Want a magic pill to boost your immune system in the long run?
We have news for you – there is no such thing as a magic pill that will fortify your immune system.
But, you can take concrete actions that have the potential to significantly strengthen your immune system for life. Not only can this better prepare your body to fight against illness, but it can make a notable improvement in your energy levels, sleep quality, and overall mood.
Sounds like a good way to live, don’t you think?
In this article, we summarize the most important principles of boosting your immune system that you have complete control over.
The Basics: What is the Immune System?
The immune system, which is made up of various organs, cells, and proteins, is how the body prevents or limits infections. A healthy immune system can tell the difference between a normal cell and unhealthy cells or invasive substances in the body. Normal cells include those that make up your tissues and organs, as well as those that are part of a normal microbiome, or system of bacteria, fungi and viruses that contribute to health.
The immune system health is affected by factors we can and cannot control.
Factors we cannot control include age, current chronic disease, and genetics. Factors we do have influence over include lifestyle factors, like diet, exercise, and rest, which, in turn can have partial influence over our risk of chronic disease and genetics. It is in those factors we do have partial control over that are key to boosting the immune system.
What Does it Mean to ‘Boost’ Your Immune System?
Many health, fitness, and wellness companies use the word to promote quick-fix solutions that supposedly make you healthier. The most recent research contradicts the effectiveness of short-term fixes for making a significant difference in your immune system’s ability to fight off sickness.
At Simply Fitness, when we use the word boost, we mean strengthen and invigorate through daily actions that turn into habits and, eventually, lifestyle choices.
Below, we’ve given you a run-down of the 5 science-backed principles of building a healthy immune system.
5 Principles of Boosting Your Immune System
Your diet is what you regularly eat. What you eat provides your body with essential nutrients it needs to keep the immune system working properly. Additionally, it can help to support a healthy gut, which is well-established to have an important role in immune health.
Some diets, however, also provide components that can aggravate the immune system, meaning it can cause it to act up and weaken.
What are the principles of a diet that supports immune system health?
Eat plenty of whole foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, Omega-3 fat, fibre, and high-quality protein. Antioxidant rich foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are also very important for supporting the immune system.
Make these foods part of your daily diet:
- Whole grains
- Seeds and nuts
- High-quality protein (plant-based, or grass-fed, organic lean meats)
- Fermented foods
Here are some of the foods you should limit in your diet to support your immune system, as they may trigger the immune system’s response or cause a disbalance in gut health:
- High sodium foods
- Foods high in saturated fat
- Foods high in trans fat
- Ultra-processed foods
- Foods made with refined grains and high in added sugar
There is a complicated relationship between exercise and the immune system.
Why? In general, exercise and physical activity is an important part of maintaining a healthy immune system, but, to achieve this, it’s important to know your limits.
How our immune system reacts to exercise depends on exercise intensity, duration, levels of exhaustion, and the types of exercise we carry out.
Some of the key principles to follow to build an exercise routine that boosts the immune system include:
- Don’t over-exert yourself
- Carry out exercise as part of your regular routine
- Know your limits
- Nourish yourself after exercising
- Increase intensity as you build up strength and endurance
Sleep and rest are important for the immune system by promoting a healthy production of immune system cells and key hormones that help to regulate immune response.
Studies show that sleep disorders are closely related to immune function. A healthy immune system helps to regulate the circadian rhythm, which helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle; this shows that sleep and immune health work together to keep you healthy and rested.
Getting uninterrupted sleep for at least seven to eight hours a night is important for helping to maintain normal immune function.
Social Life and Self-Care
Believe it or not, engaging in hobbies, spending time with friends and family, and doing things that make you feel rested are very important for your immune function.
In a society where we are pressured to feel productive all the time, we are risk of experiencing burnout, which lowers your body’s ability to respond appropriately to threats on your immune system.
By doing things you enjoy, you lower your stress levels, which have important implications for rest, productivity, regular hormone levels, and adequate immune response.
Block out time to do a hobby, spend time with family and friends, and engage in activities that make you feel good about yourself.
Together with a balanced diet, regular exercise, rest, and self-care practices, you can take supplements to help fill any potential gaps in your nutritional status, or to promote gut health.
Your body’s natural ability to stay healthy and protect its cells is determined, in part, by its immune system response. While there are some elements of the immune system that you cannot control, several environmental factors, like diet, exercise, and sleep, are the result of conscious actions over which you do have control.
What’s the secret to boosting your immune system? It’s actually no secret at all - follow a healthy diet, made moderate-intensity exercise part of your life, get enough sleep, and spend time doing what you love. Do all this and a healthy immune system will follow.