A healthy lifestyle can help every part of your body function better, including your immune system.
We all want to feel strong and healthy throughout the long winter months, but it can be hard to avoid those seasonal colds, nasty bouts with the flu or other viruses that seem to pop up during the winter.
Keeping your immune system strong is a great way to try to stay healthy. Your body’s immune system is what helps protect you from all of these infections, so it’s important to do everything you can to boost it and help your body fight off the germs coming your way.
Learn more about why your immune system is so important to your overall health and wellness and what you can do to help it perform its best!
Your Immune System: How Does It Work?
Your immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend your body from harmful germs. In other words, it’s your body’s way of protecting itself from infection and disease – fighting everything from cold and flu viruses to serious conditions like cancer. Your immune system sounds the alarm so your body knows when it’s time to release antibodies to fight off invading germs.
10 Ways to Enhance Your Immunity
There is a wealth of information online about what you can do to boost your immunity, and as with any topic on the internet, some of it is credible and some of it isn’t. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about your health and what you can do to boost your immunity to certain infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several actions you can take to help enhance your body’s immunity. Check out these 10 tips:
- Get vaccinated. Vaccines are a crucial way to build immunity against specific diseases. Vaccines can help your immune system do its job better and faster, helping you fight certain infections more effectively, according to the CDC. A vaccine, such as the flu or COVID-19 vaccine, can spark your immune response, helping your body fight off the germ and remembering it, so it can attack it if it invades again. Talk to your health care provider about staying up to date on your vaccines. The CDC provides a helpful vaccine and immunization schedule broken down by age.
- Eat well. To boost your immunity, it’s important to give your body multiple nutrients to support optimal immune function. This can include eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommends the following nutrients to help you build a strong immune system:
- Vitamin A – Vitamin A can be found in leafy green vegetables; other vegetables like broccoli, carrots and squash; fruits such as cantaloupe and mango; and dairy products like milk, cottage cheese and yogurt.
- Zinc – Zinc can be found in red meat and dark poultry meat, as well as seafood such as lobster and crab. Beans, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals also contain zinc.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits, red and green grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi and baked potatoes.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D can be found in salmon, tuna, milk, cheese, yogurt and egg yolks. Your body also makes it when your skin is exposed to the sun.
- Be active. Regular physical activity benefits many areas of your health and wellness. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, sleep better, and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. According to the CDC, emerging research suggests it also may help to boost immune function. Check out these tips for making regular activity a part of your health and wellness routine.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can affect how your body functions in a number of ways, including your body’s immune function. According to the CDC, obesity is linked to impaired immune function and can decrease your lung capacity. Obesity may also lower vaccine effectiveness for several diseases such as influenza and hepatitis B. Learn more about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and what steps you can take to get there.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep plays a vital role in your overall health and wellness, including how well your body’s immune system works. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people who do not sleep enough are more likely to get colds and other infections. The CDC recommends an average of seven or more hours of sleep a night for adults.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ in your body and makes it harder for your body to fight off illness and disease. Smoking increases your risk of immune system problems, including rheumatoid arthritis. Learn more about how smoking impacts your health and what support is available to help you quit.
- Avoid excessive alcohol use. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, drinking too much alcohol can weaken your immune system, making it harder for you to fight off infections.
- Keep your diabetes under control. Having diabetes can increase your chances of getting sick and may slow down your recovery. According to the CDC, high blood sugar adds stress to your body and makes nearly every system work harder, including the white blood cells of your immune system. This means that if you have diabetes, your immune system might be weakened and less effective. Keeping your blood sugar within your target range can help you boost your immune system, along with the other suggestions listed here. Check out these additional ideas for managing your diabetes and staying healthy.
- Take steps to avoid infections. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us a lot of strategies for avoiding infections in the first place. Things like washing your hands properly and often, staying away from people when they’re sick, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wearing a mask in crowded places are all ways you can protect yourself from getting an infection in the first place.
- Manage stress. When your stress levels are high, your immune system may have a harder time fighting off infections, making it easier for you to become sick. While we can’t control when our lives become stressful, we can incorporate tools to help lower our stress levels, including mindfulness and meditation activities. Even a few minutes of deep breathing or another breathing technique may help you relax and reduce your stress.
A healthy lifestyle can help every part of your body function better, including your immune system. Give your body its best chance to fight off infections.