How to increase immunity: 6 simple ways to boost your immune system naturally before you get sick
If you want to boost your immune health, you may wonder how to help your body fight off illnesses. While bolstering your immunity is easier said than done, several dietary and lifestyle changes may strengthen your body’s natural defenses and help you fight harmful pathogens or disease-causing organisms.
It’s winter, and the flu and cold season are here to stay for a while. Many of us have a few tricks up our sleeves for dealing with illness when it hits. But what can we do to stay healthy in the first place?
Here are the tips to strengthen your immunity naturally.
Sleep and immunity are closely tied.
In fact, inadequate or poor quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness.
In a study in 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night.
Getting adequate rest may strengthen your natural immunity. Also, you may sleep more when sick to allow your immune system to better fight the illness.
Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, try limiting screen time for an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from your phone, TV, and computer may disrupt your circadian rhythm or your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle.
Other sleep hygiene tips include sleeping in a completely dark room or using a sleep mask, going to bed at the same time every night, and exercising regularly.
2. Drink plenty of fluids.
Water is the best. Many of us have heard that we should drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. That can be hard to do. Instead, try drinking a glass of water when you wake up to start your day off right. Your body is dehydrated from sleeping, so this is a great way to remedy that immediately. Another tip: If you like warm drinks in the winter, try non-caffeinated teas, which you can include in your daily water tally.
Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that may give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens.
The antioxidants in these foods help decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body at high levels.
Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.
Meanwhile, the fiber in plant foods feeds your gut microbiome, or the community of healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract.
Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of the common cold.
4. Engage in moderate exercise
Although prolonged intense exercise can suppress your immune system, moderate exercise can give it a boost.
Studies indicate that even a single session of moderate exercise can boost the effectiveness of vaccines in people with compromised immune systems (23Trusted Source).
What’s more, regular, moderate exercise may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate regularly (23Trusted Source).
Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, steady bicycling, jogging, swimming, and light hiking. Most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Hydration doesn’t necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, but preventing dehydration is important to your overall health.
Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These complications can increase your susceptibility to illness.
To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluid daily to make your urine pale yellow. Water is recommended because it’s free of calories, additives, and sugar.
While tea and juice are also hydrating, it’s best to limit your intake of fruit juice and sweetened tea because of their high sugar contents.
As a general guideline, you should drink when you’re thirsty and stop when you’re no longer thirsty. You may need more fluids if you exercise intensely, work outside, or live in a hot climate.
It’s important to note that older adults begin to lose the urge to drink, as their bodies do not signal thirst adequately. Older adults need to drink regularly even if they do not feel thirsty.
Relieving stress and anxiety is key to immune health.
Long-term stress promotes inflammation, as well as imbalances in immune cell function.
In particular, prolonged psychological stress can suppress the immune response in children.
Activities that may help you manage your stress include meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga, and other mindfulness practices. You may also benefit from seeing a licensed counselor or therapist, whether virtually or in person.