Proven and natural ways to support your body’s primary way of defending itself from bacteria and viruses.
Even if you already practice a healthy lifestyle, you may benefit from learning new ways to add a little extra support to your body’s immune system. Maintaining a good diet and lifestyle habits can go a long way toward promoting your body's optimal health.
In this article, we’re going to look at eight easy ways you can naturally and easily boost your immune system.
1. Eat More Probiotics
Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in fermented foods and supplements. Your body naturally has billions of these bacteria in your gut, but if the ratio of good to unwanted bacteria in your gut becomes unbalanced, it can impact your health.
Researchers are still understanding specifically how probiotics benefit your immune system, but there’s evidence that probiotics may support your gut barrier function and your body’s adaptive immune response. (1)
The following are some foods you can add to your diet to increase probiotics your daily intake of probiotics:
- Probiotic supplements
Adding probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kimchi, or a probiotic supplement to your diet have the potential to boost your immune system.
2. Minimize Stress in Your Life
When you feel stressed, your body undergoes a series of hormonal changes to help it cope. Everybody feels stressed occasionally, but when stress becomes persistent over weeks or months, it can impact the optimal function of your immune system.
Here are some of the ways that chronic stress may impact your immune system: (4)
- Suboptimal inflammatory response
- May suppress the optimal function of immunoprotective cells
- May suppress the optimal function of T cells and adaptive immune system.
Finding ways to manage your stress like including more relaxing activities in your day and addressing the root cause of your stress may help you stay healthy. Some people find the following helpful:
- Relaxing walks
- Enjoying some sunshine
- Listening to calming music
Chronic stress can impact the optimal function of your body's inflammatory response and immune system. Reducing stress in your life can help support your immune system.
3. Avoid Refined Sugar and High-Glycemic Carbs
A diet high in sugar and high-glycemic carbs can negatively affect a healthy inflammatory response and immune system. A high-sugar diet has been found to impact optimal metabolism, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. (5) For those with a sweet tooth, try substituting your usual sweets with fruit.
Minimizing your consumption of foods like the following can help you decrease your intake of sugar and high-glycemic carbs:
- Baked good
- Milk chocolate
- Coffee and tea with added sugar
- High-sugar cereals
- Most cereal and granola bars
- White bread
- Sugary juices
- Sugary sauces
Reducing your intake of foods with added sugar can support a healthy inflammatory response and promote optimal immune system function.
4. Add Turmeric to Your Diet
Turmeric is a root that’s been consumed in Southeast Asia for thousands of years for its health benefits. The compound in turmeric called curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that may help promote the body's immune system and support healthy circulation, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. (6)
Turmeric's antioxidant properties may support your overall health, immune system and healthy inflammatory response.
5. Consume More Citrus Fruits
Most citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in your body and supports both your adaptive and innate immune systems. (7) Vitamin C’s benefits for your immune system are well-documented and include:
- Supporting optimal skin health
- Enhancing the strength of the cells that make up your immune system
It’s worth noting that many citrus fruits are relatively high in sugar. If you’re trying to reduce your overall sugar intake, you can try adding lemon or lime juice to your diet. These juices are good sources of vitamin C with few calories.
Here’s an approximation of how much vitamin C is in some common citrus fruits:
- Guava – 126mg per fruit
- Grapefruit – 79mg per fruit
- Orange – 70mg per fruit
- Lemon – 31mg per fruit
- Lime – 20mg per fruit
- Tangerine – 17mg per fruit
Adding more citrus fruits to your diet can help you increase your intake of vitamin C. Lemons and limes are the lowest calorie citrus fruits.
6. Add Omega-3s to Your Diet
Supplements such as krill oil contain the two healthy omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. DHA may enhance the activity of your B cells. (8) B cells are one of the types of white blood cells that make up your immune system. EPA may also benefit your immune system by supporting your body's inflammatory response.
Along with taking an omega-3 supplement, you may want to add more fatty fish to your diet as well. Salmon, mackerel, and herring are all great sources of omega-3s.
Omega-3 supplements may have the potential to support the body's inflammatory response and immune system.
7. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly can have a huge impact on your immune system. (2) When you exercise, your blood vessels relax, and your heart can more easily pump blood throughout your body. This increased blood flow allows for the cells that make up your immune system to better circulate throughout your body.
According to the American Heart Association, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. (3) Moderate-intensity activity includes brisk walking, easy cycling, or easy jogging.
Keep in mind, however, that consistently exercising too much can result in overtraining, which suppresses immune function. Research has found that during intense physical exertion, the body produces certain hormones that temporarily lower immunity. (9)
Exercising regularly may help support your body's immune system. Exercise also allows the cells that protect your body to better circulate. Be sure to maintain a moderate-intensity workout to prevent overtraining.
8. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is the time where your body and brain repair itself, and the energy you've stored throughout the day is utilized by your immune system. Poor sleep will, over time, lead to a suboptimal inflammatory response in the body. (10) Most adults (ages 26-64) should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. (11)
When you are sleeping, your immune system releases important proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of cytokines, affecting the optimal function of your immune system. (12)
Poor sleep will over time may impact your body's immune system and healthy inflammatory response. Most adults (ages 26-64) should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. Readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher of this content take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All readers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
9. Nieman DC, Wentz LM. The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system. J Sport Health Sci. 2019;8(3):201-217. doi:0.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009
11. National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary Hirshkowitz, Max et al. Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, Volume 1, Issue 1, 40-43
12. Lange T, Dimitrov S, Born J. Effects of sleep and circadian rhythm on the human immune system. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Apr;1193:48-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05300.x. Review. PubMed PMID: 20398008.