How Can I Easily Boost My Immune System?

Donald Bliss/National Cancer Institute

Strengthening your immune system can not only help you fight off colds and flu during fall and winter, but also help you feel better all year long. That’s in part because the steps needed to boost your immune system also benefit your overall health, which can ultimately lead to better physical, mental and emotional performance. Read on to learn how to boost your immune system, including the things that you should be cutting back on or avoiding altogether.

Immunity ‘Booster’ Myths

Generally speaking, there is no one superfood, vitamin or supplement that will boost your immune system. If a supplement or herb claims to “boost” immunity, those claims haven’t been backed by science. Incorporation vitamins and minerals into an already healthy lifestyle will contribute to your immune function, but there is no one magic cure. Healthy habits are the best thing you can do for your immune system.

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There is also a correlation between stress and immunity. You may have heard that stress can lower the immune function, and there is medical and scientific data that supports this theory. However, scientists have seen more of a relationship between long-term chronic stress and decreased immune function rather than short-term stress.

It’s a myth that exercise can lower immunity. In fact, exercise is something healthy people should engage in if they want to strengthen their immune system.

Healthy Habits

There are a few healthy habits that can be good for your immune system, and there are a few to avoid. Smoking can lower immune function considerably. Similarly, moderate-to-heavy consumption of alcohol can also decrease immune function, so if you do imbibe, drink only in moderation.

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Getting enough sleep is particularly important for having a robust immune system. Not getting enough sleep can lead to long-term chronic stress and decreased immunity, among other complications. As mentioned previously, exercise regularly — at least several times a week.

You might think that being cold lowers your immunity. However, while staying warm is obviously important for avoiding hypothermia, exposure to cold itself does not have a negative effect on your immune system.

If you do take supplements, take ones that are correlated with increased immunity like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, elderberry and garlic. Do remember that even increased immunity can’t keep you from getting sick.

Lastly, staying hydrated is extremely important. Drink your daily amount of water, and limit caffeine when you can.

Foods Connected to a Healthy Immune System

While there is no one superfood that is an absolute necessity, there are a few foods that are worth incorporating into your diet to promote overall wellness and health. Citrus fruits lead the list because of their high vitamin C content. While it’s not bad to take vitamin C in supplement form, it’s always best to get vitamins and minerals directly from the source (food) if possible. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, clementines and even red bell peppers have a high concentration of vitamin C and should be on your shopping list.

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Broccoli is another vegetable that you should eat as often as possible, as it’s loaded with vitamins A, C, and E. Other fruits and vegetables that are loaded with vitamins and minerals include garlic, ginger, spinach, papaya and kiwi.

While many food and beverages claim to be loaded with antioxidants, green tea is one of the few beverages that contains numerous antioxidants and is a terrific choice as a morning or evening beverage. It comes with epigallocatechin gallate, which may help immune function. Don’t depend solely on green tea, however.

When it comes to protein, poultry and shellfish are both good choices, as poultry is high in vitamin B6 and shellfish has more than your daily allowance of zinc. For snacks, almonds and sunflower seeds are great choices, as well as yogurt, which is a natural probiotic. Probiotics and fermented foods in general can promote the health of good gut bacteria, which in turn can improve your overall health.

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