Giving your body the best possible chance to fend off infection and fight illness has never mattered more. Here are 10 natural tips for boosting your immune system.
1. SLEEP BETER
A study of over 22,000 participants discovered that people who sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to suffer from colds and other respiratory infections.
To enjoy the optimal amount of sleep each night, aim for approximately 7-8 hours and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants in the 6 hour window before bedtime. Avoiding sources of blue light—like phone, laptop, and TV screens—during the hour or so before you plan to sleep can help improve the quality of your sack time, too.
2. EAT A BALANCED DIET
A balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds is vital to immune system health, especially when it comes to successfully fighting off infectious diseases. Our bodies’ produce dangerous free radicals when defending themselves against illnesses, and a healthy diet can help remove these molecules by supplying our bodies with antioxidants.
Substances naturally found in the plant-based foods mentioned above, antioxidants help shield our body’s cells from the potentially damaging effects of harmful free radicals. To boost your immune system, add more of the following antioxidant-rich foods to your diet:
- Red cabbage
- Red grapes
- Sunflower seeds
- Sweet Potatoes
3. DRINK LESS ALCOHOL
It should come as no surprise to learn that excessive alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on your immune system—including making you more vulnerable to lung infections, pneumonia, and acute respiratory stress syndrome (ARDS), a common cause of death via respiratory failure.
Try cutting back to a single drink a day (1 beer, glass of wine, or cocktail), or better yet, consider an alcohol fast for the time being.
4. IMPROVE YOUR HOME'S AIR QUALITY
We all know the air we breathe daily plays a substantial role in our health. What you might not know is that traditional air fresheners, candles, and other synthetic fragrance products are among the biggest sources of indoor air pollution. The noxious chemicals contained in these products have been tied to cancer, respiratory problems, and other serious health complications.
In other words, do you, your family and pets a favor and stop using these harmful products today. Instead, open your home’s windows for 10-15 minutes each day and switch to family-safe, pet-safe air fresheners.
5. REPLACE TOXIC HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS
Like the chemical-based air fresheners mentioned above, many common household products are outright poisonous, detrimental to both our immune system and everyday health.
To help protect your immune system, trade your traditional, chemical-based household cleaners and pesticides (including flea & tick products) for safer, toxin-free alternatives. This will improve your home’s air quality, too!
6. DECREASE STRESS
Stress not only makes us feel bad, it also suppresses our immune systems. Studies show chronic stress hinders healthy immune system function and increases general body inflammation, which can ultimately lead to poorer overall health.
To help keep your stress levels in check, make sure to get enough sleep and exercise at least 2-3 times a week. If you’re still experiencing heavy stress, consider adopting a daily meditation or yoga routine.
Study after study shows a strong link between regular exercise and immune system health. Frequent exercise is believed to strengthen the cells in your body that defend against disease, increase the circulation of these cells, and also help fight aging.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise) each week. They also suggest doing strength training for all major muscle groups at least twice a week. But don’t let these general guidelines deter you from doing any at all—some exercise is always better than none.
8. AVOID SMOKING
Whether you smoke or not, cut those tobacco fumes out of your life. Inhaling cigarette smoke isn’t just about lung health. It’s also been shown to weaken your immune system’s defense against infection, as well as increase the likelihood of bronchitis, pneumonia, and other respiratory complications.
The advice is simple: do not smoke, including secondhand smoke.
9. CATCH SOME RAYS
Did you know sunlight can naturally boost your immune system?
It works in two ways. First, sunlight increases vitamin D levels, which are known to benefit immunity. Second, sunlight directly activates key immune cells (infection fighting T cells), helping them to move more efficiently throughout the body.
Approximately 15 minutes a day in the sun is enough to reap the benefits.
10. LIMIT YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
Evidence suggests cutting down on your sugar consumption could help you have a stronger immune system. Foods high in added sugars—like packaged meats, treats, and fast food—are known to temporarily reduce the effectiveness of your immune system for several hours.
In other words, if you regularly consume sugar-rich foods, chances are your immune system is constantly in a compromised state. The next time your sugar craving kicks in, skip the candy and reach for a sweet fruit like mango instead.