We are continually exposed to germs, they are almost impossible to ignore. Some of them are good and some are bad. It’s important to maintain a healthy immune system at all times so that the bad germs don’t infect us.
Anyone who has had a bad cold knows that once you are sick it is too late, your whole body can shut down until the disease passes. It is important to have a healthy immune system at all times so you can limit the risk of infections, disease, and colds. Luckily, there are easy steps we can take to maintain a healthy immune system year-round.
What Causes a Weakened Immune System?
If you’re wondering how to boost your immune system, the first step is to learn what causes a weakened immune system in the first place. This is especially important because once you pinpoint the underlying cause, you can make the changes needed to live a healthy life and keep those pesky germs away. Here are a few things that can compromise the immune system:
1.- Lack of sleep
When you don’t receive enough sleep, your body goes into stress mode and as a result, immune function dips. Sleep is probably one of the most important factors of a healthy immune system.
2.- Not enough exercise
In addition to providing endorphins and lowering stress levels, exercise can also support immune function.
3.- Poor diet
Eating too much sugar can weaken your immune system, it can limit your body’s ability to fight off sickness. Make healthy choices like fruit, veggies, proteins, and whole grains when eating.
Drinking contaminated water can suppress your immune health. Also not drinking enough water can have negative effects on your entire body. Make sure you are drinking at least eight glasses a day.
Stress and anxiety affect your physical and mental health, too much of either can take a toll on your immune system.
Find ways to reduce stress and anxiety here.
6.- Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D are linked to so many diseases including depression. Sunshine is the most direct way to get this vitamin but if you live in a place with very little sun (or seasonal sun) make sure to take a supplement to balance your body out.
7.- Autoimmune disease
This is a less common reason for a weakened immune system and is a rare situation for most people, but can be a contributing factor. If you are constantly sick, always consult a doctor.
How to Boost it?
1. Get enough sleep and lower your stress. Sleep deprivation and stress overload increase the hormone cortisol, which over time can suppress immune function.
2. Avoid tobacco smoke. We all know smoking is horrible for the body. But, it also can cause chronic sickness and raises the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia. Not to mention the risk of several cancers that are linked to tobacco.
3. Drink less alcohol. Most people are guilty of this, but did you know that even a few drinks on the weekend can do serious damage? Drinking lowers the defense of the immune system and can increase the risk of sickness.
4. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, which will provide your body with the nutrients your immune system needs. See the best immune system-boosting foods below for the full list.
5. Consider probiotics. Studies indicate supplements and probiotic foods can help boost your immune system.
6. Catch some rays. Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D. Even 10-15 minutes of exposure can be enough. If necessary, take a vitamin D supplement.
7. Eat medicinal mushrooms, and no, we aren’t talking about the “special kind” here. Different mushrooms have different health benefits. Read more about them here.
Immune System Boosting Foods
Food can either hurt or help our bodies. It is powerful medicine when used properly. In order to avoid sickness or boost your immune system, opt for healthy foods packed with minerals and vitamins.
1.- Citrus fruits
Most people turn to vitamin C when they are sick, and for good reason too. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections. You need daily vitamin C for continued health. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, so it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal or drink. Try drinking lemon water daily to boost your immune system and metabolism.
Did you know that red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits? Many different types of peppers, from sweet to spicy can help boost your immune system. Plus they are a delicious additive to any meal.
Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. This is one of the healthiest vegetables out there. The key all that goodness contained is to cook it as little as possible, or even better, eat it raw.
Early civilizations recognized the value of garlic, it helps fight infections. This is because it is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent and immune booster. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Because heat deactivates the key active ingredient, add it to food right before serving, or if you are brave enough. Try to eat it raw. Your breath might smell, but your body will thank you.
Ginger is another wonderful superfood. It helps decrease inflammation and can help fight nausea. While it’s sometimes sweet, it also packs a spicy heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin. Add it dinners or desserts. Pro tip: keep ginger in the freezer, it will last much longer. When you want, grate it into smoothies and food for a healthy kick.
Spinach is rich in vitamin C and numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which can boost our immune systems. Light cooking enhances its vitamin A levels and allows nutrients to be released from oxalic acid. Add it to buddha bowls, dinners, or smoothies.
Look for yogurts that have “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek yogurt. Beware of the yogurts that are packed with sugar as well. Choosing a natural yogurt is your best bet, you can always sweeten it with fruits and honey. These cultures stimulate your immune system to fight diseases. Yogurt is also wonderful to cook with, it gives food a delicious creamy texture.
Vitamin E is the key to a healthy immune system. Nuts, especially almonds, are packed with vitamin E and healthy fats. A half-cup serving provides nearly 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E.
This spice has also been used by Eastern civilizations for centuries as an anti-inflammatory. It’s best known for its bright yellow color when added to curries. The high concentrations of curcumin have so many immune-boosting benefits.
10.- Green tea
Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another powerful antioxidant. EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. Plus it typically has more caffeine than coffee. So next time you need an energy boost, opt for a cup of green tea.