Can we help our immune system?
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Is it possible to boost your immune system with healthy habits? Your immune system is your main defense in fighting off germs and viruses as well as helping manage chronic illnesses. With cold and flu season quickly approaching and Covid-19 an enduring risk, it’s more important than ever to kick your immune system into high gear. Because it’s a complex system, there are many contributing factors that help keep it strong and fine-tuned. However, there are a number of ways you can boost your immune system and maximize your overall health.
A nutritious, well-balanced diet is essential to overall health. An apple a day probably does keep the doctor away, as does reducing foods high in sugar, saturated fat, salt and cholesterol. The immune system has its own requirements for optimal operation. Clearing obstacles out of its way and keeping it humming like a well-oiled machine is critical to health and wellness. Studies have linked certain vitamins and minerals to be particularly beneficial to boosting the immune system.
Vitamin C is a key contributor to a healthy immune system. Your body doesn’t produce or store it, so it’s necessary to get Vitamin C through a healthy diet. Vitamin C is plentiful in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as citrus, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale, and broccoli.
Vitamin A keeps your respiratory and digestive systems running. Carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and leafy greens are all good sources of Vitamin A.
Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant and helps your body fight off infections. Foods rich in Vitamin E include nuts, seeds, spinach, avocado, and vegetable oils.
Zinc is required by many of your body’s enzymes. Zinc deficiency has been linked to immune weakening and dysfunction. Make sure your diet includes beans, nuts, poultry, seafood, and meat to maintain healthy levels of zinc.
Getting vitamins and minerals directly from the foods we eat is the most efficient way to give your immune system the upper hand. Supplements may not be as effective and if taken in higher doses than necessary may actually be harmful. If you have dietary restrictions or conditions which may prevent you from getting essential nutrients from foods you eat, it is always best to consult your doctor for advice on taking supplements.
Exercise is essential to your overall well-being. It contributes to cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, and helps control your weight. Exercise is also a powerful way to manage stress and mood. While strenuous and prolonged exercise (such as endurance events) can sometimes lower your immune system’s defenses as your body recovers, moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise bouts of less than 60 min duration has been shown to enhance your immune system’s responses*. You don’t need to be a star athlete to reap its rewards. There are benefits to even a daily 30-minute walk. Joining a gym may be a good one-stop-shop for some. For others, going to the gym may not be an option for any number of reasons, but activities such as dancing, skiing, kayaking, or hiking could be a better fit. If you’re homebound due to illness, disability, or pandemic quarantine, there are now more options than ever for online exercise classes for all ages and abilities. Whichever type of activity suits you best, the most important thing is to get moving. To help select the right type of fitness training for you, take a look at our tips.
In addition to a healthy diet and a commitment to exercise, there are many other lifestyle choices that contribute to a healthy immune system. Sufficient sleep, stress management, and maintaining a healthy weight are key factors for overall health. Smoking and excessive drinking should always be avoided. Minimizing the chances of infections by frequent hand washing and proper food handling will lessen the burden on your immune system. There’s ongoing research about the effects of positive thinking and mindset on health. Having strong connections to family, friends, and community has been linked to stronger overall health outcomes. It’s important to note that your immune system’s response is likely to weaken as you grow older. It is all the more essential to prioritize health and wellness at any age and incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine.
A healthy immune system is well-balanced, and there’s no magic formula to getting it to perform at maximum capacity. And while it’s not possible for your immune system to safeguard you from all diseases and infections, the better care you take of your body and your overall health, the more likely your immune system will stay strong and do its job.