Yep, ‘tis almost the season for getting sick with colds and the flu. But here’s the good news – your immune system can help combat those nasty and unwelcome viruses that leave you achy, fatigued, and hunkered down in bed. A range of cells, tissues, and organs make up the immune system that helps your body fight off disease.
So, it’s also a good time of year to learn a little about natural immune boosters that can give you a better chance to stay healthy, because if you take care of your immune system, it will have your back.
Love Your Immune System So It Can Love You Back
Currently, scientific research has yet to identify a direct and causal relationship between lifestyle choices and improved immunity to germs that make us sick. But fortunately, a nutritious diet, exercise, and self-care have general benefits to our overall health and likely enhance immune function.
So, how can you give some love to your immune system so that it can give a little back?
Lifestyle choices that serve as natural immune boosters include:
- Nutritious foods. Research suggests that micronutrient deficiencies can play a role in immunity. A healthy, whole-food diet can provide all the necessary micronutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and E. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains all help boost immunity and fight off disease.
- Exercise. You’ve heard this before because it’s just so true – exercise improves health and helps prevent the development of chronic disease. In addition, it can help build a healthy immune system.
- Plenty of fluids. Drink water and non-caffeinated teas. The standard recommendation is eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. Hydrated bodies are healthy bodies, and water helps flush your system of anything the body doesn’t want or need.
- Sleep. Your body heals and renews itself as you sleep. You build up T-cells, which play a central role in immunity. So, you need to sleep to generate the cells that fight immunity. When sleep-deprived, your immunity weakens.
- Stress management. Chronic stress lowers immunity. A body that’s too busy trying to overcome the adverse effects of stress wears down and loses its ability to fight off disease. That’s why stress management is so important. So, get a massage. Try rhythmic breathing. Different techniques work for different people. Find what’s right for you and get a handle on your stress.
Nutrients that Boost Immunity
So, you know that a healthy diet helps build immunity. But let’s talk a little more about the specific nutrients that can help fight off colds and the flu.
The best natural immune boosters that you can consume include:
- Vitamin C helps increase the production of white blood cells and supports those cells in fending off viruses and bacteria. Furthermore, vitamin C functions as an antioxidant and protects our bodies from inflammation. Citrus fruits, broccoli, and spinach are all excellent sources of Vitamin C.
- Vitamin D regulates immune response and helps the body fight off infection. Exposure to sunlight activates vitamin D production. So, it’s important to get outside and take in 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure each day. If that’s not possible, take a supplement. You can also include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet, such as salmon, eggs, cheese, and mushrooms.
- Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that works to build a healthy immune system. Almonds, avocados, dark leafy greens, and sunflower seeds are excellent sources of vitamin E.
- Garlic has sulfur containing compounds that seem to increase immunity and fight off infection. Research suggests that garlic also offers antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. In addition, garlic contains immunity-enhancing vitamin C.
- Ginger also helps increase immunity, reduce the risk of infection, and eliminate toxins from the body.
- Turmeric includes antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and support the immune systems. Additionally, turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, helps protect cells from infection.
- Green Tea also helps increase immunity. Research shows that compounds found in green tea support the T-cells that boost immune function. Green tea includes many antioxidants as well.
So yes, the end of the calendar year brings holidays, good cheer, and the start of cold and flu season. But you can take steps to boost your immunity and fight off illness and infection. The right lifestyle and diet choices can keep you healthy.