If these warning signs sound all too familiar, it might be time to give your immune system some extra TLC. Unfortunately, you can’t just pop a pill every day to keep your immune system healthy. Washing your hands often, limiting alcohol, and not smoking are all key, but what else can you do?
It will take a combined effort of healthy diet and lifestyle changes if you want to make a difference. Here are the most important proactive steps you can take to make lasting changes in your immune system health.
Instead, try to be intentionally active.
We all know exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it help maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure and keep your heart and mind healthy, but it can also help to protect you from many illnesses.
According to experts at Harvard Health, exercise is every bit as essential to overall health and the immune system as eating a health diet. When you get your body moving, it promotes good blood flow and circulation, which allows your immune system to work more efficiently.
But, for many of us, heading to the gym every day really isn’t on our list of fun things to do. And that’s ok! Try taking small steps to be intentionally active throughout your day. Maybe you could take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or park at the far end of the parking lot and get in some extra steps walking to the door.
Or, if there’s an activity you genuinely enjoy, such as jogging, walking in nature, dancing, swimming, or yoga, set aside time for it on your calendar a few times a week. The point is to get your body moving in a way that works for you.
We’ve all heard that quality sleep is a key part of self-care, but why is it so important?
It turns out that the immune system releases cytokines (a type of protein), which supports a quality night’s sleep. Cytokine levels rise when you’re sick or have an infection.
But, when you’re sleep-deprived, levels of protective cytokines decrease, which leaves you more susceptible to illness and inflammation.
Read next: 21 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
The Mayo Clinic reports that infection-fighting antibodies increase when you get plenty of rest. But, science also says the body needs even more rest when you’re stressed, and who isn’t feeling the extra pressure these days?
Interestingly, leading an active lifestyle can help you sleep better at night and increase your exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights during the day.
If you’re struggling with insomnia, supplements like magnesium, B12, melatonin and tryptophan can all be helpful, as well as teas made from herbs like chamomile and valerian.
Limit your screen time before bed, since blue light can disrupt the body’s sleep-wake cycle. And, of course, cut back on your caffeine intake starting in the early afternoon so you can fall asleep easier at night.
Dr. Miriam Rahav, a nutrition expert who owns a local vitamin IV clinic in Brooklyn, NY says that “much of our health and wellness depends on our inner balance of hydration, vitamins, and nutrients.”
For example, eating more veggies, fruits, seeds, and nuts will increase your intake of antioxidants which reduce inflammation and fight harmful toxins, including bacteria and viruses.
And, eating more plant-based fiber and fermented foods (probiotics) supports a healthy microbiome. The healthier your gut is, the stronger your immune system and overall health will be.
Vitamins A and D are also crucial for fighting inflammation and preventing infection. And, zinc deficiency can cause inflammation. Prioritize these nutrients in your diet each day and include them in a daily supplement.
Healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids- such as those found in fatty fish, avocados, and olive oil- are a must for reducing inflammation and supporting a healthy immune response.
It’s also important to know that when you’re dehydrated, your digestive health, kidneys, and heart will all suffer and leave you more prone to sickness.
At the same time, avoiding sugar, empty carbs, and other processed foods is essential for reducing inflammation and supporting immune function.
Stress can be so tough on our mental health, but did you know that it affects the immune system, too? When you’re experiencing stress daily over a long time, it can suppress your immune system’s protective responses, which leaves you more prone to illness.
Of course, much of the stress in our lives is unavoidable, due to our hectic lifestyles and current events. Thankfully, there are a variety of healthy ways to manage stress, including exercise, yoga, journaling, meditation, breathwork, mindfulness and much more.
Check out How to Take Control When You are Stressed and Overwhelmed for more ideas!
There’s no magic food or supplement that instantly makes your immune system strong. The best way to boost your immune system is to lead a healthy lifestyle – stay active, eat a varied, whole-food diet, get plenty of rest, and keep your stress levels under control. The proactive steps outlined in this article will not only help to support a healthy immune system, but they’ll also improve your mental and physical health overall.
Read next: My Natural Medicine Cabinet + Hilma Review
Nicole is an experienced content writer with a passion for all aspects of wellness. She worked aside gig at a yoga studio for years before becoming a mom, and absolutely fell in love withholistic and alternative therapies during her first pregnancy.
She’s been proclaimed the “healthnut” amongst family and friends, and when she’s not writing, Nicole can be found studying tobecome a health coach and reading up on all aspects of healthy living!
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