Every fall and winter season there is an increase in colds and flu. That combined with viruses like Covid-19 and many people are concerned about getting sick. Naturally, one of the best things you can do to ward off bacterial infections and viruses is to keep your immune system functioning at optimal levels. Luckily there are simple things you can do to boost immune system function.
9 things you can do to boost your immune system
Reduce sugar consumption
Did you know that eating large amounts of sugar can lower immune system function? And the amount of sugar you consume can add up quickly if you’re not careful. Sugar has been shown to contribute to inflammation throughout your body. And chronic levels of inflammation can wear down your immune system and leave you more susceptible to colds, flu, and other viruses.
Avoid drinking alcohol
Many people like to enjoy a cocktail, cold beer, or glass of wine at night or on the weekend to help them relax. But that beverage may be doing more harm than good when it comes to your immune system. Drinking alcohol has been shown to suppress the immune system. If you’re looking to boost immune system function, then it is best to skip any alcoholic beverages.
Get enough sleep
Increasing evidence is now showing that a lack of sleep can significantly impact the immune system. We often think that it’s normal and even okay to have an occasional night where we only get 3-4 hours of sleep. And for many people that does happen. But studies have shown that even one night of getting half the amount of required sleep can reduce the body’s natural killer cells by as much as 72%, increase inflammation, and increase the risk of infection. So while we can take sleep for granted, it plays an important part in keeping your immune system healthy. Make it a goal to regularly get 7-9 hours of sleep. And don’t skip sleep to get more done!
Get some moderate exercise
Want to keep your immune system functioning optimally? Get up off the couch and get moving! Getting regular, moderate exercise plays an important role in the health of your immune system. Doing up to 45 minutes of moderate exercise can benefit the immune system. But don’t exercise too hard! Heavy exercise has been shown to reduce immunity, increasing the risk of bacterial or viral infection.
Eat healthy foods
The standard American diet is filled with highly processed foods. Many are full of added sugar and chemicals. But these foods may be treated by your immune system as if they are a virus. A recent study in mice showed that highly processed “junk food” created an inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation is the body’s natural defense mechanism to injury and infection. Eating highly processed foods has been shown to throw the immune system into action, just as it would if you were exposed to a virus. Eating a healthy, whole food diet can prevent this reaction, reduce inflammation, and keep your immune system strong.
Do you feel stressed out regularly? It could be impacting your immune system. There is a mind-body connection to your immune function. Scientists have discovered that stress can suppress the immune system. Managing stress is important if you want to fight off colds, flu, and other viruses. This is particularly true for those facing long-term or chronic stress.
Get outside in nature
How often do you spend time in nature? Nowadays most people spend most of their time indoors and very little time outside in nature. But spending time outside can improve immune function. Studies have shown that being in nature, particularly in a wooded or forest area has a positive effect on the body’s natural killer cells. When you are in a forest you breathe in phytoncides, a chemical produced by plants. Scientists believe this is what increases natural killer cells and increases a protein that has anti-cancer properties. So, if you have a chance to spend time walking on a nature trail or in a wooded park, it can give your immune system a boost!
Drink plenty of water
Are you drinking enough water each day? The body cannot survive without water. Our bodies are primarily made up of water. And water is necessary for the function of most of our body’s systems, including our immune system. Getting enough water helps the body flush out toxins that could interfere with your immune system. Too many toxins in the body can overwhelm your immune system, preventing it from protecting you the way it was designed to. Getting plenty of water each day can help keep toxin levels from weakening your immune system.
Make self-care a priority
Are you making time to take care of your own health needs? Life is busy, however, when your plate is full it can be easy to put yourself last on your priority list. In the long run, not taking the time to get plenty of sleep, eat right, get outside, exercise, and take care of yourself will impact your health. Putting yourself last regularly tends to lead to an increase in symptoms and chronic health issues. It’s important to let go of the idea that self-care is selfish. That simply isn’t true. And to be the best you possible, you must continue to take care of your body. The good news is that by doing so, you have so much more to give. Not only to yourself but to your family, friends, your career, and to others. Putting your health needs first benefits everyone!