Other than your skin, which provides a physical barrier to keep pathogens out of your body, your immune system is a reactive system. It responds only after a threat has been detected. Your immune system doesn't prevent you from getting infected (that's the role of good hygiene); instead, its job is to swoop in and save the day.
Consequently, if your immune system is compromised in any way, it won't have the resources needed to protect your body. That is why it’s essential to do all that you can do to keep your immunity functioning at peak efficiency.
Luckily, bolstering your immune system is something you can easily do. And you can do it in all-natural ways that don't have negative side effects.
Be aware. Be vigilant. Be proactive. Your health is your responsibility. If you pay attention to your body and listen to what it is telling you, you will know when your immune system needs a little help. Some of the key signs that your immune system could use some TLC are constantly feeling tired, having frequent stomach issues, getting repeated colds, having colds that linger for more than 10 days, taking longer than usual for injuries to heal, and feeling stressed. If you have one or more of these symptoms, it could mean your immune system is compromised and needs a boost.
One of the best and most direct ways to ensure that you have a healthy immune system is to eat the right foods. Eating whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts provide your body with antioxidants that help decrease inflammation by eliminating damaging free radicals that can build up in your body. If you have trouble getting fruits and vegetables into your diet, turning them into a scrumptious beverage with a NutriBullet blender can be an easy way to help infuse your diet with much-needed vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc.
Another way to decrease inflammation in your body is to consume more healthy fats. To do this, add items rich in omega-3s like salmon, flax seeds, and chia seeds to your regular diet.
Probiotics such as yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut can keep your gut bacteria flourishing, which helps your immune system identify harmful pathogens so it can strike quickly and efficiently. If you find yourself tiring of the grocery store's rotating supply of just five or six flavors of yogurt, consider increasing your options by creating your own healthy recipes with a yogurt maker.
The best way to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs is through a colorful, healthy, balanced diet. However, if you've ever tried to consume enough food to meet your daily recommended nutrition requirements, you may have found it to be a nearly impossible task.
To keep from eating 5,000 calories a day, you may need to take some supplements. Vitamin C contributes to the production and protection of white blood cells, which help prevent and fight off infection. Probiotics support intestinal health, which is where most of your immune system lives. Zinc supports immune function and metabolism.
The mere thought of exercising can scare some people away from the activity. But, believe it or not, the best exercise for boosting your immune system does not involve intensity. As a matter of fact, it only involves a minimum of 20 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
The term moderate, however, is subjective — what feels easy to you could be intense for someone else. You know you've reached the proper level when your breath quickens but you can still carry on a conversation. You'll probably start to sweat after about 10 minutes as well.
Activities that deliver the right type of immunity bolstering exercise include brisk walking, light jogging, swimming, and steady bicycling. An indoor exercise bike, for instance, allows you to get in that moderate exercise every day without leaving your home.
Individuals who want to boost their immune system can do it without even getting out of bed. That's right, one of the most effective ways to have a healthier life is to simply get more sleep. Studies prove that the less you sleep, the more susceptible you are to sickness. Adults need to get a minimum of seven to eight hours of shut-eye every night while teens should strive for eight to 10 hours. Kids and infants, on the other hand, can enjoy up to 14 hours of rest each and every day.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of behavioral and environmental issues that can keep you from getting all the sleep you require. To help combat those issues, consider having a consistent wake-up time — even on weekends. Also, remember no screen time, no vigorous activities, no caffeine, and no nicotine for at least three hours before bedtime. And, if you’re still having trouble achieving a restful sleep, consider environmental aids such as a noise machine and blackout curtains or a sleep mask.
While staying hydrated doesn't necessarily boost your immune system, it does allow your body to function properly so the immune system can work at peak efficiency. Water helps to regulate your body's temperature and it delivers nutrients to your cells. You need water to keep your organs functioning. Being sufficiently hydrated helps you to sleep better, think more clearly, and it can even improve your mood.
If you become dehydrated, it can quickly lead to fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. All it takes to avoid these unfortunate situations is remembering to drink at least eight glasses of water each day (even if you don't feel thirsty). To help you accomplish this task, consider getting a water filter pitcher so you always have clean, pure water on hand. Additionally, an infusion water bottle will allow you to slip a little more fruit into your diet, as well.
The secret to raising your immune system is learning how to manage your stress. When the body enters a stressful state, it releases a hormone that prevents the immune system from activating. In a fight-or-flight situation, this is beneficial because it allows you to focus on the immediate situation. Over time, however, consistent levels of stress stop your body from fighting back when viruses and bacteria attack. This can be problematic because you may not even realize the damage being done to your body.
To help reduce stress, find a calming activity that can take your mind to a pleasant place. Grab your yoga mat and do some stretches, purchase an art set and learn to paint or draw, or just sit down and work on a puzzle. A few minutes of meditative activities each day can lower your stress levels.
When all else fails, just breathe. Deep breathing not only reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases energy, and reduces pain, but it also increases resistance to infection and promotes faster healing. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds, hold it for a little bit (not too long), then slowly release all of that air through your mouth like you are gently blowing out a candle. Do this five times in a row whenever you'd like.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
FREE summer guide
Celebrate summer with tips, recipes, and advice delivered straight to your inbox when you sign up.