Ways to Naturally Boost Your Immune System

It's pretty common to not think about our immune systems till we're actually sick but by incorporating some lifestyle adjustments we can set ourselves up to be able to fend off illness. Read below for some wellness tips to mindfully strengthen your own immune response.
Basics That Aren't So Basic
We all know that staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep are two of the main pillars for staying healthy, yet they are so easy to neglect. While it's always important to be drinking enough water, it's especially crucial when viruses are circulating. Water helps to carry oxygen to the cells which in turn helps your systems function properly and aids in flushing out toxin build up in the body.

By building in some water drinking habits into your routine, getting your daily intake can feel less like a chore. Try drinking 8-16 oz first thing in the morning when you wake up and another glass before every meal. Find some herbal teas you enjoy or experiment with different types of fresh fruit in your water to change it up. In addition to helping your body optimally function, you'll also have the bonus of keeping your skin hydrated and glowing!

While it's easy to watch just one more episode before bed, getting enough sleep (7-8 hours for adults) is imperative for your immune system.

According to the Mayo Clinic, studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.

So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.

Herbs & Vitamins

Always consult your doctor before incorporating new herbs or vitamins into your regimen.

While drinking water, getting enough sleep and eating clean are the best ways for you to stay healthy, there are supplements that can offer some additional support. Adaptogenic herbs (also known as adatogens) are herbs that support the body's ability to handle stressors that are both physical and emotional. These herbs are typically incorporated on an on-going basis instead of just used to treat an acute illness. Some common adaptogen herbs are Ginseng, Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng), Ashwaganda, Astragalus and Licorice Root. Some additional herbs to specifically boost your immune system when you start to feel an illness coming on are Elderberry, Echinacea, Ginger, and Goldenseal. Herbs can be taken as teas, powders, capsules or tinctures so experiment to find your preferred delivery method.

Most of the vitamin content you need comes from eating nutritious food. Below is a list of the best vitamins to focus on consuming or using in supplement form to help your immune system:

  • Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all. In fact, a lack of vitamin C can even make you more prone to getting sick. Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli. Daily intake of vitamin C is essential for good health because your body doesn’t produce or store it.
  • Vitamin B6 is vital to supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system. Vitamin B6-rich foods include chicken and cold water fish such as salmon and tuna. Vitamin B6 also is found in green vegetables and in chickpeas, which is the main ingredient in hummus.
  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infection. Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts, seeds and spinach.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased to susceptibility to infection. Foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon. Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals, as well as cheese and egg yolks.

 Get Outside and Move

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of spending some time in nature and staying active. According to WebMD, Sunlight helps keep your serotonin levels up. This helps raise your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive, and focused. Better vitamin D production because of more sunlight is already good for your immune system. But the outdoors seems to help in other ways. Many plants put substances, including organic compounds called phytoncides, into the air that seem to boost immune function. Sunlight also seems to energize special cells in your immune system called T cells that help fight infection.

Moderate exercise has been linked to a decrease in illness risk and has an anti-inflammatory influence throughout the body. Habitual exercise improves the immune regulation which can in turn delay the onset of age-related cellular dysfunction. (Click here to read more about these studies.)

 

If this all seems overwhelming, choose one thing to start with and focus on incorporating it into your daily routine. Once you feel confident in your new habit try adding in something new. Challenge yourself to find creative and fun ways to stay healthy instead of feeling like its an obligation or chore. Your mental health is half the battle so stay mindful and focus on nourishing yourself!

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