The 3 Best Ways to Naturally Boost Your Immune System
Staying Healthy This Winter Starts with a Strong Immune System
As we head for cooler weather and the unofficial start of the cold and flu season, many people want to know how they can boost their immune systems naturally. And rightfully so. Your immune system is your body’s personal defense against anything harmful that’s made its way into the body.
Want more healthy days this winter? Take care of your immune system, and it’ll look after you.
That said, having a strong immune system is the foundation for good health no matter what time of year it is – and, as it turns out, healthy lifestyle habits are the foundation for a strong immune defense. According to the CDC you can strengthen your immune system by eating well, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active. In addition to not smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol use. Below are 3 natural strategies for maintaining a strong immune system.
The 3 Best Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
1. Eat a Nutrient Rich Diet
The immune system is made up of an entire army of immune cells that rely on specific macronutrients and micronutrients to perform their specialized duties in the body’s immune response.1 Eating plenty and a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds ensures you’re receiving the right vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients your immune system needs to thrive.
Research suggest that eating a “rainbow” of plant-based foods, including citrus fruits, berries, bananas, apples, carrots, yams, garlic, ginger, dark leafy greens, and an array of nuts and seed, provides essential vitamins, including phytonutrients, that help boost your immune system. They also, more often than not, contain both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, further helping your immune system.2
If you’re unable to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods, then the next best thing is a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. But don’t overdo it, says experts at Harvard Medical School; taking large quantities of a single vitamin won’t necessarily benefit your immune system.
2. Move Your Body More Often
Years of research in the field of exercise immunology indicate a direct relationship between physical activity and immune function. In fact, studies show that the immune system is very responsive to exercise, and that a single bout of physical activity can result in acute changes in immune function.
According to a 2019 review published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise lasting less than 60 minutes mobilizes key immune cells critical for a strong immune defense. However, the boost to your immune system is only transient.
In order to maintain a strong immune system, you need to exercise more regularly. While a single session of physical activity can cause acute immunological changes – regular moderate exercise has a summation effect over time, improving your immune defenses while decreasing systemic inflammation.3
Want to know the best exercise for boosting your immune system? Click here to find out!
3. Get Quality Sleep as Consistently as Possible
According to experts, prioritize consistent quality sleep is one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system.
Believe it or not, sleep is an extremely active time for your immune system. While you rest, your body is busy producing more immune cells, creating new antibodies and releasing cytokines (proteins that play a specialized role in both immune system, as well as sleep, regulation) — all of which are necessary for a strong immune defense.
When you don’t get enough quality sleep, your body’s natural defense system suffers. In fact, studies show that people who receive less than five or six hours of sleep a night are at higher risk of catching the common cold than those who receive the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night.4 Furthermore, sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase risk of inflammatory diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and autoimmune diseases. 5
Maintaining a strong immune system is crucial for staying healthy, especially during the colder months. By making conscious efforts to follow these three natural strategies — maintaining a nutrient-rich diet, regular physical activity and quality sleep — you can bolster your immune system and increase your chances of staying healthy all year round.
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1Barrea L, et. al. “Nutrition and immune system: from the Mediterranean diet to dietary supplementary through the microbiota.” Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021; 61(18): 3066-3090
2Deanna M. Minich, "A Review of the Science of Colorful, Plant-Based Food and Practical Strategies for “Eating the Rainbow”.” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2019; 2019: Article ID 2125070, 19 pages.
3Nieman, D., et. al. “The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system.” J. Sport Health Sci. 2019 May; 8(3): 201-217.
4Prather A., et. al. “Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.” Sleep. 2015 September 1; 38(9): 1353-9.
5Garbarino,S., et. al. “Role of sleep deprivation in immune-related disease risk and outcomes.” Commun Biol. 2021; 4: 1304.