamins and meditation.
Eat Whole Plant Foods
Foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds etc are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that may give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens.
The antioxidants will help decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body in high levels.
Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.
Meanwhile, the fibre in plant foods feed your gut microbiome, or the community of healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract.
Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of the common cold.
Eat Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, salmon and chia seeds, may boost your body’s immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation.
Although low-level inflammation is a normal response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system.
Olive oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory, is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties may help your body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses
Eat Fermented Foods Or Take Probiotics
Gut health and immunity are deeply interconnected. Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which populate your digestive tract. These foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto.
Research suggests that a flourishing network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms.
If you don’t regularly eat fermented foods, probiotic supplements are another option.
Limit Added Sugars
Curbing your sugar intake can decrease inflammation and aid weight loss, thus reducing your risk of chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Given that obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease can all weaken your immune system, limiting added sugars is an important part of an immune-boosting diet.
You should strive to limit your sugar intake to less than 5% of your daily calories. This equals about 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of sugar for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet.
When It Comes To Alcohol, Practice Moderation
Drinking high amounts of alcohol is associated with a range of negative health effects, including lowered immune function. When you drink high amounts of alcohol, your body is too busy trying to detoxify your system to bother with normal immune system function.
Engage In Moderate Exercise – (Outside When Possible)
Although prolonged intense exercise can suppress your immune system, moderate exercise can give it a boost.
Regular exercise lowers your risk of developing chronic diseases, as well as viral and bacterial infections.
Exercise also increases the release of endorphins (a group of hormones that reduce pain and create feelings of pleasure) making it a great way to manage stress. Since stress negatively impacts our immune system.
Studies indicate that even a single session of moderate exercise can boost the effectiveness of vaccines in people with compromised immune systems.
Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, steady bicycling, jogging, swimming, and light hiking. Most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Hydration doesn’t necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, but preventing dehydration is important to your overall health.
Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These complications can increase your susceptibility to illness.
To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluid daily to make your urine pale yellow. Water is recommended because it’s free of calories, additives, and sugar.
While tea and juice are also hydrating, it’s best to limit your intake of fruit juice and sweetened tea because of their high sugar content.
It’s important to note that older adults begin to lose the urge to drink, as their bodies do not signal thirst adequately. Older adults need to drink regularly even if they do not feel thirsty.
Keep Stress Under Control
A positive mindset is vital for health and well-being. Research shows that positive thoughts reduce stress and inflammation and increase resilience to infection — while negative emotions can make you more susceptible to the common cold and flu.
Relieving stress and anxiety is key to immune health. Long-term stress not only promotes inflammation, it creates imbalances in immune cell function.
There are many effective stress-reduction techniques; the key is to find what works for you. Meditation (apps like Headspace and Calm can help), journaling, mindful practices like yoga and any activity that you enjoy (such as fishing, playing golf, or drawing). Try to do at least one stress-reducing activity every day. Short on time? Start small. Set aside five minutes at some point each day for fun and increase it when you can.
Your body absorbs and uses vitamins and nutrients better when they come from a dietary source. While vitamins and supplements can help fill in the gaps in your diet, the best way to load up on essential nutrients is to get them straight from food.
Saying that, if you do choose to supplement, here is an indication of supplements which may strengthen your body’s general immune response:
Vitamin B6 is vital to supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system. Vitamin B6-rich foods include chicken and cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna. Vitamin B6 also is found in green vegetables and in chickpeas, which is the main ingredient in hummus.