The body’s system for fighting infection is amazing, but it needs help from us in order to perform at peak condition. Yes, this requires some work on your part, but the results can lead to lifelong health and happiness. The good news is that all of our recommendations for boosting your immune system are interconnected. By doing one, it becomes easier to do the rest!
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity can negatively affect your entire body, from bones to blood to brain. Excess weight puts strain on your heart and your blood vessels, which can lead to nasty complications like strokes, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It can also contribute to depression and sleep apnea. All these weaken your immune system over time. Extreme obesity might even limit your ability to exercise regularly, which is one of your key tools for boosting your immune system. If you know you’re obese and you want to make a change, start by changing your diet! For help, see some of the suggestions below in the Watch Your Diet section. You can do it! We believe in you!
Get Enough Sleep
Simply put, poor sleep habits are closely linked to a poor immune system. Think about how much more you’re able to tackle the day when you get a good night’s sleep. It’s the same for your body! When the body is rested, your immune system can fight for you more easily and help you stay healthy. Adults should get around 7 hours of sleep a night, and teens should shoot for 8 to 10.
If you’re struggling with falling asleep, do not despair! There’s plenty of things you can do. Try losing weight, curbing screen time before bed, or maybe buying some blackout curtains. You could even try reading a fiction book to wind down that monkey brain! There are even YouTube channels, like SleepTube, dedicated to playing music that’s designed specifically to help you fall asleep easier. Make sleep a priority, and your body will protect you in return.
Smoking is like giving your immune system a big ole’ kick to the groin. There’s just no way around it. If you want to stay healthy, you have to quit smoking. When you smoke, you’re consuming more than 7,000 chemical compounds. Many of these chemicals throw your immune system out of balance and weaken essential parts of your body from the inside out. Your body will especially struggle fighting off viral and bacterial infections that affect the lungs, like pneumonia and the flu, and you’ll be more likely to develop autoimmune disorders, which often cause chronic and long-lasting pain. You might think, “But I only smoke every once and a while!” The truth is that studies have shown that even light smoking can lead to a wide array of crippling problems. Here’s a short list of the reasons why smoking isn’t worth your health or your happiness:
- heart disease
- weakened aorta (which leads to aortic aneurysm)
- respiratory tract infections
- rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- bacterial meningitis
- gum disease
While there are differing theories as to exactly how exercise boosts your immune system, everyone can at least agree that it does. And that’s because of the sheer number of physical and mental benefits to regular exercise. Exercise lowers blood pressure, improves heart health, and helps increase your circulation, which allows for your germ-fighting cells and substances to move through the body with ease.
If you don’t know where to start, shoot for around 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Start with 30 minutes of brisk walking every other day, and then once you’ve established a routine, you can start trying other kinds of exercises to mix things up. Set goals and record your progress so you can see how far you’ve come in just a few weeks.
Watch Your Diet
Are you giving your immune system the fuel it needs to do its job? Try some of the following dietary suggestions, which have shown an ability to give your immune system a boost:
- Less added sugars: Added and refined sugars contribute to obesity when not eaten in moderation. Cut them out completely to lose weight, or try to limit yourself to only a few tablespoons a day.
- Whole plant foods: These are truly nature’s medicine. They include fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. They’re rich in antioxidants, and their fiber can do miracles for your gut’s microbiome. (Fun fact: your gut can actually prevent harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract.)
- Probiotic and fermented foods: These include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto. They contain beneficial bacteria that strengthen your digestive tract.
- Healthy fats: These include avocado oil, hemp seed oil, flax seed oil, etc. They decrease inflammation, which has been shown to suppress your immune system. You can learn more about how to reduce inflammation in your body here.