5 Best Ways to Improve Your Immune System and Why They Work

Immune health is on everyone’s mind. The main question people want answers to is what they can do to prevent illness. When someone comes in contact with microorganisms, such as a virus or bacteria, a healthy immune system will attack that invader. How that fight goes determines not only whether or not the organism will make someone sick, but how severely the illness will be, and how long it will take to recover. The immune system can really be considered the main line of defense against infections like the cold or flu. For anyone looking into how to protect themselves from germs and stay healthy, what they really should be asking is what can be done to bolster those natural defenses. Some steps can be taken in everyday life that will not only provide an added boost now, they can even permanently improve the immune system.

If the immune system is your main line of defense, practicing good hygiene is the first.

Taking actions to avoid coming in contact with germs lessens the load on your immune system. Basic preventative measures can ensure the immune system is not too overloaded trying to handle multiple illnesses and will keep any germs from spreading to others. Handwashing is the most important step you can take to prevent viral and bacterial infections. Make sure to use the right kind of soap and wash for at least 30 seconds. We say the “right kind of soap” because “Anti-bacterial” soap is only proven effective against bacteria, not viruses. So while anti-bacterial soap can help avoid bacterial infections, it is not proven to protect against viral infections like the cold or flu. Regular soap is just as effective and does not harm the healthy bacteria that are part of the microbiome. The microbiome has a role in your immune system, preventing illness.

While good hygiene helps the immune system by eliminating germs before they invade, the following actions will help the body fight any that make their way into the system. The key to the next steps is having the discipline to change habits and stick to a healthy lifestyle.

Health is often associated with eating nutritional foods like fruit and vegetables.

One reason is why is that diet influences the production and activity of the immune system. Foods that are known to help your immune system include citrus, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, yogurt, almonds, sunflower seeds, turmeric, green tea, papaya, kiwi, poultry, and shellfish. These foods all have vitamins known to have a beneficial effect on immune health. While some believe taking vitamins can supplement an unhealthy diet, consuming too much of a vitamin can harm the immune system and have dangerous effects. It is always important to follow a healthcare professional’s dietary recommendations on if vitamins are necessary. Otherwise, try to incorporate more nutritional options into everyday meals.

There are many known benefits of moderate exercise for immune health and general wellbeing.

Moderate exercise refers to regular routines of exercising at an intensity that is about 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. Rather than pushing yourself to workout until exhausted, moderate exercise allows for a manageable pace that has maximum benefits when practiced at least 30 minutes daily. There is evidence that consistent exercising, specifically cardiopulmonary workouts, protects against several viral infections including influenza and rhinovirus (a cause of the common cold). This is possible because exercise increases circulation, sending the cells of the immune system throughout the body to find and eliminate foreign substances. Exercise also improves sleep and lessens stress, two other factors that impact immune health. To protect the immune system, however, it is important to take breaks and not overexert oneself by going beyond moderate intensity. Rather than decrease the risk and effects of illness, overdoing exercise instead increases the stress on your body and immune system. As with nutrition, there is a healthy balance of exercise to strive for.

Stress has a negative effect on the immune system. Whenever possible, avoid stressors.

Stress hormones interrupt communication between the body and the immune system, blocking it from producing more antibodies that fight invaders. Stress, therefore, weakens the body’s natural defenses against illness. To minimize stress, try focusing on relaxing activities and thoughts when you feel overwhelmed. Minimizing stress and taking time for oneself can improve mood, sleep patterns, and overall health. 

The three pillars of good health are proper nutrition, routine exercise, and adequate sleep.

Adequate sleep does not mean getting the kind of sleep where people are still tired all day but able to get out of bed still. Adequate sleep is sticking to a consistent sleep schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same times daily, and in between staying asleep for the recommended amount of time. It is recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day, while children and teens need 8 to 10. Sometimes children need even longer. A lack of sleep has effects on the brain’s rejuvenation and hormone production, which puts stress on the heart, immune system, and many other bodily functions. Quality sleep not only protects the body from the effects of sleep deprivation, it also boosts the production of antibody cells.

While there may be products on the market or other tips and tricks to boosting the immune system, following a healthy lifestyle and sticking with it is the best-proven way to fight short term illness and chronic disease. Handwashing and prevents the transmission of germs to protect oneself and others. Balancing the three pillars of health strengthens the production of cells and hormones that help the body attack any incoming illness. Avoiding stress keeps away one of the largest immune system obstacles to protect physical and mental health. A healthy lifestyle combining these five elements can keep away disease, fight it off when your body does get sick, reduce symptoms, and give your body the best chance at a healthy recovery from any ailment.