The Top 12 Natural Immune System Boosters
“Being sick is so fun!”—said no one ever. Being sick is the pits and we can probably all agree we’d like to avoid it at all costs. But what can you do to stay healthy and ward off illness as the seasons change? It turns out, developing and maintaining healthy habits has a lot to do with not getting sick.
As Health and Life Coaches, we’re all about finding ways to boost your immune system naturally to stay healthy through every season, and make sure our clients have the best tools to stay healthy too. You shouldn’t wait until you start to feel sick to boost your immune system either. Here’s how we recommend boosting your immune system naturally right away.
Boosting Your Immune System Naturally
“How can I boost my immune system quickly?” you may be thinking. It’s time for a mindset shift because there’s really no “quick” fix for bolstering yourself against illness. Staying healthy is more about the way you live your life and the behaviors you engage in repeatedly than anything else. Read on to learn more about the top 12 natural immune system boosters you should adopt as a habit and how to help your clients improve their immune system!get started.
- Good Nutrition and Eating Right. You likely know eating right is a cornerstone of health, but you may not know that consuming a healthy diet in a range of colors is also super important for avoiding illness. Nutrition is so important in fact that learning the basics of nutrition and how to support people in planning their diet is a crucial part of the Become a Health and Life Coach training and especially a cornerstone of our Become a Nutrition Coach program.
We often tend to turn to vitamins to help in this department. Oh, I’ll just take some extra Vitamin C, we think when we feel the first signs of a cold coming on. And while it’s true that Vitamin C helps boost immunity, in truth, you should aim to get your vitamins from whole foods, not supplements. In addition to Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E help keep the body in cold-fighting condition.
If you’re wondering what to eat to not get sick, here are 22 foods that boost the immune system to include in your daily repertoire:
22 Immune-Boosting Foods
|Berries (elderberry/acai berries)||Pomegranate juice|
|Button mushrooms||Red bell peppers|
|Green tea||Sweet potato|
- Hydrate. And then hydrate some more. Proper water intake is essential to keep your body functioning its best. It also helps your body produce lymph, which contains infection-fighting white blood cells and other immune system cells. As a general rule of thumb, aim to drink half your weight in ounces each day and watch your intake of dehydrating beverages (we’re looking at you, coffee).
If you don’t love the taste of water, try infusing it with yummy ingredients like berries and other fruit, cucumber, and flavorful herbs and spices like mint or ginger. In addition, consuming hydrating foods (think watermelon, cantelope, celery, and cucumbers) can help you hit your water quota.
- Move your Body! According to WebMD, regular physical activity doesn’t just help you stay fit, feel good, and sleep better, it also helps your body fight infection. In fact, people who don’t exercise regularly are more likely to get colds than their more active counterparts. So aim to engage in 30 minutes of moderate exercise regularly to keep the sniffles at bay. (Walks count!)
- Get Enough Sleep. Researchers are now saying that we should aim to catch seven to nine hours of Zzz’s a night to support optimal health (and we are HERE FOR IT). Inadequate sleep is linked to increased stress levels and can also lead to more inflammation in the body, both of which can contribute to illness. To ensure you get the most restful night’s sleep, count backward from the time you need to wake up and schedule your bedtime within that seven to nine-hour window. Bonus points if you start your bedtime routine a half hour before your scheduled bedtime to unwind away from technology and promote relaxation.
- Minimize Stress. We hinted at this above, and now we’re going to get right to the point. Stress can suppress the immune system and is one of the biggest contributors to sickness. It lowers the number of lymphocytes in the body and is linked to headaches, infectious illnesses like the flu, asthma, gastric ulcers, and lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So in short, do whatever it takes to minimize the stress in your life in whatever ways work for you.
Blow off steam with a vigorous workout, take up meditation or other mindfulness activities, slow down, say no to doing more, attending every event, and always being busy. You should also connect with friends and family, prioritize self-care, work with (or even become) a Health Coach or Life Coach to identify and eliminate the major stressors in your life, and seek counseling if you need to.
- Stay Connected to Friends and Peers. Studies show that isolation isn’t healthy for humans and a lack of connection can hurt our immune systems. One study found that lonely freshman students who were given a flu shot showed a lower immune response than their more connected counterparts. Cultivating strong relationships, it turns out, does wonders for our mind, body, and spirit. So make a habit out of scheduling regular hangouts with your loved ones.
- Laugh Often. They say laughter is the best medicine…and whoever “they” are—they’re right. Laughter doesn’t just lighten your mood. It creates positive physical change within the body. Laughing increases oxygen intake, stimulating various organs, and increasing endorphins that are released by your brain. It lowers stress hormones and activates specialized immune cells called T-cells that help you fight illness. So strive to find the humor in the everyday. Watch, read, listen to, or otherwise consume content that makes you belly laugh. Recall funny events with loved ones. Don’t hold onto negative feelings. Let your inner child take the reins and do things that bring the giggles out often. Your health will thank you!
- Get Outside. We talk about this a lot, but that’s because it’s so important and many of us are not doing it enough. Getting small amounts of sun exposure is critical to producing enough Vitamin D in our bodies, which produces antibodies and ultimately helps the immune system function properly. Vitamin D deficiency has even been linked to respiratory illnesses. So make it a habit to spend 10-15 minutes of cloud gazing every day. As a byproduct, you may also enjoy increased energy, greater mental clarity, and elevated mood—just a few of the fun side effects of getting enough Vitamin D!
- Drink Alcohol in Moderation. Numerous studies have shown that excess alcohol consumption can have adverse effects on the immune system, including reducing the amount and proper functioning of three immune system cells (microphages, T, and C cells). In addition, excessive drinking disrupts the gut barrier, which can allow more bacteria to enter the blood, and may also impair the functioning of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, making you more vulnerable to lung infections. The bottom line: drink responsibly and moderately (according to the Mayo Clinic, that’s up to one drink a day for women and up to two a day for men).
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. According to this 2016 study, obesity can substantially impact immunity and pathogen defense, “including the disruption of lymphoid tissue integrity; alterations in leukocyte development, phenotypes, and activity; and the coordination of innate and adaptive immune responses.” Maintaining a healthy BMI can help you keep your body fit and in fighting shape. A win win!
- Avoid Tobacco Smoke. By now, we all know smoking is a very bad habit. But if you need another reason to kick those butts to the curb once and for all, here it is: smoking sabotages immune defenses, making you much more likely to contract the likes of bronchitis, pneumonia, and other upper respiratory illnesses. And for children, exposure to secondhand smoke increases their chances of middle ear infection.
- Practice Good Hygiene. This one is super obvious, but it bears repeating. If you’re practicing all of the above habits, but you’re not keeping up in the handwashing department, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of germ exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, “Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it can keep us all from getting sick.” CDC recommends following a five-step protocol: wet, lather, scrub (for at least 20 seconds—my son was taught by his preschool to sing the alphabet while scrubbing his hands), rinse, and dry.
While we can’t promise you’ll never get sick again, practicing these 12 healthy habits to boost your immune system naturally should help make those sick days a lot fewer and further between.
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