Give Your Immune System a Hand
Almost everyone has experienced a cold, or the flu, or some sort of infectious disease. That means that some sort of germ or virus made it past your defense system, also known as your immune system. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’ve got an ineffective immune system, or something is wrong; some of us just have stronger immune systems than others. Getting sick happens to the best of us, there is truly no discrimination.
But is there something that we can do to help our immune system out? The short answer: yes. Boosting your immune system isn’t as simple as taking a pill, and it won’t immediately change after taking a Vitamin-C packet. Your immune system has many complicated factors associated with it, thus why it’s a complex system. It’s comprised of white blood cells, T cells, B cells, antibodies, different organs and bodily systems, etc.
Because of its complexity, boosting your immune system takes time. But all is not lost, as there are many ways in which you can help your body out. Now to be clear, boosting your immune system isn’t as literal as it sounds. What you can do, however, is change certain lifestyle choices to help reinforce the different parts that make up your immune system!
Top 8 Tips to Boost Your Immune System
There are a few natural ways to help boost your immune system and strengthen your body, preparing it for unwanted germs and viruses. Whether it be by bolstering your immune response, aiding your gut bacteria, or increasing your white blood cell count, you can help boost your immune system.
Here are the top 8 tips to boosting your immune system naturally!
Get Enough Sleep
To start off the immune boosting tips, this one is nice and easy! Make sure you are getting at least the recommended 7 hours of sleep nightly, as this is the time in which your body is doing all it’s healing (1). Keeping to a consistent nightly sleep schedule is an effortless way to boost your immune system (2).
During sleep, your body produces immune-functioning cells like T cells and cytokines. Studies show that not getting enough sleep can lead to lower amounts of these immune cells, and thus a slower/weaker immune response (3, 4). A lack of sleep also leads to higher levels of toxic cells and cortisol, a stress hormone, which negatively affects your immune system response to an infection (5, 6). Not only can lack of sleep slow your immune response, but it can also make you more susceptible to infections themselves (7). It can’t be emphasized enough… make sure you get enough shut-eye!
Take Your Vitamins
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of eating the right foods and maintaining a healthy diet! Everything you put into your body has an effect on how you function on a day to day basis. If you’re putting junk into your body, your body won’t function at its peak abilities. Making sure you get the right vitamins and minerals from your foods is key to a healthy life!
Studies have linked vitamin D deficiencies to decreased immune response, as well as a greater susceptibility to viruses and infections (38, 39). Vitamin A and zinc have been linked to stronger immune responses to viruses and infections, giving you a speedier and stable recovery (40, 41, 42). Another study linked vitamin C to the growth and regulation of T cells and B cells, further strengthening your immune system (43). Making sure you’re getting all your needed vitamins (44), whether it be through your foods or supplements, is crucial to boosting your immune system!
Keep Active and Exercise
We all know how important it is to stay active and keep moving throughout the day, trying to get in exercise wherever you can. Whether it’s a long walk to the grocery store or an afternoon swim, getting your heart rate up and your body moving can boost your immune system!
Studies have shown that regular exercise helps regulate with the production of T cells and antibodies, which helps strengthen your immune response (17, 18). Other studies have linked regular exercise with lower rates of infection and stronger immune response, suggesting exercise helps boost the immune system (19, 20). Keeping fit and exercising on a daily basis is a surefire way to manage stress, boost your immunity and help your body stay healthy (21).
Find Some Probiotics
Another buzzword these days: probiotics and prebiotics! These good bacterias aid in your overall gut health, from protective attributes to digestive help. And it doesn’t stop there… Probiotics have been linked to boosting your immune system and immune response!
Studies show that ingesting probiotics helps with the production and regulation of T cells and B cells, which are a key part of your immune system (22, 23). Probiotics also help with strengthening your immune response to infection, making it easier to fight off intruders (24, 25, 26). Probiotics also increase production of antibodies and increase productivity of natural killer cells, which help fight off viruses (27, 28). Swing down to your local grocery store and pick up some live-cultured yogurts, kombucha, kimchi, etc., to increase your probiotic intake and boost your immune system!
Too much of anything is almost always a bad thing, and stress is definitely one of those things. Your body actually needs a small amount of stress, in order to correctly produce the right amount of cortisol. This helps your body go into fight or flight response modes instead of automatically activating your entire immune response.
However, chronic/long-term stress can lead to long-term levels of cortisol, which have been found to be damaging to your immune system. Studies have shown that long-term stress can lead to inaccurate immune responses and suppressed immune systems (34, 35). Other studies have linked chronic stress to decreases immune cell effectivity, as well as decreased beneficial T cell production (36, 37). Give your body a break and try to reduce your stress levels in order to boost your immunity!
Limit Your Alcohol
Drinking alcohol has been a staple of many cultures throughout millenniums, whether it be wine or liquor. Excessive drinking causes many deaths every year throughout the world, but alcohol is still enjoyed by millions every day. Everything in moderation, right? The NIH recommends the limit be up to 1 drink a day for women, and up to 1-2 drinks a day for men (12).
Studies show that excessive drinking negatively interferes with T cell and B cell development and function, leading to poor immune responses (13, 14). Other studies link excessive drinking to immunosuppressive effects, as well as great susceptibility to infection (15, 16). If you are going to drink, make sure you do so in moderation. Think of limiting your drinking as a discipline to help boost your immune system!
Consume More Antioxidants
Also another buzzword: antioxidants! These antioxidants are compounds that help keep our bodies free of damaging free radicals, which are produced during natural inflammation processes. These free radicals come from white blood cells that are trying to fight off viruses and infections, but sometimes stick around after their job is done. Antioxidants help get rid of these pesky free radicals that can be very damaging to our bodies!
Studies have linked antioxidants to a better controlled immune response, bettering our immune system to be more accurate (29, 30). Antioxidants have also been linked to the prevention of degenerative disorders, boosting our immune system’s preventative measures (31, 32). And as mentioned above, antioxidants have been linked to greater production of T cells and natural killer cells, aiding our immune response during infection (33). Try eating more leafy greens, blueberries, carrots, strawberries, etc., to boost your immunity!
Most of us know how harmful cigarette smoking can be to our health. So, if you’ve ever needed another reason to wean off smoking, this is it! Smoking can also be harmful to our immune system, so try to find healthier alternatives if you’re trying to quit cold turkey.
Studies have shown that the nicotine from cigarette smoking can inhibit the growth and function of T cells and B cells that help our immune system respond to an infection correctly (8, 9, 10). The chemicals from the smoke can also negatively change our resting immune response, triggering things like inflammation and asthma (11). Smoking is immunosuppressive, inhibiting our immune system; try hard to stop smoking and boost your immune system!