Two years into the pandemic and one thing is clear. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to do all you can to keep your immune system strong. Maybe you are feeling symptoms of Long-Covid or just don’t want to be inconvenienced by the Omicron variant of Covid or you just don’t want to get sick period!!
Covid-19 isn’t showing signs of leaving us anytime soon, and a lot feels out of our control. However, you’re not powerless. You can prioritize simple dietary and lifestyle habits that keep your immune system in tip-top shape. That way, you’ll be less likely to pick up every bug floating around. It’s not obviously about mask wearing and staying 6’ apart as there is so much more to preventing illness. How about let’s promote healthy instead!!
Here are nine tips for how to boost your immune system naturally:
Whole plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are bursting with the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients needed for robust immunity. Plus, these foods are loaded with antioxidants, combating inflammation from harmful free radicals.
Eating plenty of colorful plant foods also turns up the volume of your vitamin C. This is crucial, as vitamin C has been shown to both reduce the severity of colds and even prevent them!
What’s more, plant foods are packed with fiber that feeds your gut microbiome. This is key, as 70% of your immune system lives in your gut! Plant fiber keeps your good guy bacteria well-fed, so they have the reserves to keep harmful pathogens in check.
Spices not only make your food tastier, but they can also give you an immune boost! Be sure to get your fill of these three powerful spices:
Garlic has been revered for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. Its sulfur-containing compounds have been shown to reduce inflammation and enhance immune function. Like vitamin C, research shows garlic can reduce the severity of cold symptoms and even prevent them!
While ginger’s claim to fame is its ability to soothe an upset stomach, it’s also a natural immunity booster. This spicy root contains gingerol, a compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers. Research shows it contains both antiviral and antibacterial properties.
This golden spice contains curcumin, a compound brimming with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These immune-boosting powers can reduce viral replication, which is pretty darn important nowadays!
Word to the wise: Always add a pinch of pepper when cooking with turmeric. Pepper contains a compound called piperine that increases curcumin’s absorption by 2,000%!
Getting plenty of shut-eye is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. While you’re snoozing, your body is hard at work producing T-cells and cytokines to fend off harmful pathogens.
Don’t get enough sleep, and your immunity will suffer. Research shows that people who get less than six hours of sleep are more likely to catch colds.
Plus, sleep deprivation raises your stress hormone cortisol. Chronic high cortisol levels cause inflammation and impair your body’s ability to fight off invaders.
The thing is, getting quality sleep can be tricky when you’re sick. When your immune system is activated, it triggers an inflammatory response that disturbs your sleep. That’s why you want to foster healthy sleep habits now before you get sick!
Here are a few sleep hygiene tips that can upgrade your sleepy time:
Wondering how much sleep is enough? The CDC recommends adults get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. However, if you can feel a bug coming on, you’ll likely need more.
While drinking water might not be sexy, it’s crucial for your immune function and overall health. Water makes up about 60% of your body and 90% of your blood. Your cells and organs need water to work properly. Unfortunately, drinking enough water is a struggle for many. In fact, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated!
This is scary news, as dehydration can cause headaches and mess with your mood, focus, physical performance, and even your heart and kidney function. None of this helps your immune system!
Plus, water is crucial for your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic fluid, aka ‘your lymph,’ carries immune cells throughout your body to fight off foreign invaders. And guess what your lymph is mostly made of? Yep, water! So, to keep your lymph moving, you need to stay well hydrated.
So how much water do you need? The jury’s still out on this one. Many experts recommend eight glasses a day, while others suggest drinking half your body weight in ounces. You’ll know you’re drinking enough when your urine is pale and almost clear. If it’s yellow, you need to drink up!
Want a natural immunity boost? Then get your body moving! Research shows regular exercise reduces your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. Suffering from any chronic illness puts you at higher risk of infections, including Covid-19.
So how does exercise help? Well, for starters, it enhances your blood and lymph flow, which helps your immune cells circulate. In fact, a recent study found that people who exercised regularly were less likely to get respiratory illnesses, like colds and flu.
Exercise also boosts your endorphins, the feel-good hormones that act as your body’s natural painkillers. Getting regular exercise serves as a natural stress-buster, helping keep your immune system strong.
While exercise has powerful immune benefits, there’s no need to go to extremes. In fact, strenuous exercise can actually impair your immunity! The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Find something you enjoy and stick with it!
Want to uplevel your workouts’ immunity powers? Take them outside! The sunshine will give you a free dose of vitamin D, an essential immune-boosting nutrient.
Stress is a monster for your immunity. Chronic stress creates a cascade of inflammation linked with illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and even cancer!
Chronic stress also raises your cortisol levels, keeping you in a state of ‘fight or flight.’ This emergency mode prevents your body from battling invaders until the stressful event is over.
The thing is, we’re now two years into an extremely stressful pandemic. At this point, many people are living in a perpetual state of fight or flight. This suppresses cytokine and T-cell production, leaving your immune system more vulnerable to infections (like the dreaded Covid-19).
So, if you want to boost your immune system, commit to regular stress relief. Anything that relaxes you and lifts your spirits is game!
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
Speaking of stress, I can think of no better stress-buster than laughter. There’s a reason for the expression, ‘laugher is powerful medicine.’ Because it’s true!
Laughter lowers levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine while enhancing feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Less stress and improved mood mean better immune function.
Laughter also boosts the immune system’s antibodies and natural killer cells that help fight off infections. It increases your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart and lungs, and relaxes your muscles. One study even found that the body’s response to repetitive laughter was similar to repetitive exercise!
However, with the state of the world lately, finding things to laugh about can be a challenge. I get it! But, just like anything, with enough practice, you can make laughter a habit. You’ll not be in better spirits, but your immune system will thank you.
Here are a few ideas to inject more laughter in your life:
Fasting’s all the rage right now for weight loss. But it doesn’t just help you drop the pounds; it strengthens your immunity too!
Fasting promotes autophagy, your body’s ‘internal housekeeping.’ It sweeps up the dead and damaged cells and recycles parts for cellular repair. Autophagy serves as an important defense against harmful pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and parasites. It also lowers inflammation, giving your immune system a boost!
Autophagy happens naturally when you sleep but fasting extends it to waking hours as well. More cell cleanup means more available energy to fight off illness. If you’re new to fasting and not sure where to start, check out this article which breaks it all down for you.
Maintaining healthy diet and lifestyle habits are the best ways to boost your immune system. However, it’s always good to have a backup plan for when things go awry.
Certain vitamins and supplements act as natural immunity boosters. Having them at the ready means you’ll be prepared if and when illness strikes.
Here are some of the best supplements for immune health:
Putting these dietary and lifestyle tips into practice will go a long way to boost your immune system and overall health. Be sure to check out this previous post, where I lay out even more immune-boosting tips!
However, sometimes we could all use a little support. If you or your family need guidance on staying healthy during these strange times, help is here! I use a functional medicine approach that gets to the root cause of imbalance. Get on the road to optimal health today and schedule your complimentary discovery consultation here!
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Coreflex Wellness is located in Basalt, CO, and serves clients throughout Aspen and Glenwood Springs. These areas include but are not limited to Snowmass, Carbondale, New Castle, Palisade, Grand Junction, Telluride, Durango, Montrose, Eagle, Edwards, Frisco, Boulder, and Denver.