healthy environment in order to thrive. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help strengthen this innate process and boost your immune system’s organic functioning.
5 Ways to Support Your Immune Health
Here are five key ways you can keep your immune system running in top form, especially in the colder months:
1 – Diet & Supplements
Your diet plays a large role in many aspects of your health, including the immune system. Often, people assume that simply eating an orange or taking a vitamin C tablet will prevent the onset of a cold. If only it were that easy! Truly and effectively supporting the immune system means consistently eating a healthy and balanced diet over time. This way, your body is nourished and prepared to fight against invaders when necessary. Your immune
system is generally best fed by the vitamins and minerals found in food, but high-quality supplements are often beneficial for those who need more robust support or suffer with poor nutrient absorption. Immune-supporting vitamins, minerals and nutrients to incorporate into your diet include:
- Vitamin C is critical in supporting the multiple cellular functions of the immune system. Kiwis have one of the highest vitamin C contents around, and of course citrus fruits are a great way to get Vitamin C. This vitamin/antioxidant is also found in abundance in spinach, kale, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, and papayas.
- Vitamin E supports almost 200 biochemical reactions in your body and plays a large role in immune support. Vitamin E can be found in plant foods that are high in fat, such as almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts.
- Vitamin A is an immune-supportive nutrient found in animal foods like fish, meat, and dairy, and in plant carotenoids (the orange-hued foods!) Eat foods like tuna, carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins for vitamin A.
- Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” is one of the most powerful nutrients for strong immune functioning. Although its food sources are limited, eating salmon, mackerel, tuna, and fortified milk provides vitamin D. Supplementing with vitamin D can be a good option if you struggle to get adequate sun exposure, though be sure to speak with an experienced practitioner first about which one is right for you.
- Iron plays a role in many immune system functions by carrying oxygen to blood cells. Your body absorbs heme iron found in animal products most easily; this includes red meat, chicken, turkey, and oysters. While vegetarians may need to supplement iron, non–heme iron can also be found in plant foods such as beans, broccoli, and kale.
- Functional mushrooms have been used for thousands of years due to their medicinal and immune–supportive properties. Some of the most popular are reishi mushrooms to support sleep and help manage stress, two crucial aspects of immune functioning. Cordyceps are also well known for their traditional use in Chinese medicine for enhancing energy, vitality, and supporting the immune system. A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals will help ensure your immune system works efficiently. Drinking enough water is an important aspect of this, as water carries oxygen to the cells and helps remove toxins from the body.
2 – Getting Good Sleep
Sleep is a crucial aspect of a healthy immune system. While you are sleeping, your body produces cytokines, which are necessary parts of the immune system that respond to infection, inflammation, and stress. Not getting enough shuteye means your body is less able to produce cytokines, and when a threat appears, your immune system may struggle to ward it off.
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time every night/day.
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed.
- Put away electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.
- Ensure the atmosphere in your bedroom is comfortable and temperate.
3 – Lowering Stress
When we are under stress, our stress hormones suppress the number of immune cells available to us. A stressful lifestyle can also indirectly harm the immune system if it causes you to seek out unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drinking and smoking–which can burden the body further. Luckily, there are much better, healthier ways you can manage the stress in your life and keep your immune system running in top shape:
- Make time for relationships. Having a social support system helps people cope with the stress of life and improves self–esteem.
- Replace negative self–talk with positive affirmations.
- Practice mindfulness, meditation or yoga.
- Set aside time in your day to relax and unwind.
- Make time for daily movement or exercise.
4 – Physical Activity
Daily movement is not just for strengthening your muscles; it can strengthen your immune system, too! Studies have found that people who exercise regularly may have fewer cases of infections, and if they do get sick, may experience lessened symptoms and intensity. This is because moderate exercise stimulates the circulation of immune cells in our body. When these immune cells are readily available, your body is better equipped to
defend against future infection. Exercise also has the effect of helping lower stress, which is key to a healthy immune system. And, getting a beneficial amount of activity doesn’t have to require a big commitment or a gym membership. Taking at least a 30–minute walk every day is enough to keep your immune system functioning properly. You can also try:
- Strength training
5 – Avoid Toxins
Those who smoke or drink excessively are at much greater risk of getting sick. Smoking compromises the immune system’s balance, increasing your risk of infection or autoimmune disorders. Alcohol has similar adverse effects on the immune system — it disrupts the pathways that defend against infection. Heavy drinking also contributes to organ damage and slows down the recovery process after illness or injury. We recommend quitting smoking and practicing moderation when you drink. For every alcoholic beverage you consume this holiday season, try pairing it with a glass of water!
Support Your Immune System Daily
Having a healthy lifestyle is vital to having a healthy immune system. It is always best to be proactive with your health, so try some of these tips to ensure your immune system is functioning at its best.
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