13 Simple Habits to Naturally Boost Your Immune System
What you eat, your attitude, and the amount of exercise you get can help play a role in strengthening your immune system and preventing illness.
Take time to find calm
“Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your immune system,” says Tania Elliott, MD, infectious disease expert and allergist at NYU Langone in New York City. To help relieve some anxiety and tension, pause for two minutes a day to just breathe and focus on the now. “Meditation can definitely help,” she says. You can also try practicing this mantra throughout the day: There is no past or future, just the now.
Sing your way healthy
A study of a German choir revealed that singing activates the spleen, helping to increase the blood concentrations of antibodies and boost the immune system. If group singing isn’t for you (but with these mental health benefits, you may want to reconsider), try belting out your favourite tunes in the shower.
Make room for mushrooms
Mushrooms have been valued in the Far East for more than 2,000 years. But experts now see more benefits of this food in all forms of medicine—particularly your immune system. One small study found that shiitake mushrooms improved T-cells and reduced inflammation, both important for keeping you healthy.
(Related: What Are the Health Benefits of Mushrooms?)
Another great way to boost your immune system? Get moving. Exercise can change your body’s antibodies and white blood cells, which help you fight off diseases and infections, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Elliott suggests incorporating more movement in your day simply by walking around during phone calls and meetings or doing squats while watching TV.
But get rest too
Moderation is key. Always include plenty of recovery days in your training schedule to preserve immune system health. Even more importantly, make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night to help your body recover from the mental and physical stress of the day, says Elliott.
Don’t let yourself freeze
Mom was right: You’re could catch an infection if you’re cold. Some research suggests that our immune cells don’t fight as strongly against viruses when we’re cold. Learn the reasons you’re always cold.
Resist infection with veggies
Garlic and onions in soup, stews, and other dishes are both strong sources of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, which help battle free radicals and viruses, says Elliott. Check out our list of immune boosting foods.
You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of turmeric, a trendy spice often found in curry dishes that you can easily sprinkle on veggies and pasta, too. The reason it’s so great for your wellness is because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, providing you with a strong system to fight of sickness, says Elliott.
Look for produce high in quercetin
In addition to anti-inflammatory foods and those packed with antioxidants, Elliott suggests trying fruits and veggies that have quercetin. This is a plant pigment or flavonoid that boosts the immune system and blocks histamine—the chemical that releases in the setting of allergies and infection, causing redness congestion, and swelling, Elliott explains. Kale, tomatoes, broccoli, raw asparagus, capers, and blueberries all contain high amounts.
Get some ginger
Ginger is another one of Elliott’s go-to inflammation-fighting foods. “This is my favourite, because not only can you ingest it, you can also create a humidified treatment with boiling water and fresh ginger for breathing in, which helps decrease inflammation in your lungs and sinuses,” she says.
Of course, there are some things out there that mess with your immune system, too, particularly alcohol. The main reason it messes with your health so much is because it often also ruins your sleep, Elliott says. Anything that interrupts your sleep also disrupts your immune system. Also, chronic drinking can suppress the production of certain blood cells, upping the risk of infection.
Keep your allergies in check
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may sniffle and sneeze. This can lead to inflammation in your sinuses, which makes it easier for a cold to take hold. To bolster your immune system and fight off sniffles, talk to your doctor on how you can get your allergies under control.
Now that you know how to boost your immune system naturally, learn about what fast food actually does to your immune system.