Supporting the immune system is not about taking one supplement or avoiding certain foods. There is no quick fix. It’s about implementing a well-rounded strategy to provide your body with what it needs to function at its best.
We know that poor diet, stress, lack of sleep and too little exercise all have an effect and can lower the body’s ability to fight infections and viruses. That said, being mindful and proactive about eating healthy, getting adequate rest and lowering stress levels can have a huge impact on the immune system and overall health and wellbeing.
Here are five key strategies to help support the immune system:
1. Eat a balanced diet to support the health of the immune system and the gut and to help lower inflammation.
2. Take supplements that help the immune system fight pathogens.
4. Implement stress management techniques.
5. Make sleep a priority.
Eating a variety of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables is key when it comes to a balanced diet, as well as healthy proteins that provide amino acids, the building blocks of the immune system. Complex carbs like grains and legumes provide substantial energy that the body needs to function properly. And of course, vitamins and minerals are essential for all body functions, especially the immune system.
Foods rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D and zinc have huge benefits when it comes to a healthy immune system. Increasing your intake of foods such as chia, flax, hemp, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, citrus fruits, kiwi, bell peppers, tomatoes, olive oil, avocados, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, lentils and legumes, cashews and yes, even chocolate and cocoa will help ensure that you’re getting the benefits of these vitamins, minerals and healthy fats in your diet.
Depending on where you reside, it may be beneficial to supplement with additional vitamin D in the winter months, as well as other immune-supporting supplements like elderberry, echinacea, astragalus, garlic and algae such as chlorella or spirulina.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle as it improves circulation and allows cells and the immune system to function better. Doing just 30 minutes of exercise per day can have a positive impact on your overall health. Go for a walk if you can, or incorporate other types of movement that you enjoy into your daily routine. Get up frequently if you are sitting a lot and just walk around your house or apartment for a few minutes.
In regards to stress, too much can use up valuable nutrients that are needed by the immune system in other areas of the body. Even if you feel really stressed for periods of time during the day, it’s important to find ways to relax and calm the body’s nervous system down, as long-term increased stress levels can lead to burn-out.
Getting adequate rest goes hand in hand with lowering stress levels and taking care of your immune system as your body needs the time you sleep to repair and regenerate itself to function properly. Aim for 7-8 hours of rest per night and try to avoid caffeine or eating a large meal close to bedtime.
These are just a few suggestions to help you improve your overall health and wellbeing and a friendly reminder that you have the ability to help yourself and your family have a healthier immune system.