Want to keep yourself from getting sick? Avoiding illness can be critical if you’re struggling with a chronic disease (or if you just have a busy life you can’t afford to get behind on!). Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can support your immune system and make your body healthier as a whole. Read on for 10 tips that will help you boost your natural immunity.
1. Exercise regularly
You’ve probably already heard from your doctor how beneficial regular exercise can be. It can do everything from improving your cardiovascular health to lowering your blood pressure. And of course, it can be helpful in controlling your body weight (which can be useful in fighting off other diseases). Researchers have noted that regular exercise (even just moderate activity for 30 minutes a day) can result in better circulation. This allows the immune system to function more freely and more efficiently. One 2006 study noted that women who engaged in daily activity for a year had half the risk of colds as those participants who didn’t exercise.
2. Eat a healthy diet
You most likely know the basics of good nutrition – balanced meals, avoiding fried foods, steering clear of sugar, etc. But you might not know that eating a healthy diet can actually help prevent illness. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants (found in many fruits and vegetables) can combat free radicals, which are chemical by-products known to suppress the immune system. If you include more healthy fats in your diet (such as omega-3 fatty acids in fish or flaxseed), your body is better able to produce compounds that boost immunity. For added benefits, incorporate garlic into your meals for virus- and bacteria-fighting properties, or ginger as an anti-inflammatory.
3. Drink enough water
Drinking plenty of water keeps you hydrated, as well as helping you to fight off infection by more effectively flushing out your system. It’s recommended that men drink about three litres of fluid a day, and women around 2.2 litres. If you have difficulty drinking enough water during the day, consider adding in foods that have a high water content, like broth-based soups or oatmeal.
4. Have good sleep patterns
Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc on your body and your emotional health. To help your immune system work to the best of its ability, aim for at least eight hours of shut-eye every night.
5. Skip the cigarettes
Not only can smoking lead to a whole host of dangerous conditions (cancer, emphysema, COPD and more), but it can make your immune system weaker, which can lead to frequent respiratory infections. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘light’ smoking won’t do you major harm. Your body will still struggle to stay healthy, even with a limited number of cigarettes or vaping.
6. Only drink alcohol in moderation
Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption increases your risk of developing pneumonia and acute respiratory stress syndromes, and slows down recovery from infection (among other complications). If you still want to enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, your immune system won’t suffer, but remember to always consume alcohol in moderation.
7. Use supplements
Don’t be afraid to add in supplements to help boost your natural immunity. Consider trying probiotics, which have been shown to reduce the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. As mentioned above, garlic has also been proven to be an effective antimicrobial agent and immune-booster. If you get sick frequently, some doctors recommend trying immune-supportive herbs, such as eleuthero, astragalus or ginseng (Asian or American). Just check with your doctor before adding in any supplements so you can be sure you won’t face any interactions with medications you might be taking.
8. Try to avoid infection
To support your immune system, do everything you can to avoid getting sick. That means washing your hands thoroughly and regularly throughout the day – especially if you’re around people who are more exposed to germs. In addition, try not to share dishes, glasses or eating utensils with others, and avoid direct contact with napkins or tissues that have been used by others. Taking these steps can help you minimise your risk of getting sick.
9. Reduce stress levels
People who experience chronic stress, such as difficult family relationships or a demanding job, are at a higher risk of getting sick. Stress causes our bodies to release a hormone called cortisol; too much cortisol over time can cause an increase in inflammation. Plus, stress decreases our body’s lymphocytes – the white blood cells that fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte levels, the more at risk you are of contracting a virus. By working to eliminate the stress in your life (or at least by trying to reduce it), you’ll be giving your body the signal that it can relax and helping boost your natural immunity.
10. Practise self-care
Taking time out for yourself can help calm your body and let your immune system work to the best of its ability. Whether it’s something as simple as a short walk or a relaxing bath, or something more targeted, like seeking help from a mental health professional, it’s just as important to care for your mental health as it is for your physical health when seeking to support your immune system.
Boost your natural immunity by following these suggestions for a healthier you!