8 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
By: Erica Hanner, Erica Jade Hanner
Our bodies come equipped with many unique defense systems that combat illness, disease, and inflammation:
– Mucus and stomach acids help trap or destroy pathogens.
– Our skin is the major barrier that keeps out the majority of pathogens.
– And the enzymes in our sweat and tears help create antibacterial compounds while our immune system attacks foreign cells.
To keep these systems in tip-top shape, we need to feed and fuel our body properly. Here are the top 8 ways to boost your body’s immunity naturally.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely tied. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body can become deprived of cytokines; these are proteins that your immune system releases during sleep. Some of these cytokines are required to fight infection, inflammation, and stress. On the other hand, too much sleep can also be harmful because it results in lower sleep quality. Seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep is best for most adults. Whereas younger children may require ten or more hours and teenagers usually need nine to ten hours.
2. Eat More Whole, Plant-Based Foods
One of the best ways to boost your immunity is to ensure you are getting all of your nutritional requirements. Your body’s immune system cannot become the defensive powerhouse you need without proper fuel. The best way to fuel up is to eat whole plant foods. Why? When foods are processed (or not whole), some essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are decreased and sometimes entirely removed. The easiest way to supply your body with what it needs is by consuming whole foods. Some excellent, immunity-boosting, whole foods are ginger, citrus fruits, broccoli, garlic, and yogurt.
3. Eat More Healthy Fats
Fats that are usually solid at room temperature are considered unhealthy, like the saturated and trans fats from animal products (a stick of butter or a fatty piece of steak). These fats are known to slow down and clog your circulatory system, which in turn slows down the flow of immunity fighting cells and systems. You can reverse this and increase your immunity naturally by consuming healthy fats, the ones that are usually liquid at room temperature. These are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and oils (such as avocado, olive, and fish oil). Polyunsaturated fats have the added benefit of omega-4 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (salmon, sardines), flaxseeds, walnuts, non-hydrogenated canola, and soybean oil. Many studies have shown that fatty acids may enhance the functioning of immune cells and help prevent heart disease, stroke, and inflammation.
4. Eat More Fermented Foods
Fermented foods naturally provide probiotics, the good bacteria our gut needs to digest foods and absorb the maximum amount nutrients. Many types of fermented foods are also high in immune system boosters, such as Vitamin C, iron, and zinc. Some natural sources of probiotic foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh. If consuming fermented foods isn’t your thing, consider taking a probiotic supplement instead.
5. Limit Added Sugars
Has anyone ever told you to stop eating sugary foods when you are sick? There are reasons for that! Many studies have shown that sugar helps to feed the harmful bacteria living in our gut and limits our immune cells’ fighting abilities.
“A research study done by Loma Linda University in which participants were fed different forms of sugar found that the effectiveness of white blood cells (our immune cells which fight infection) decreased up to 50% after 1-2 hours of eating sugar, lasting up to five hours!” (1)
6. Engage in Moderate Exercise
Any type of exercise, whether moderate or more intense, will help to improve your cardiovascular health and circulation. When your circulation is at its best, blood can move freely throughout the body, spreading important cells and substances that strengthen your body’s immune system. Exercising also helps to raise your body temperature to help kill pathogens. And, if you work up a good sweat, it can help your body eliminate heavy metals and chemicals such as BPA and PCB. (2)
7. Stay Hydrated
Water is essential for life, and that goes for our immune system as well. Water boosts our natural immune system by helping to flush out bacteria, toxins, and waste material. It is also our bodies’ natural waterway to distribute oxygen and nutrients so that all the cells can do their job.
8. Manage Your Stress Levels
When we become over-stressed, our bodies are signaled to release certain hormones, like cortisol, which, in excess, suppresses our immune system. A little stress can be useful for motivation and helps to limit inflammation. However, too much stress decreases our body’s infection-fighting white blood cell counts, inviting infection and disease.
These tips are in no way an exhaustive list of how to naturally enhance your immune system. So, if you need more help or professional advice about the best ways to get the most from your immune system, let me know! I love helping my virtual and in-person clients achieve their health goals and find their glow from the inside out. Sign up for a free consultation today for more information on my health coaching and personal training services.
In the meantime, here are some of my favorite recipes that contain immunity-boosting ingredients!
Bananas are a prebiotic food that supports gut health and high in B6, an essential vitamin needed by your immune system.
Cocoa (chocolate) contains ingredients that naturally activate and strengthen the immune system.
Berries contain antioxidants that help to fight inflammation, protect cells, and may help prevent disease. And oats contain selenium and zinc, which help to ward off infection.
Protein provides energy to antibodies and immune system cells that build and repair tissues and fight bacterial and viral infections.