7 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
One of the most overlooked and under-discussed parts of getting back to life after quarantine is the potential for weakened immune systems. Every day we walk around, touching things, breathing things, and otherwise coming into contact with microbes that contribute to a healthy, functioning, strong immune system. Staying isolated and over sanitizing keep your exposure to natural microbes low which can cause your immune system to weaken over time.
But don’t let this scare you. There are simple, natural ways you can start boosting your immune system now to give it the boost it needs to be reintroduced to the world of germs. Here are 7 tips for boosting your immune system.
Everyone loves trendy advice, but sometimes conventional wisdom is the best answer. Eating a diet that is full of foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants is a sure-fire way to boost your immune system. But before you roll your eyes and reach for the oranges, understand that you don’t have to load up on citrus fruit to get the vitamins your immune system needs. There are plenty of foods you can incorporate into your diet that will give your immune system a boost. Consider this: one small red bell pepper contains as much as 94 mg of vitamin C (compared to 51 mg in a small orange)! That’s not to mention the other vitamins your immune system needs to function at its peak. When evaluating your diet for its ability to boost your immune system, look for leafy greens (spinach, kale), healthy fats (almonds, avocados), and antioxidants (fruits like berries or bell peppers).
Healthy sleeping habits are essential to boosting your immune system. Maybe some were able to maintain a healthy sleep schedule over the last several weeks, but it is just as likely that the disruption to every other part of life left your sleeping habits in flux. Getting back on a sleep schedule and getting enough sleep is going to be vital to boosting your immune system as you get back to normal life. When you don’t get enough sleep, you produce fewer proteins that target inflammation and infection in your body (known as Cytokines). While you sleep your body releases these proteins to assist your immune system.
Of course I could do an entire blog post on just this subject alone. Instead let's hit the highlights. When it comes to supplements sometimes I prescribe certain supplements to solve a temporary problem. So I might have the patient take a certain set of supplements for a short period of time to help solve a problem or offer up better support for an organ system. The point is it's temporary typically. However there are a few supplements that I recommend taking as part of your daily arsenal.
Since this article discusses 7 Ways To Boost Your Immune System I had to go with 7 Supplements for boosting the immune system.
On the top of the list you have to have Omega-3's. Omega-3's are great at helping the body deal with stress. In addition, they are wonderful at reducing inflammation.
When you think nutrition for immune health, your mind probably goes straight to vitamins and minerals, right? Well, not so fast—mother nature has more than a few “tricks” for optimizing immune health up her sleeve. One such trick is increasing your omega-3 intake. Indeed, research indicates that the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can promote immune health by reducing cell stress responses that lead to suboptimal health and enhancing the function of immune cells.
Omega-3's are one of my "must haves" and is part of my daily supplement routine.
This one may not come as a surprise, given that Vitamin D has received an increasing amount of attention in recent years for its role in supporting immune health. And indeed, its reputation as an immune-boosting nutrient is well-deserved. Once championed mainly for its beneficial effects on calcium absorption and bone health, an impressive amount of literature now finds that vitamin D can modulate both innate and adaptive immune responses. Caution, being out in the sun may still not ensure you are getting the right amount of vitamin-D.
Although not commonly touted for its immune-boosting properties, a growing number of studies find that curcumin can modulate the growth and cellular response of various types of immune cells. For example, studies show that supplementation with curcumin can:
enhance the responses of antibodies 45
promote the immune response of lymphocytes (white blood cells)
increase B cell proliferation in the intestines
reduce the expression of proinflammatory cytokines
Something to keep in mind when looking to increase your curcumin intake is that curcumin’s poor solubility in water means taking it in its native form results in very low levels of absorption, which can in turn limit its therapeutic benefits. For this reason, looking for an optimized curcumin supplement that circumvents low bioavailability issues is highly recommended. I recommend a product like Standard Process's Turmeric Forte.
We are learning more and more the importance of gut health and what role the gut plays on our overall immune system. It's been said that up to 85% of your immune system lives in your gut. So it goes without saying that we should give a lot of love and attention to the gut. One of the standard items that can be a good start at healing gut is taking a healthy dose of probiotics.
A growing body of research suggests that probiotics—live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host—also play an important role in immune health. Although it might be difficult to wrap your mind around how ingesting microorganisms (usually bacteria) can help the body fight off harmful invaders, research shows that these beneficial microbes promote immune health through the activation of multiple immune mechanisms.
To learn more about the benefits of probiotics, here is a blog post I wrote dedicated to just probiotics.
It should be of no shock that vitamin C is in this group of immune boosting supplements. 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. The good news is that vitamin C is in so many foods that most people don’t need to take a vitamin C supplement unless a doctor advises it.
When you think of vitamin E you might be wondering how this vitamin is in our lineup? Where vitamin E truly shines is it's ability to protect against oxidative stress. It's a major anti-oxidant. It may help protect your cells from damage. This essential nutrient occurs naturally in many foods. It’s also available as a dietary supplement. Sometimes, it’s in processed foods. Vitamin E is fat-soluble. This means your body stores and uses it as needed.
The term “vitamin E” describes eight different compounds. Alpha-tocopherol is the most active one in humans.
What is oxidative stress? You’ve probably seen rust on your bike or car. A similar process of oxidation and accelerated aging takes place in your body when cells are exposed to molecules called free radicals. Think about an apple after you cut it open and leave it on the counter for a little while. Free radicals weaken and break down healthy cells. These molecules may also contribute to heart disease and cancer.
Free radicals form as a result of normal body processes. They cause damage that shortens the life of your cells. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce free radical damage and slow the aging process of your cells, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Zinc is a mineral that’s commonly added to supplements and other healthcare products like lozenges that are meant to boost your immune system. This is because zinc is essential for immune system function.
Zinc is needed for immune cell development and communication and plays an important role in inflammatory response.
A deficiency in this nutrient significantly affects your immune system’s ability to function properly, resulting in an increased risk of infection and disease, including pneumonia. Numerous studies reveal that zinc supplements may protect against respiratory tract infections like the common cold.
What’s more, supplementing with zinc may be beneficial for those who are already sick.
In a 2019 study in 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRIs), taking 30 mg of zinc per day decreased the total duration of infection and the duration of the hospital stay by an average of 2 days, compared with a placebo group.
It is well documented that regular exercise has positive effects on your immune system. Here is why: when you exercise, your body pumps more blood to your muscles. This blood carries immune cells throughout your system that fight infections. But what you may not know is that while too little exercise is problematic, too much exercise can be worse. According to one study, going too hard for too long—I call it “redlining”—can have harmful effects. Think of it like the tachometer in your car. You don’t want to run over the red line for too long or you’ll damage the engine. It’s the same thing for your body. If you go too hard for an extended period of time, and for too many days in a row, you can damage your gut health. According to the study, when you exercise, your blood rushes to your muscles and away from your gut. A prolonged absence of blood flow to your gut can result in damage to the gut cells which would then allow intestinal bacteria to circulate in your body prompting an immune response. That’s not an excuse to sit on your couch, just be cautious that you are finding the right balance for your body.
Aromatherapy has a long history of being used to boost the immune system. Modern essential oils are made to be absorbed in a variety of ways, but the principle remains the same: plant extractions give our body a natural boost to fight disease. There are several essential oils that accomplish this purpose, but here are the three we like the most: lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils. Lavender oil has properties that help relax the body and mind. You can use Lavender oil as a sleep aid to let your body rejuvenate well (see above the importance of sleep), or as a way to improve your mental state through stress relief. Eucalyptus oil has properties that act as a natural decongestant and an energy booster. You can use Eucalyptus to rejuvenate your body as its fighting infection. Tea Tree oil has properties that allow it to effectively fight viruses and bacteria that naturally enter your body. Use Tea Tree oil to give your immune system a boost as you re-enter an un-sanitized world.
Staying hydrated is essential for your body to function properly, particularly if you are exercising or sweating throughout the day. But did you know that staying hydrated also boosts your immune system? Water acts as a natural detoxifier in your system that removes toxins and bacteria before they can settle and cause problems for your immune system. The trick is to stay hydrated with the right liquids. Sugary drinks like soda and processed juices can have a negative effect on your hydration even though you’re consuming liquid by causing inflammation which lowers your body’s ability to fight infection. Likewise, consuming too much alcohol hinders your body’s ability to respond to infections because it slows down vital organs. Skip the sugar and alcohol for water to give your immune system the boost it needs.
Stress can have a two-fold negative effect on your immune system. First, when you are stressed, your body produces hormones that limit your immune system’s ability to fight infections, leaving your natural defense systems vulnerable. Second, many people develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress like consumption of soda or alcohol, altered sleep schedule, or dietary choices that further compromise your immune system.