Let’s face it; with a global pandemic, historic protests of epic proportion, and all the stress associated with living in 2020- our immune systems are on overdrive.
As a whole, our immune systems do an impressive job of defending against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes- it fails. The best way to avoid getting sick? Build up a stronger defense.
But what does that look like, exactly? Keep reading to learn about a few of the easy ways to naturally improve your immune system and stay healthy and happy.
The Immune System; Can You Boost it?
Our immune system is an amazingly complex network of cells, organs and tissues working in unison to protect our body from infections and sickness. What we know from this study is that the strength of our immune system is largely determined by non-heritable factors, meaning our immune systems are built, not born. The germs we are exposed to over the entire course of our lives, as well as other factors (like sleep, diet and exercise) can also play a role in the strength (or weakness) of our immune systems.
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or special food that’s guaranteed to boost your immune system- but there are real, natural ways that you can take care of yourself and give your immune system the best chance to do its job.
Here are just a few, easy ways to improve your immune system:
1. Decrease Stress Levels to Boost Immune System
We get it. There is a LOT going on in the world right now, so minimizing stress and reducing anxiety might seem like a thing of the past.
However, research shows that stress puts a toll on your immune system, making your body more susceptible to sickness and infections. Mitigating your levels of stress (especially chronic or long-term stress) can help boost your immune system. If you’re looking to naturally reduce stress, here are some tips:
Yoga & Meditation
Stress and anxiety can be greatly reduced by relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or guided imagery. By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, they can help promote a healthier immune system.
Evidence shows that people who believe they are doing better, actually do better than those who aren’t as positive. Research also suggests that anxiety and other negative mental states can negatively impact the immune system.
If you are having a hard time being positive, try starting a daily gratitude journal and write down three things you’re thankful each morning. You might be surprised how much you have to be grateful for!
Friendship & Support
While it might be harder to see your family and friends in person now, friendships and support systems are a crucial piece of the mental health puzzle.
According to research, people with strong support systems are more resistant to sickness. Call your friends or loved ones, schedule a Zoom call (we know, *sigh*) to catch-up with friends, or meet someone at a park if you’re able to get outside!
CBD (short for cannabidiol- the non-psychoactive compound found in the hemp and cannabis plant) has been proven to decrease stress levels and promote an overall sense of wellbeing.
Current evidence indicates that CBD has “considerable potential” as a treatment for anxiety and stress, because of the way it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Learn more about how CBD interacts with ECS here and how CBD can help relieve anxiety here and here.
2. Boost Your Immune System by Getting Enough Sleep
Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night helps support your immune system, and greatly reduces your risk of getting sick. It’s no news that there are proven benefits of a good night’s sleep. But now, researchers are also finding that getting adequate sleep improves immune cells, known as T cells.
“T cells are a type of immune cells that fight against intracellular pathogens, for example virus-infected cells such as flu, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells,” says Dr. Stoyan Dimitrov, a researcher from Germany.
Focusing on getting better sleep is a great way to naturally strengthen your immune system. If you find you’re not getting enough sleep, it might be time to consider a lifestyle change.
3. Avoid Drinking to Support Healthy Immune System
Evidence indicates that there is a correlation between alcohol consumption and immune function. Based on the research, people who drink “in excess” are far more susceptible to respiratory illness and pneumonia, and take a longer time to recover from infection and wounds. Drinking alcohol in excess can also damage your lungs, and impair the mucosal immune system– which is important in helping the body fight off infections.
So, cool it on the cocktails; the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
While a glass of wine while you are sheltering-in-place during COVID is fine, it’s important to avoid drinking in excess to keep your immune system healthy.
4. Exercise Can Promote Immune System Health
Even though it might feel impossibly hard to get off the couch after a long Netflix-binge, physical activity can give your immune system the boost it desperately needs to keep you from getting sick.
Researchers have shown that exercise improves the immune and metabolic systems. Regular exercise increases your body’s production of antibodies and T-cells, causing them to circulate more rapidly. Plus, a good workout session helps expel toxins from your body and lower your body’s stress hormones- giving your immune system an added boost.
According to a recent study, exercising every day reduced the risk of getting an upper respiratory infection by nearly 50%, as compared to being sedentary.
If you’re looking to boost your immune system naturally, make sure that you’re getting plenty of exercise. Considering the fact that COVID is spreading across the world, a gym may not be the best place to go- so consider going on a brisk walk, practicing yoga, running around the block or doing a new workout circuit from youtube!
5. Eat Healthy Foods to Naturally Improve Immune System
One of the best ways you can naturally boost your immune system is by eating “right.”
The gut and the immune system are symbiotically connected: when your gut is healthy, so is your immune system…and vice versa. Eating healthy foods leads to a healthier microbiome– boosting your immune system so it can fight off infections faster.
When you can, try to choose healthy foods that include a “rainbow” of colors. “Eating the rainbow” is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the key vitamins and nutrients your body needs to support a healthy immune system.
There’s no time like the present to start taking care of your health, especially with all the time people are spending at home and indoors! Although none of these lifestyle changes can prevent coronavirus, they may be extremely helpful in supporting your body’s defense against sickness and infection.
By getting enough sleep, focusing on a healthy diet, cutting back on alcohol, reducing stress, and cultivating a healthy lifestyle, you can naturally boost your immune system and stay healthy during this weird time.