6 Science-Backed Tips for Naturally Supporting Your Immune System
While there are no proven supplements, pills, or foods proven to protect against COVID-19, there are a number of great ways to help support your immune system and keep it functioning at its best.
6 Proven Ways to Help Support Your Immune System
Here are 6 ways — backed by science — to help support your immune system. Along with the following immune-supporting tips, be sure to follow social distancing guidelines and proper handwashing techniques as well.
1. Stay Active
Working out helps boost the immune system by causing the body’s white blood cells and antibodies to circulate faster, meaning they can pinpoint germs faster. Being active also reduces stress hormones, which in turn reduces your chances of getting sick.
According to a recent research individuals in a study who exercised at least five days a week had close to half the risk of getting sick with a cold compared to sedentary individuals. The exercisers who did get sick reported less severe symptoms.
Try to aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
2. Supercharge Your Diet
A large portion of our immune system is in our gut, so eating healthy is crucial to fighting off infections.
According to a 2018 study published int he journal Frontiers in Physiology, adults between 65 and 79 years old following a Mediterranean style diet and consuming 400 IU’s of Vitamin D a day showed a small increase in disease-fighting cells.
Some excellent foods to consider adding to your diet to support your immune system include:
- Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso and kefir for probiotics to support a healthy microbiome
- Carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, mangoes, broccoli, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, and kale for beta carotene (this gets converted into Vitamin A, a key nutrient for a strong immune system)
- Strawberries, grapefruit, kiwi, red and green peppers, cauliflower, cooked cabbage, broccoli, and oranges for Vitamin C (an antioxidant)
- Cheese, fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified juice, tofu, mushrooms, and eggs for Vitamin D
- Wheat germ, oysters, crab, lobster, dark meat poultry, yogurt, fortified cereals, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, beans, and beef for Zinc
- Nuts, eggs, beans, yogurt, poultry, lean meat, and milk for protein (a key building block of immune cells and antibodies)
- Beans, whole grains, garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, and bananas for prebiotics
3. Reduce Inflammatory Foods
Just as the right foods can help boost your immune system, the wrong foods can hurt it. Inflammatory foods can tax the immune system, leaving it too busy to focus on other issues.
Consider avoiding the following foods as much as possible to keep your immune system at its best:
- Processed meat
- Vegetable oils
4. Reduce Stress Levels
Stress causes our bodies to produce stress hormones that tax our immune systems, making it crucial to keep stress levels at a minimum.
In one study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 276 healthy adults were exposed to the cold virus, quarantined, and monitored for five days.
Individuals with higher stress levels were more likely to produce cytokines, molecules that promote inflammation. Additionally, individuals who are stressed are less likely to maintain other healthy habits such as getting enough sleep and eating right.
Although it is impossible to keep your stress levels at zero, there are strategies to help you manage stress. For example, try learning some breathing techniques to lower stress levels, take breaks as needed, do a workout you love, or spend some time in nature.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Adequate sleep is a key immune system booster. Similar to a computer, our immune system needs moments of rest to prevent it from becoming overtaxed. Essentially, sleep reboots the system.
Sleep deprivation causes the body to produce stress hormones such as cortisol, which can suppress the immune system. Individuals who got a full eight hours of sleep had higher levels of T cells than those who slept less, according to a recent study.
Try to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, as a 2015 study found that individuals who did so were four times less likely to get sick with a cold than individuals who slept less than six hours.
If you struggle to get a good night of sleep, try these healthy sleep habits:
- Avoid caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime
- Get regular physical activity
- Try diffusing lavender oil in your bedroom as part of your nightly routine
- Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day, is possible
6. Stay Hydrated
Even mild dehydration can place stress on the body. As a general rule, women should consume at least 91 ounces or 2.7 litres daily and men should consume 125 ounces or 3.7 litres. Water-rich fruits and vegetables and fluids such as soup count toward this daily goal.
Need More Inspiration For Eating Healthy And Staying Fit?
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