If you want to boost your immunity, you may wonder how to help your body fight off illnesses.
There are several dietary and lifestyle changes you can make that may strengthen your body's natural defenses and help you fight harmful pathogens, or disease-causing organisms.
Here are 10 tips to strengthen your immunity naturally.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely related.
In fact, inadequate or poor quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness.
In a study of 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 ward off illness.
Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours sleep each night, while teens need 8-10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.
Eat More Whole Plant Foods
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 in high levels.
Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer's, and certain cancers.
Additionally, the fibre in plant based foods feeds your gut microbiome, or community of healthy bacteria in your gut known as probiotics. A robust gut microbiome can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of the common cold.
Eat More Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and salmon, may boost your body's immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation.
Olive oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory, is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties may help your body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in salmon and chia seeds, fight inflammation as well.
Eat More Fermented Foods or Take a Probiotic Supplement
Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which populate your digestive tract.
These foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir.
Research suggests that a flourishing network of good gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms.
If you don't regularly eat fermented foods, probiotic or prebiotic supplements are another option.
Limit Added Sugars
Emerging research suggests that added sugars and refined carbs may contribute to obesity.
Obesity may increase your risk of getting sick.
According to an observational study of around 1,000 people, people with obesity who were administered the flu vaccine were twice as likely to still get the flu than individuals without obesity who received the vaccine.
Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease can all weaken your immune system, limiting added sugars is an important part of an immune-boosting diet.
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.
What's even more interesting, regular, moderate exercise may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate regularly.
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.
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.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Chronic 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, yoga, and mindfulness practices.
It's easy to turn to supplements if you hear claims about their ability to treat or prevent COVID-19.
However, these assertions are unfounded and untrue.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there's no evidence to support the use of any supplement to prevent or treat COVID-19.
However, some studies indicate that the following supplements may strengthen your body's general immune response:
- Vitamin C contributes to your immune defense system by supporting multiple cellular functions of your body's adaptive immune systems. Being an antioxidant, it can also fight free radicals in the body, thereby decreasing inflammation and boosting immunity.
- Vitamin D Vitamin D deficiency may increase your chances of getting sick, so supplementing may counteract this effect. Nonetheless, taking Vitamin D when you already have adequate levels doesn't seem to provide extra benefits.
- Zinc is needed for the immune system to work properly. Low levels of zinc can increase the risk of infections, such as pneumonia.
- Elderberry. One small review found that elderberry could reduce the symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections, but more research is needed.
- Echinacea. A study in over 700 people found that those who took echinacea recovered from colds slightly quicker than those who received a placebo or no treatment.
While these supplements demonstrated potential in the studies mentioned above, that doesn't mean they're effective against COVID-19.
The Bottom Line
You can make several lifestyle and dietary changes today to strengthen your immune system.
Although none of these suggestions can prevent COVID-19, they may reinforce your body's defenses against harmful pathogens.