The immune system defends our bodies from harmful invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens ‘round the clock. Yet, we barely notice this complex network of cells, tissues, and organs at work. If you’re wondering how we can help out and boost the immune system, the good news is that it’s not as tricky as you think.
Despite being one of the most complex biological systems we know of, following these 5 simple lifestyle principles can help you bolster your immune response, leading to healthier, more resilient lives.
- A Wholesome Diet: Fueling the Immune System
A balanced and nutrient-rich diet is fundamental to supporting a robust immune system. Here are a few recommended sources of nutrition to keep a steady intake of vital nutrients:
- Whole plant foods: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and more of the like are great sources of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Antioxidants are an important line of defense against inflammation, while fiber from fruits and vegetables help with improving your gut health and safeguard against harmful pathogens that commonly attack through the digestive tract.
- Fermented foods: It might sound counterintuitive, but you need bacteria in your gut. Don’t worry, they’re friends of your digestive and immune system. This group of beneficial bacteria is called probiotics, commonly found in foods like yogurt and kimchi. In a 3-month study observing the effect of fermented milk on children’s immune systems, the group drinking fermented milk daily exhibited 20% fewer infectious diseases.
- Healthy Fats: Fun fact, fat isn’t evil. In fact, the right types of fat can be beneficial – even vital – to your body’s functions, including the immune system. Including ingredients like olive oil and salmon can help fight inflammation, in turn decreasing risk of various chronic diseases.
- Regular Exercise: Strengthening Immune Responses
Although overdoing it will have the opposite effect, the right amount of regular physical activity has been shown to enhance a person’s immune response, improving their ability to detect and combat infections. In fact, a study has found immunocompromised individuals respond more effectively to vaccines.
Not only that, but moderate exercise has been shown to counteract and prevent inflammation, which can weaken the immune system and contribute to various health issues.
- Quality Sleep: Restoring and Revitalizing the Immune System
While you sleep, your body continues to rejuvenate and repair various functions, including your immune system. During deep sleep, the body engages in essential processes that repair and restore immune function. Sleep is crucial for the production of cytokines, proteins that regulate immune responses and help fight infections.
Different age groups have different sleep needs, although your sleep chronotype will affect your specific needs, too. If you’re an adult, 7+ hours of sleep will do. Teens are still developing and need 8-10 hours, while children and infants benefit from sleep lasting up to 14 hours.
- Stress Management: Balancing the Immune System
If it hasn’t already been established, inflammation is detrimental to your immune system. Stress and anxiety promote inflammation, on top of mental health ailments, even going so far as to negatively impact immune responses in children.
Mind-body practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help manage stress and improve immune function. These practices promote relaxation and reduce the production of stress hormones, allowing the immune system to operate more efficiently.
- Avoiding Harmful Substances: Safeguarding the Immune System
Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can impair immune function and increase vulnerability to infections. Alcohol disrupts the balance of gut bacteria and can weaken the immune response. Smoking damages the respiratory system, making it more susceptible to respiratory infections.
Additionally, minimizing exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants helps reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, supporting immune health. Choosing natural cleaning products, avoiding pesticides, and improving indoor air quality can all contribute to a healthier immune system.
The Takeaway: Your Immune System is in Your Hands
Our body’s silent defense system doesn’t ask much of us to operate at its best. Simply making small, intentional choices everyday accumulate to a lifetime of health and a sturdy immune system. Although these principles are commonly agreed upon as healthy habits, how they fit into your own routine can be entirely unique. Not every popular diet, workout, supplementation or medication is for you, but you can easily discover what does with a CircleDNA test. As a genetic manual for everything about your body, you can make empowered, informed choices that benefit you and your immunity in the long run.