There’s nothing like a pandemic to make you realise the importance of good health and a robust immune system. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started, people have been searching for ways on how to boost immune system and keep their minds and body healthy. However, boosting your immunity is no easy feat and there are no quick fixes that can give you overnight results. Having said that, there are several lifestyle and dietary modifications that can boost immune system and your body’s natural defences against harmful bacteria, pathogens, and various diseases.
Today, let’s take a look at 10 useful tips to improve immunity. All these are backed by credible scientific evidence and may just be what you need to navigate through these uncertain times and strengthen your immune system.
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What you need to know about your immune system
To put it simply, your immune system is your body’s first line of defence against harmful infections and illnesses. It is a complex system indeed and comprises various cells in your blood, bone marrow, skin, tissues, and organs that fight off harmful bacteria, viruses, and infections. Your immune system is also in charge of monitoring cells that are not functioning properly and successfully eliminating them. Moreover, an optimally functioning immune system also limits damage from non-infectious factors like sunburn, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
It is thus quite easy to understand why you have fewer chances of getting sick with a strong immune system. You should also remember that your body’s immunity is not functioning at an optimal level all the time. Like everything in life, it also gets run down. Therefore, you need to continuously look for ways that help nurture and bolster your immune response. Below are some of the ways on how to improve your immune system and maximise its effects.
How can I naturally boost my immune system?
Here are 10 excellent tips on how to improve immunity naturally:
1. Eat a healthy, nutritious diet
One of the best ways to boost your immune system is to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet. The nutrients you get from fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, legumes, plant-based herbs, and spices all do their part in keeping your immune system functioning properly. Many plant-based foods especially are renowned for their antiviral and anti-microbial properties, that effectively help fight infections.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the micronutrients you get from your food like zinc, copper, selenium, folate and iron, and essential vitamins like vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E all play their own unique role in supporting healthy immunity.
You may have heard that vitamin C deficiency increases the chances of contracting infections. Our bodies do not produce this essential nutrient on their own, and we need to get it through citrus fruits like strawberries, oranges, and tomatoes. Moreover, vegetables like spinach and broccoli are also important sources of vitamin C.
Eating sufficient protein too is critical for maintaining optimal immune health. Proteins are rich in amino acids that help build and nourish immune cells. Thus, skipping this important micronutrient from your diet may lower your body’s ability to prevent and fight various infections. Important sources of protein include lean meat, seafood and poultry.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases observed that mice who only had 2 % protein in their diet were far more severely affected by flu compared to mice who had a diet containing 18 % protein. When these mice were fed a normal protein diet, they were seen to quickly recover from the virus.
Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet involving lots of fruits, vegetables and protein will undoubtedly help boost the immune system.
2. Get enough good quality sleep
Do you know that inadequate sleep increases your susceptibility to illness? This is because your immunity is closely tied to the quantity and quality of your sleep. While you sleep, your body regenerates and heals itself. Thus, it follows that good, restful sleep can boost your body’s immune response.
Various studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to getting ill after exposure to viruses, such as those that cause flu and the common cold. A recent 2017 study found that healthy young adults suffering from insomnia were more prone to contracting the flu, even after getting vaccinated, as compared to those healthy young adults who had no sleep problems.
According to one recent review published in the European Journal of Physiology, when you sleep, your body produces important immune cells like cytokines (help promote or fight inflammation), T cells (help regulate immune response) and interleukin 12. Therefore, if you want an easy way of how to increase immunity, try and get proper sleep. At least seven hours of sleep per night is essential for adults to optimise their health, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
3. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
Drinking enough water plays a vital role in supporting a healthy immune system. We all have fluid in our circulatory system called lymph, which is mostly made up of water. It is responsible for carrying key infection-fighting immune cells around the body. If you’re dehydrated, it can slow down the lymph’s movement, possibly leading to a weakened immune system. Dehydration can also lower your mood, focus and physical performance and hinder optimal heart and kidney function.
Thus, if you want to know how to boost your immune system, make sure to drink plenty of water. Keep your fluid intake high when you exercise or work outside in a hot climate. Remember, water is free of calories and sugars and is a better hydrating choice than drinking sweetened teas and fruit juices.
4. Take essential vitamins and health supplements (CBD)
While you do get your essential nutrients and vitamins from food, taking additional vitamins and supplements is another way to boost immune system. For instance, if you don’t get enough sunlight, taking a vitamin D supplement can lower your chances of getting sick due to any deficiency. Similarly, if you don’t get to eat enough seeds and nuts, you can take vitamin E supplements to boost immunity.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is another popular health and wellness supplement nowadays. Some studies have found CBD to influence the immune system. For those unfamiliar with CBD, it is a natural compound found in hemp. It is touted to have strong anti-inflammatory properties and functions as an efficient immunosuppressant. This very quality has a beneficial therapeutic effect when the immune system is compromised or become hyperactive. CBD is also known to be an immunomodulator, meaning it can help regulate the unbalanced immune system and bring it back to its normal functioning.
Besides alleviating inflammation, CBD can also promote a good night’s sleep. Anecdotal evidence and some medical research point towards CBD’s stress-relieving qualities, which can promote restful sleep. As we have learnt, adequate restful sleep can help boost immunity. This is all due to CBD’s ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body, which is responsible for regulating many important functions such as the immune response, appetite, mood, sleep and so on. After a quick consultation with your doctor, you can try and take CBD supplements like CBD oil or CBD gummies to help boost immunity.
5. Do regular exercise
If you ever looked up “how to increase immunity’’ online, you would have found that exercising regularly helps. Exercise can boost immune system by enhancing overall blood circulation, making it easier for infection-fighting cells to travel more easily throughout the body. Some studies show that engaging in moderate exercise for as little as 30 minutes can enhance the effectiveness of vaccines in people with impaired immune systems.
Moreover, staying active and exercising regularly also lowers your risk of developing viral and bacterial infections as well as diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Not only that, but exercise also increases the release of endorphins (feel-good hormones) that help lower stress. Since stress negatively affects the immune system, exercising can help improve immunity by keeping it in check.
6. Try minimising stress
Another important tip on how to boost immune system is to try and manage your stress levels. Long term stress adversely affects your immune health. This is because it leads to elevated levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol can prevent your immune response from effectively doing its job to protect the body against harmful threats like viruses and bacteria.
Studies show that long term stress can lead to imbalances in immune cell function. Moreover, protracted psychological stress has also been seen to suppress the immune response in children, particularly.
Everyone has a different way of managing stress, but some useful activities to relieve it include exercise, meditation and even seeing a licensed therapist or counsellor.
7. Drink alcohol in moderation
You may already know that drinking high amounts of alcohol has a range of negative health effects. But did you know that doing so can lower immune function? According to one 2015 review, a high level of alcohol consumption can lower your body’s ability to fight off infections, as well as slowing down recovery time. Your body gets busy detoxifying your system, ignoring normal immune system functioning. This can cause a greater likelihood of health problems such as:
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Acute respiratory stress syndrome
- Certain types of cancers
Therefore, limiting the amount of alcohol you consume to one drink per day can be just the boost your immune system needs to function well.
8. Quit smoking
Smoking cigarettes also negatively impacts your immune health. Certain chemicals released by cigarette smoke such as carbon monoxide, cadmium, nitrogen oxides and nicotine can hinder the growth and function of immune cells such as T cells, B cells and cytokines. Moreover, according to the CDC, smoking can also worsen post-surgical infections, rheumatoid arthritis as well as other viral and bacterial infections.
If you are actively considering ways on how to increase immunity, then you should try and quit smoking if you currently smoke. You should also try and avoid secondhand smoke, too, whenever possible.
Vaping CBD can also be an effective tool to help quit smoking. It may help with strong nicotine cravings and any withdrawal symptoms.
9. Maintain good gut health
Did you know that around 70% of your immune system is in the gut? So, if you want to know how to boost immune system, you should really focus on maintaining optimal gut health. You can do so by eating more fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir and natto. These are rich in probiotics, an extremely beneficial good bacteria that is present in your digestive tract.
Recent research suggests that thriving good gut bacteria can aid your immune cells in differentiating between healthy cells and harmful outside organisms.
Eating more unprocessed foods rich in antioxidants and following a Mediterranean style diet can also help boost immune system. Also, try and eat healthy fats and fibre-rich vegetables and fruits. If you don’t like eating fermented foods, you can try and take probiotics supplements. Remember, these can help reduce inflammation and encourage good gut health, which helps promote a strong immune system.
10. Be happy and try positive thinking
Another useful tip on how to improve immunity is to actively try positive thinking. Your mental health has a huge influence on your physical health and wellbeing. The power of positive thinking can be truly judged by the following example.
Researchers at John Hopkins Medicine found that positive thinkers were less likely to suffer a heart attack than ‘negative’ people, even though they had a family history of heart disease and other risk factors.
Negative emotions and a pessimistic outlook can weaken your immune response. If you want to boost your immunity, you should try and have a positive mindset. Try and do things that you enjoy and take up yoga and meditation, which can help calm you down and reduce stress. Deep breathing exercises can also help lower cortisol levels and lower blood pressure, improving your overall immune health.
There are several different ways of how to boost immune system. These include several dietary and lifestyle changes that can easily help strengthen your immunity. Remember, the onus is on you to take the first steps towards a healthy lifestyle. Your immune system tends to wear down like everything in life, and by following the above tips, you can help nurture it and give it the boost it needs.