15 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Updated on December 17, 2017
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Varsha is an enthusiast writer who believes in healthy living. She loves to research on topics related to health and wellness.

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The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by germs that can make us sick. Germs are microscopic bacteria and viruses, and they reside around us every day. Not all bacteria and viruses are bad; in fact, some help out our immune system in such a way that we can’t live without them! By giving our bodies a little TLC, we can give our immune system the tools it needs to keep us healthy.

Eat Dairy Products

One of the best ways to prevent illness and ensure the health of your immune system is to get more dairy into your diet. Cheese, yoghurt, and fromage frais are fantastic sources of protein, vitamins A, B2, B12, and, of course, calcium. To reduce the amount of fat in your diet, choose semi-skimmed milk, and low-fat plain yoghurt. Interestingly, by using skim, you’ll be upping your calcium levels when compared to drinking whole milk.

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Healthy Breakfast

The combination of dairy, oats, and fruit is a recipe for immune system success, so consider tucking into comforting bowls of warm porridge topped with banana or berries for hearty breakfasts. Oats provide plenty of fibre, helping you through a snack-free morning. These are rich in beta-glucans, which are crucial for fighting disease, and top with vitamin E-rich nuts and seeds for an extra protein boost. They have also been proven to reduce levels of cholesterol, contributing to better long-term health during the winter months and beyond.

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Increase Your Garlic Intake

It’s the allicin in garlic that hails this bulb as a well-known warrior in the battle against disease, and your immune system will certainly thank you for it. Garlic supports the body’s natural defense mechanisms against foreign bodies, and therefore helps to strengthen our immune system. In the winter months, garlic can help to ward off colds and signs of flu. It supports gut health by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria. Garlic has the greatest benefits when chopped and left to stand for 10-15 minutes before being added to the pan. If garlic is cooked immediately after being cut, you won’t gain the benefits of hydrogen sulphide, an antioxidant that counters cell damage caused by free radicals in the body. If munching on garlic is a little too hardcore, you could increase your intake with a supplement.

Add Zinc to Your Diet

Zinc interferes with viruses gaining full access to our cells. It is known to increase the production of white blood cells. Both cacao powder and cashew nuts are good sources of zinc. Try to include them in your breakfast smoothie, hot chocolate, or homemade bars. Other sources of zinc include oysters, shellfish, meat, eggs, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Pumpkin seeds are an especially good source.

Turmeric
Turmeric | Source

Consume Turmeric

Turmeric is high in antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Those who consume this rhizome are less susceptible to colds, coughs, and congestion. The active ingredient found in turmeric known as curcumin, is anti-viral, antifungal, and is also known to protect from cancer. Enjoy a daily drink of turmeric milk, and add to soups and curries. Turmeric absorption is increased when mixed with black pepper.

Vitamins and Minerals

Some vitamins are especially helpful for supporting immune health. Make sure that your diet includes these important vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin C, one of the best-known immune supporting vitamins, is found in citrus fruits and juice, strawberries, bell peppers and certain fortified foods and beverages.
  • Vitamin A helps maintain vision and supports the immune system. It is found in milk, eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and certain fortified foods and beverages.
  • Vitamin E, which helps protect our hearts and immune system, is found in nuts, like sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts, and oils, including soybean, olive and canola oils.
  • Vitamins B6 and B12 also help maintain healthy immune function and can be found in meat, beans, fish and certain ready-to-eat cereals.
  • Vitamin D has also been shown to help support the immune system and can be found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and also in certain fortified foods, including yogurt, milk, certain cereals, and juices. Certain dietary supplements also provide vitamin D.
  • Selenium has been shown to support immune function. Increase intake of selenium by consuming foods rich in selenium like red meat, garlic, and eggs, or try a daily multivitamin with selenium.

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Eat Fruits and Veggies

Getting your five-a-day is vital to maintaining good health and boosts immunity. For example, the beta-carotene in carrots that provides their rich orange pigment easily transforms into vitamin A in the body, acting as an antioxidant; parsnips contain folate, which aids metabolism; and the humble potato contains plenty of fibre to aid your digestive system. Seasonal root veggies are delicious when roasted, mashed with a small amount of butter or crème fraiche. Why not try mashed parsnips, turnips, or carrot and swede? Pair this veg with roast chicken and you can enjoy a protein-packed dish full of vitamins and minerals. If you find yourself craving a sugary hit, try snacking on a clementine or satsuma, which are available all year round and contain plenty of disease-fighting vitamin C. A great way to include your five- a-day is to replace typical comfort food with healthier alternatives. Prepare homemade vegetable soup using fresh seasonal produce such as leeks and potatoes to fill a gap. If you have a sweet tooth, then create a warming bowl of stewed fruit to satisfy your cravings.

Eat Probiotics

Start from the base–your digestive system is the place where 70 percent of the immune system resides, the majority of which is in the form of good bacteria. Eat probiotics because they contain healthy bacteria necessary for our immune systems to function properly. Add fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi and plain yogurt to your diet.

Adjust Shower Temperature

A simple way to boost your immunity is to change the temperature of the water to either hot or cold every two minutes. This works by increasing two types of white blood cells called monocytes and lymphocytes. The immune system is stimulated by your body trying to warm itself up from the cold water, while switching to hot water every now and then stimulates your body’s detoxification system. The fewer toxins we have in our body, the more your immune system is better able to deal with bacteria and viruses.

Tips to Boost Immunity

Take in Less
Take in More
Sugar
Garlic
Fried and Processed Food
Mushroom
Excess Alcohol
Onion
Excess Caffeine
Sweet Potatoes
Cured Meats
Pomegranate
 
Green Vegetables
 
Omega 3
 
Water

Make Way for Mushroom

Medicinal mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides that not only support the immune system’s response to viral infection, but also inhibit the virus’ ability to replicate. Shiitake and oyster mushrooms also contain the benefits, albeit at lower levels, so throw these into your stir-fry or lightly grill and add to sourdough bread with chopped parsley for a nutritious breakfast.

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Meditation and Exercise

Meditation and exercise work to increase immunity in two ways. Firstly, they decrease the stress hormone cortisol, which has an immune-suppressing effect, and secondly, they have been shown to increase the electrical activity in the emotional part of your brain, which also commands your immune system what to do. A regular routine of moderate exercise is a great addition to your immune boosting toolbox.

Avoid Sugar and Processed Foods

Sugar is arguably the worst food for your health. Most of us know by now that too much sugar leads to weight gain and diabetes. But you may not know that sugar severely weakens the immune system. In addition to sugar, processed foods also weaken your immune system. Processed foods are foods that are not in their natural state, such as cookies, crackers, snack foods, frozen meals, packaged foods and most fast-foods. The majority of processed foods contain either trans fats or omega-6 fats, which cause unhealthy inflammation. Simply put, inflammation means your body is too busy repairing itself to properly fight against foreign invaders. Inflammation constantly occupies your immune system rendering it ineffective in battling everything that it should.

Reduce Smoking and Alcohol

Avoid smoking and being around people who smoke, as it irritates the respiratory tract and reduces defense against viruses. Smoking has been identified as an independent factor for many infectious diseases including colds, the flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, and tooth and ear infections. Also, limit your alcohol consumption as it stresses the liver and dehydrates the body. Excessive alcohol intake can harm the body's immune system.

Immunity Boosting Foods

1. Turmeric

2. Ginger

3. Garlic

4. Green Tea

5. Yogurt

6. Sweet Potato

7. Mushroom

8. Citrus Fruits

9. Spinach

10. Papaya

11. Almonds

12. Poultry

13. Shellfish

14. Oysters

15. Salmon

16. Broccoli

17. Oats

18. Berries

19. Nuts

20. Cabbage

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Adequate Sleep

The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Not getting the right amount of sleep each night can wear your body down and suppress your immune system, therefore making you more susceptible to a variety of illnesses. A stretch of 7-8 hours for your body rejuvenates its immune system, muscles, and skeleton. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night with a target of being asleep by 11:00 pm.

Immune Boosting Meals
• Chicken and vegetable stir fry with rice.
• Black bean soup or low-fat chili with salad, whole-wheat crackers and fruit.
• Fruit, yogurt and granola breakfast bowls.
• Pasta with lean ground beef and tomato sauce, and a vegetable salad.

Manage Your Stress

Both short- and long-term stress have been found to reduce immune function. During negative mental states—such as stress or depression—the nervous system acts in such a way that hormones and other compounds are released that reduce the effectiveness of the immune system in many ways. Stress can manifest itself in many ways in your body—muscle tension, high blood pressure, migraine headaches and yes, even cancer. A regular stress management routine is an essential part of staying healthy. There are many paths to stress management. Some examples are exercise, meditation, journaling, art and music. Enjoy a regular routine of activities in your week that are stress-relieving for you.

Diet Tips to Boost Immunity

One of the most effective ways to promote immune health is to eat a healthful diet. So what does that mean? Your diet should include a variety of foods and beverages and include the following tips:

  • Eat Regularly. Whether you consume three square meals or prefer six smaller meals throughout the day, make sure you maintain an eating schedule that works for you.
  • Focus on Fruits and Vegetables. Make at least one fruit or vegetable a part of each meal. Mix it up with canned soup, a frozen vegetable medley or a fresh vegetable or fruit salad.
  • Go Whole Grains and Fiber. Make sure that half of your breads, cereals, pastas and rice are whole grain products. Double check the label to make sure that you’re eating 100 percent whole grain. Fiber is also important to health. Make an effort to choose foods with more than 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Include Dairy and Protein Products. Make sure to have low-fat dairy, such as yogurt, milk and cheese, lean meat, poultry, seafood, soy, beans, nuts or eggs at most meals.
  • Make a Little Time for Treats. Enjoy higher calorie foods and beverages without feeling guilty by giving yourself a little less and/or eating them less frequently.

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    • varsha bang profile image
      Author

      Varsha 19 hours ago from India

      Thank you for the comment, Angel Guzman. Do follow these tips for a strong immunity.

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 3 days ago from Joliet, Illinois

      I just texted your article ;) Good tips!

    • varsha bang profile image
      Author

      Varsha 2 weeks ago from India

      Thanks for the comment, Liz. Garlic is great for immunity. Do take it.

    • Liztalton profile image

      Liztalton 2 weeks ago from Washington

      At the first sign of a cold i break out a zinc supplement. I've always had a weak immune system, so I'm usually looking for new ways to strengthen it. I'll have to try eating more garlic. Thanks for the great information in your hub!