12 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
A strong immune system is essential for health. Learn how to build all-around resilience.
Nov 01, 2021
There are protective measures you can take to safeguard your body against infection from any virus, and they all involve strengthening your immune system. Check out the best 12 ways to boost your immunity, according to health organizations, and the latest research.
Aaaa-choo! That sneeze is the first cold of the season. When seasonal illnesses arrive, you want — no, you NEED — to stay healthy and functioning at a 10 out of 10. Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against illness. In the same way that a security system around your house would provide protection, your immune system uses a system of chemicals and proteins in your body to fight off viruses, harmful bacteria, infections, and parasites. It goes without saying, but a stronger immune system typically means less chance of getting sick.
But, did you know you can boost your immune system to maximize its effects? Unlike a security system, your immune system isn’t plugged in and fully charged all the time. Life happens. We can get run down. That’s why your immune system is something that should be nurtured.
Keeping your immune system functioning at peak levels involves a comprehensive approach, including lifestyle, stress management, exercise, diet, and nutritional supplementation. As sweater weather descends, NOW is the best time to get your immune system in tip-top shape!
Here are 12 tips to help build and keep your immune system strong and healthy:
1. Maintain a Nutritious, Balanced Diet
You’ve likely heard it before: Food is medicine. A healthy diet is a key to a healthy body. Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients that play a role in maintaining a strong immune system. Your immune system relies on nutrient-dense whole foods to function well.
Start by cutting back on sugars. Sugars suppress and weaken the immune system. Lowering your sugar intake may decrease inflammation and your risk of various health conditions. Remember that sugar is addictive and it may be hard at first to reduce the intake, brace yourself for withdrawal symptoms, and do not give up. The first few days will be the hardest, but you can do it!
In addition to limiting your sugars, you should also limit refined grains (like pasta and bread). ☹ Choose whole grains such as wild and brown rice, whole oats and quinoa.
When you eat an unhealthy Western diet – rich in refined grains, high calorie items, sugary beverages, fatty and processed foods – you do two things to immunity:
- You deprive it of the antioxidants and nutrients needed to help the immune system function.
- You change the gut flora (the microbiome) in the GI tract, home to a significant number of immune cells. A Western diet reduces diversity in the gut microbiome and is associated with bad health outcomes.
Health risks of a Western diet include:
- Chronic inflammation, a lingering activation of the immune system, even when there’s no threat.
- An increased risk for chronic disease due to high fat/high sugar diets, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
- An increased risk for obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or more.
Those consequences affect our ability to fend off harmful microbes. Obesity increases inflammation. Chronic inflammation and chronic disease make the immune response less effective.
You can avoid those problems by eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables and adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes lots of immune-boosting foods such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Moderate amounts of lean proteins (fish or poultry) and low-fat dairy
Eat more of these types of food will allow you to reap the immune-supporting benefits of getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients. Aim for five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits daily to get vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that may support immune health. Typically, a well-balanced diet will be enough, but supplement with a multivitamin if needed.
Also, incorporate natural superfoods into your diet. Superfoods are particularly packed with a high number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that make them great to fend off germs during cold and flu season. The following superfoods are great for boosting the immune system:
- Chia seeds
2. Stay Hydrated
Your immune system relies heavily on the nutrients in your bloodstream, which mostly consists of water. Without water, the cells and tissues of your immune system don’t receive the nutrients they need. Your immune system also relies on water to flush out germs and waste materials. The amount of water you need can vary from person to person; however, generally, you should aim to drink six to eight glasses of water over the course of the day.
3. Priortize Quality Sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely linked. Your body relies on a full night’s rest to replenish cells and proteins. According to multiple studies, sleep deprivation makes your body vulnerable to a lot of infectious agents. That’s because when we sleep, vital infection-fighting molecules are created, thereby making us less prone to getting sick after exposure to viruses, such as those that cause the common cold.
Getting enough sleep, especially at night, is one of the body’s best immune boosters. We know that the number of circulating (and patrolling) immune cells peaks at night. Circulating immune cells alert the body to damage so it can make necessary repairs.
One of the best things you can do for your immune system is to prioritize sleep, aiming for at least seven to nine hours every night. Your body resets, repairs, and restores itself when you’re snoozing. If you have trouble getting to bed, try sticking to a regular bedtime schedule, staying away from stimulants like caffeine and alcohol near bedtime, and giving yourself time to relax at the end of the day. If you need a little help falling asleep or staying asleep, try Simple Leaf’s CBD Sleep Support. It is hands down our #1 selling CBD product and every night hundreds of people are using Simple Leaf’s CBD Sleep Support to get high-quality sleep.
4. Wash Your Hands Frequently
It sounds so obvious, but it’s certainly the most important and effective way to prevent illness – wash your hands frequently and scrub for a good 20 seconds. There’s a reason why our life expectancy has improved over the centuries as we’ve learned hygiene interventions. Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Also, hand washing is more effective than using sanitizer because it removes the grime rather than sterilizing it.
5. Move Your Body / Stay Active
Get your exercise on and workout on a regular basis. Regular exercise has obvious benefits such as, cardiovascular, mood, and weight management – but moderate physical activity can also improve our antibody response to infections. According to a 2020 study, exercise stimulates your immune system and may help flush bacteria and germs out of the lungs and airways. Exercise is known to slow down the release of stress hormones. It also decreases your chance of developing some diseases, such as heart disease and fatty liver disease, and it keeps your bones strong.
You don’t need to overdo exercise either. Too many rigorous workouts can actually weaken the immune system and leave you vulnerable to flu and viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week. You can start with a 30-minute brisk walk or bike ride three times a week to begin with, and then increase your efforts to a daily activity.
6. Get Outside
Enjoy the great outdoors and soak in the fresh air and sunlight. Vitamin D is imperative for strengthening your immune system. Immune cells are favorably affected by healthy vitamin D levels, and natural sunlight is the best source of natural vitamin D. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased frequency of infection as well as autoimmune disease. If you’re unable to take in moderate exposure to sunlight a few times each week (don’t forget your daily sunscreen), consider a Vitamin D supplement.
7. Have Sex
Yes, you read that right. A good sex session helps boost the immune system according to multiple studies. Sex helps to uplift your mood since high levels of dopamine are released after things heat up in the bedroom. And we all know dopamine is called the happy hormone. Having sex 1-2 times per week improves the functioning of T-cells in your body by lowering stress levels. It also increases a natural immune system antibody, IgA (the first line of defense in the resistance against infection)
8. Stay Connected with Family/Friends
This pandemic has confined us to our homes, making us feel lonely and isolated more than ever! Staying connected with family and friends helps you release your emotions. It also helps you fill the void that this lockdown has created! If you can’t safely be together in person, reach out to them through a phone call, video chat, email, letter, text message, or other ways.
9. Minimize Stress
Reducing your stress levels is easier said than done. However, it’s important because stress affects your body’s immune response. Chronic stress actually suppresses our immune response by releasing the hormone cortisol and cytokines, which trigger inflammation. Cortisol itself interferes with the ability of specific white blood cells called T-cells to proliferate and get signals from the body. It can also decrease the number of white blood cells available to fight infection, leaving you at risk for cold sores, colds, and illness. In addition, cortisol also lowers an important antibody called secretory IgA, which lines the respiratory tract and gut and is our first line of defense against invading pathogens. Additionally, people who are stressed are usually not getting enough sleep and/or eating a proper diet… so they are neglecting other healthy habits that boost immunity.
It’s important to find healthy and appropriate ways to cope with stress, such as meditation, listening to music, writing, yoga, exercise, connecting with family & friends, and practicing good sleep hygiene -all of which can help keep your immune system functioning properly. High-quality supplements can also be helpful in the battle to minimize stress. Try adding Simple Leaf’s CBD Mood Boost to your daily routine for added help with managing everyday stress.
10. Employ positive thinking
Fake it until you believe it. Your mental state really does influence your physical health. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that positive thinkers were less likely than “negative” people to have a heart attack, although they had risk factors and a family history of artery disease. A University of Kansas study found that smiling – even if you have to fake it – reduced blood pressure in stressful situations. Negative emotions can weaken immune response so reassess your outlook. Be grateful.
11. Press Pause on Cigarettes and Alcohol
If you smoke, consider taking steps to quit or cut back. Smoking can alter the balance of your immune system. Additionally, limiting or eliminating your alcohol intake can be beneficial as alcohol compromises your immune system and makes it less effective at fighting infections. Alcohol is a toxin and alcohol consumption is associated with a range of diseases, which can make a person more vulnerable to viral infections. In particular, alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes.
12. Supplement Wisely
The above lifestyle habits should form the basis of your immune-system-boosting plan. But sometimes, we need a helping hand from high-quality supplements.
Simple Leaf’s CBD Immune Boost is unlike any other immune system supplement. Each capsule contains science-backed ingredients like zinc, vitamin D, garlic, elderberry, echinacea, beetroot, cordyceps mushrooms, acai berries, and turmeric to help strengthen your body’s natural defenses.
- You can’t boost your immune system overnight, but you can strengthen it with some simple lifestyle changes.
- Staying hydrated is key to building and keeping a strong immune system.
- When done consistently for several weeks, drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep, and taking vitamin supplements – you can help to boost your immune system.
For both men and women, it’s important to consistently ensure you’re doing all that you can do to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Remember – your immune system is not only working to keep you from getting sick, but it will help you age more gracefully, look better, and prevent the development of diseases down the line.
And sometimes, even with lots of sleep, eating the best nutrients/vitamins, and doing everything correctly – superheroes get sick. It’s OK! The key is to take time off to recharge (and avoid getting others sick). In no time, you’ll be donning your cape again. But for your health and the health of those around you, make sure you’re fully supercharged before you do.
Remember…a strong immune system is a key to a healthy life.
To your health!
This article is based on reporting that features expert sources.
The U.S. News Health team delivers accurate information about health, nutrition, and fitness, as well as in-depth medical condition guides. All of our stories rely on multiple, independent sources and experts in the field, such as medical doctors and licensed nutritionists.