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9 Tips to Strengthen Your Immune System

herbs for immune system|tips to strengthen  your immune system

At certain times of year sickness is rife among the masses and the power of prevention can't be overstated! It's important to strengthen the immune system now rather than wait until you're already sick. A healthy immune system can reduce your chances of flu and viral infection.

It’s often the case for many people when they get ill to automatically resort to taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs. However, these medicines are only a momentary fix and can lead to other serious side effects in the body. The body does not recognize these medicines as food and therefore are stored in the liver, impeding it’s function. These drugs can even deplete the body of essential nutrients.

By making small lifestyle changes, you can boost your immune system naturally and protect yourself from sickness.

Here are nine ways to strengthen your immune system naturally:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Immune-boosting supplements
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Good hygiene habits
  • Ditch alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight

How the Immune System Works

The immune system is responsible for identifying foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and defective body cells in our bodies then killing and removing them from the body. There are different components to the immune system, the main three being white cells: B cells, T cells, and macrophages, which are located in the blood.

B cells are also known as B lymphocytes and are produced in the bone marrow. These lymphocytes, or white blood cells, are designed to provide immunity in the body by developing antibodies when they are exposed to antigens. A mature B cell is then capable of creating antibodies specific to that antigen. This adaptive nature of B cells makes them a critical part of the immune system's ability to fight off infection

Related: How To Improve Your White Blood Cells Naturally

T cells, or T lymphocytes, are made from the thymus gland in the chest. There are three kinds of T cells: T-helpers, T-suppressors, and natural killer cells (NK). NK cells make toxins that kill the invader, while T-helper cells help “turn on” B cells to start making their antigens, and T-suppressors help to “turn off” these reactions when the battle is over. In a healthily functioning immune system, there should be about two times as many T-helper cells as T-suppressor cells.

Macrophages then come in and finish what the other immune system cells have started by eating and digesting the invader cell in a process called phagocytosis. The cells responsible for this phagocytosis in the blood are called monocytes and in non-blood locations of the body macrophages.

Now knowing a little bit about how the immune system works, how do we help our bodies keep a strong immune system and keep it running efficiently? Exercise, diet, and your thoughts all play a big part.

How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

exercise regularly to boost your immune system naturally

1. Exercise Regularly

When it comes to exercise, the right balance is key. No exercise alone stresses the body and lowers immunity, but overtraining can result in actually suppressing the immune system. Regular exercise helps to form the foundation of healthy living. It not only helps to protect against disease but can also lower blood pressure and helps control body weight.

Physical exercise may help to flush toxins out of your airways and lungs, reducing your chances of getting sick. Exercise can also affect antibodies and white blood cells in the body. The immune system uses these white blood cells to fight off infection. Exercise can also help to slow down the release of stress hormones in the body. By lowering stress levels through exercise, you can help to protect against illness.

Research shows that acute exercise enhances the immune system and helps to improve defense activity and metabolic health. Acute exercise is considered a single bout of exercise like going for a run or working out at the gym. Exercise training has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. However, during intensified training, for example, when athletes are training for a competition, illness risk is actually increased.

Some of the best exercises for your immune system are running, biking, jumping or rebounding (such as jump rope, trampolines, etc), hiking, brisk walks, and even weight lifting. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are other great immune-boosting activities.

woman meditating reducing stress for healthy immune system

2. Reduce Stress

It probably comes as no surprise that stress is a big one when it comes to your immune system and overall health. Research shows that stress weakens the immune system. When we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, our body’s ability to fight off infection and invaders is reduced. Short-term suppression of the immune system isn’t a massive issue, however chronic suppression that comes from long-term stress can be a problem.

When it comes to your state of mind, stress-reduction plays a very important part in maintaining or achieving a strong immune system. Our thoughts have an incredible impact on what goes on inside of our bodies!

Related: How to Reduce Stress Naturally

Aside from keeping an optimistic outlook, stress-reduction methods such as yoga, sitting in the sauna, meditation, walking, massage, and other forms of stress reduction and relaxation have a significant positive effect on the immune system.

Training the immune system through meditation could be an effective way to manage stress while boosting immune power. Meditation is a practice that has the ability to shift the body and mind. Meditation can be a powerful stress management tool for the immune system, affecting natural killer cell activity and boosting function.

fruits and vegetables for a healthy immune system strengthen naturally

3. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

Diet is one of the most important ways to improve and maintain strong immunity. Feeding your body the right foods while avoiding the wrong foods can go a long way in keeping you healthy. Your immune system needs regular and proper nourishment to stay at its best.

Getting high amounts of vitamin C, antioxidants, and other nutrients are vital for a healthily functioning immune system. Most people turn to vitamin C as it’s thought to help fight off a cold. Vitamin C may be able to increase the number of white blood cells which are essential in fighting off infection.

Try to limit or if possible avoid overly processed and refined foods such as soda, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and high-sugar drinks. These kinds of foods may reduce your body’s ability to ward off infection and combat bacteria or viruses. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and highly nutritious foods can give your body the minerals and vitamins it needs to work at optimum levels.

Some particularly good foods for boosting the immune system include:

  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Watermelon
  • Raw, dark leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Turmeric
  • Berries
  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons and limes
  • Ginger
  • Herbal tea

Fresh, real, whole foods are the key to immune power. Getting enough fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and 100 percent whole grains supports good health and holds off illness! These foods are high in the nutrients that your body needs to stay strong and fight off foreign invaders that we are faced with every day.

Related: Foods that Boost the Immune System

garlic in a bowl|garlic to strengthen immune system naturally

4. Immune-Boosting Supplements

Although it’s best to obtain your minerals and vitamins from whole foods, some supplements can help give you the boost you need. There are some supplements that are helpful when you’re starting to feel like you’re getting sick. Taking a good quality vitamin/mineral complex is very beneficial, especially when in liquid form for easy digestibility and better absorption.

Related: Boost Your Immune System with Mushroom Superfoods!

When you’re sick it’s also important to increase your intake of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals from food. Enhance the immune-boosting effects with Immune Shield for extra effect. Other great supplements to boost your immune system are:

  • Echinacea
  • Garlic
  • Supergreens (such as spirulina, chlorella, alfalfa, blue-green algae, etc)
  • Vitamin C
  • Cat's claw herb
  • Grapefruit seed extract
  • Elderberry extract

Research suggests that echinacea can help to increase the number of white blood cells, helping to fight off infection. Studies have shown that it could also help you recover more quickly from illnesses. Echinacea is also a great source of antioxidants that help to defend against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to several conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

5. Don’t Smoke

Cigarettes contain over 70 known cancer-causing chemicals. Smoking not only increases your risk of cancer but it can also impact your immune system. Smoking is thought to negatively affect the immune system and increase your chances of developing harmful immune responses.

Smoking gives you greater susceptibility to things like flu and pneumonia. It can also result in longer-lasting illnesses. Smoking can cause lower levels of antioxidants in the blood too. Overall, smoking isn’t good for your health or your immune system. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve smoked for, you can benefit from quitting.

Related: How to Break-Up With Your Bad Habits

6. Get Plenty of Sleep

Like many areas of your health, sleep can have a massive impact. Getting regular high-quality sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Research shows that people who regularly don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. A lack of sleep also affects the amount of time it takes to get healthy after being ill.

Try to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Things like going to sleep and waking up at the same time, a bedtime routine, and a digital cut-off time can all help you get your needed sleep hours and feel well-rested.

Related: Sleep Like a Baby! How to Consistently Get Better Sleep

7. Good Hygiene Habits

Follow good personal hygiene habits to try and stop a virus in its path. Wash your hands regularly throughout the day especially after using public transport, before you eat food, and after you cough into your hands. Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing any food.

These measures help to avoid spreading the infection to others as well as help protect yourself. By following good hygiene habits and regularly washing your hands, you can help to stop the spread of infections.

8. Ditch Alcohol

Alcohol can damage your health in a number of different ways. It’s not just your liver that can suffer. Alcohol can also impair your immune system, increasing your risk of getting sick. Alcohol can disrupt the gut microbiome as well. When your gut microbiome is imbalanced, bad bacteria can flourish and impede the immune system.

If you drink regularly, you may notice that you experience colds and flu more frequently. Research shows that binge drinking disrupts the immune system. So, if you’re feeling sick or trying to give your immune system boost, take a break from drinking or at least significantly cut down on alcohol.

people doing sit ups at the gym maintain a healthy weight to strengthen your immune system

9. Maintain A Healthy Weight

Obesity can weaken the immune system, reducing your ability to fight off infection. Studies show that obesity can lead to impaired immune function. Diets high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods can also leave you more prone to illness. Diets high in these types of foods contribute to high levels of obesity. By following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you can help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of getting sick.

Getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly and following a healthy diet can help strengthen your immune system. Washing your hands regularly is essential for stopping the spread of infection as well as protecting yourself from harmful pathogens. To give your immune system the best chance of fighting off infections, you need to provide it with these foundations to succeed.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 9, 2014 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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