The immune system plays a significant role in preventing disease-causing micro-organisms. However, sometimes a germ can get through and make you horribly sick. That is why you need to strengthen and build your immune system—the stronger the immune system, the lower the chances of getting sick. So, how can you build your immune system? Should you improve your diet, take prescribed vitamins, or make some drastic lifestyle changes? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are some things you can do to strengthen your immune system:
1. Sufficient Sleep
Sleep and immunity are interlinked. The less you sleep, the more likely you are to fall sick. According to a study that looked at 164 individuals, those who slept less than 6 hours each night had higher chances of getting a cold than those who slept more than 6 hours each night.
If you’re looking to build your immunity naturally, make sure you get enough sleep. Moreover, if you do fall sick, it is best to rest more so that your immune system has a chance to bounce back quickly.
Each adult should try to get in 7 hours of sleep per night, while teens require 8-10 hours. Children and babies should sleep for up to 14 hours per day.
If you find it difficult to fall asleep, limit screen time to an hour before bedtime. Blue light from your phone, TV, and computer is responsible for disrupting the body’s natural circadian rhythm, more commonly known as the wake-sleep cycle. Moreover, you can follow some sleep hygiene tips such as sleeping in a dark room, using a sleep mask, exercising daily, and going to sleep at the same time each night.
2. Consume More Plant Food
Consuming meat daily is not healthy. Instead, you should try to switch up your diet plan to include more plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. All these are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that will help strengthen your immune system.
Antioxidants are great for lowering inflammation in the body. These plant foods will fight unstable compounds, also known as free radicals, responsible for causing inflammation in the body. This is essential as chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and some form of cancer.
Moreover, the fiber present in these plant foods nourishes the gut microbiome- the healthy bacteria found in your gut. This helps improve immunity by keeping harmful germs and pathogens and preventing them from entering the body through the digestive tract.
Fruits also help increase vitamin C levels in the body which can reduce the amount of time a common cold would last in the body.
3. Include Probiotics in Your Diet
Fermented foods contain good bacteria, known as probiotics. These are naturally found in the digestive tract. Foods that are rich in probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto.
According to research, many healthy gut bacteria allow the immune cells to recognize normal healthy cells and harmful invader cells. This helps strengthen the immune system.
A study conducted over 3 months showed that children who consumed 2.4 ounces of fermented milk every day had 20% fewer infections and illnesses in their childhood compared to the control group.
However, if you cannot eat fermented food regularly, you can also opt for probiotic supplements.
4. Cut Down on Added Sugars
Studies show that refined carbs and added sugars are terrible for the body as they lead to obesity and weight gain. Moreover, obesity can also increase your chances of falling ill.
An observational study looked at 1,000 people and found obese people who were vaccinated for the flu were 2x more likely to get sick than people who weren’t obese.
Reducing sugar intake helps decrease inflammation levels in the body. This helps with weight loss while lowering your risk of chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Of course, these illnesses also further weaken your immune system, so it is best to stick to an immune-boosting diet.
To keep track, you should try to constrict your sugar intake to 5 percent or less of your regular calories. This amounts to 2 tablespoons of sugar for someone who is following a 2,000-calorie diet.
There is no surprise that moderate exercise is great for strengthening the immune system. However, make sure not to go overboard as this can lead to harmful effects on your body.
According to research, one session of moderate exercise can increase vaccines’ effectiveness, especially in those who have a compromised immune system. This shows that regular, moderate exercise is great for lowering inflammation in the body and increasing immune cell turnover.
To include some moderate exercise every day, you can try brisk walking, bicycling at a consistent rate, jogging, swimming, and light hiking. Try to include 150 minutes of exercise per week into your routine.
Even though hydration does not specifically protect your body from viruses, it is crucial for your body’s overall health.
Dehydration is responsible for headaches and can affect your performance, mood, digestion, and even your heart and kidney functioning. Hence, dehydration can lead to illness. To ensure that you are not dehydrated, keep a water bottle close by and have a glass after each other. This will help you curb your body’s sugar cravings. Often, we crave sugar for energy, while we really need some water.
If you have a headache above your brow, have trouble concentrating, feel dizzy, or “never feel thirsty,” your body is sending signals of dehydration.
If you have an immune disorder, compromised immune system, or any serious medical conditions, make sure to see a doctor!