Ways to boost your immune system
Boosting your immune system is a way of helping your body to fight off diseases and illnesses.
While boosting the immune system is easier said than done, some lifestyle and dietary changes can up your natural defenses and help you combat pathogens.
Here are some tips to help you boost your immune system naturally.
Get adequate sleep
There is a close tie between sleep and immunity.
It is worth noting that not getting the right amount of sleep can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to sickness.
In research involving 164 adults in good health who slept for less than six hours each day, it was found out that their likelihood of catching a cold was higher compared to those who slept up to 6 hours or more every night (1).
Getting enough rest will boost your immune system. It is also important that you sleep more when you are sick. This will give your immune system a fighting chance against the illness (2).
Adults should try to get up to 7 hours of sleep per night. Teens, on the other hand, should aim for 8-10 hours nightly. Infants and younger children will do well with 14 hours of sleep daily (3).
If you find it hard to sleep, try staying away from screens for at least an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that the blue light emitted by gadgets (computer and TV) can alter your circadian rhythm, or your body’s sleep-wake cycle (4).
Other tips that can help you sleep well include sleeping in a dark room, making use of a sleep mask when going to bed, and regular exercising (3).
Fill your diet with whole plant foods
Whole plant foods contain a lot of antioxidants and nutrients. Antioxidants can give your immune system an upper hand against disease-causing pathogens.
The antioxidants present in foods fights inflammation by suppressing the activities of free radicals, which can trigger inflammation when they accumulate to high levels in your body (5).
Chronic inflammation is associated with several health conditions, such as cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.
On the other hand, the fiber that is present in plant foods nourishes your gut microbiome or the healthy bacteria that exist in your gut. The strong gut microbiome can boost your immunity and keep harmful pathogens at bay (6).
Also, vegetables and fruits are loaded with vitamin C and other nutrients, which can reduce how long the common cold lasts (7).
Eat healthy fats
Healthy fats can be found in salmon and olive oil. It boosts the response of your immune system to pathogens by fighting inflammation.
Inflammation, at a low level, is a normal response to injury or stress. But then, chronic inflammation can weaken your immune system (8).
Olive oil, which has high anti-inflammatory action, decreases the risk of chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Also, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can assist your body in fighting off viruses and bacteria (9, 10).
Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory effects (11).
Take probiotic supplements or eat fermented foods
Fermented foods contain probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are present in your gut (12).
Examples of foods that contain probiotics include natto, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
Studies have shown that a healthy population of gut bacteria can assist the cells of the immune system to distinguish between healthy and normal cells, as well as harmful pathogens (13).
In a 90-day study involving 126 children who took just 70ml of fermented milk daily, it was discovered that their immunity to childhood infectious ailments increased by 20%, compared with a control group (14).
If you don’t take fermented foods regularly, you can go with another option – and that is probiotic supplements.
In another study involving 152 people that were infected with rhinovirus, people who took Bifidobacterium animalis probiotic supplement had stronger immunity and a very low level of the virus compared with those in the control group (15).
Limit your consumption of added sugars
Obesity can increase a person’s risk of falling sick.
An observational study involving 1000 obese people showed that those who received the flu vaccine still had a higher chance of getting the flu compared to non-obese people who also received the vaccine (18).
Ensure that you reduce your sugar intake to no more than 5% of your daily calories. This is equivalent to 25g (2 tablespoons) of sugar for a person who is on a 2000-calorie diet.
Other tips include:
- Exercising moderately
- Staying hydrated
- Effectively managing your stress levels