As cold and flu season fast approaches, you may be wondering how can to naturally boost your immune system in preparation? Here are 8 ways to boost your immune system that are powerful yet easy. They are small changes with a big impact that can benefit the whole family.
Our immune systems are incredibly complex. When functioning at their best, they can fight infection and illness with ease, but there are ways you can boost the immune system naturally in preparation for the cold and flu season.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
For a healthy immune system, maintaining a healthy diet is key as experts believe vitamins and minerals are best absorbed through the food we eat. This means enjoying a variety of fruit, vegetables, protein and healthy fats from quality food sources – like organic produce, pasture-raised poultry, grass-fed beef, etc.
Avoid seed oils (also known as vegetable oils like canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed, grapeseed, safflower seed, sunflower, and rice brand oils. These are rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that are known to cause inflammation in the body. Opt for avocado oil, coconut oil, animal fats like lard, butter and ghee instead.
There are certain nutrients and vitamins in particular that are perfect for boosting your immune system naturally. These include:
- Vitamin A: Not just important for your vision, vitamin A helps the immune system as well as growth and development. Beef liver is one of the best animal sources of vitamin A (this is a beef liver supplement you can take if consuming beef liver is not palatable) along with cod liver oil and eggs, as well with vegetable sources like carrots, leafy green vegetables, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin B6: B6 is important for brain development as well as keeping the nervous system and immune systems healthy. Food sources of vitamin B-6 include salmon, fish, potatoes (with skin), chickpeas, bananas and green vegetables.
- Vitamin C: Increasing your Vitamin C is one of the easiest ways to naturally boost your immune system. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit as well as tomatoes, broccoli and spinach. For a vitamin C boost try my pumpkin and sweet potato soup or my homemade electrolyte drink that’s bursting with citrus.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, as well as strengthen the body’s natural defense against illness and infection. It can be found in nuts so incorporating nut butter such as almond butter or peanut butter into your diet is a great way to boost vitamin E. Sunflower seeds, spinach, bell peppers, avocado and kiwi are all high in vitamin E.
- Zinc: Zinc helps to maintain your immune system as well as metabolizes nutrients and repairs body tissues. As your body doesn’t store zinc, we need to ensure that we eat enough from our daily diet. Foods high in zinc include red meat and shellfish as well as legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans. My Instant Pot three bean chili is the perfect recipe for those in need of a little boost!
- Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for a strong immune system as well as strong bones and muscles. It is particularly important in females as it helps to balance hormones with low magnesium contributing to PMS and menopausal symptoms. Leafy greens including kale, spinach, and collard greens all contain significant amounts of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds (used to make pumpkin seed oil) are also great for a magnesium boost.
2. Improve Sleep
Have you ever noticed you always catch a cold or illness when you’re not getting enough sleep? In a study of 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night.
This is because when we sleep our bodies produce a protein called cytokines. These are used to target infection and create an immune response. As we sleep our bodies also produce -cells. These are white blood cells that play a vital role in protecting us and fighting infections.
Research also suggests that sleep strengthens our immune memory. This means while we snooze away, our immune system is able to recognize and react to dangerous antigens. Experts cannot determine why this happens during sleep, but it is likely because we are resting, this frees up energy for the immune system to work overtime.
Good sleep is considered 7 to 9 hours every night, yet according to the National Institutes of Health, 50 to 70 million Americans suffer with Chronic sleep disorders. If this sounds familiar, I recommend these natural ways to get better sleep. In time, with a better sleep routine, you will notice your immune system will work more efficiently.
3. Manage Your Stress Levels
It makes sense that the time of year when cold and flu is rife also happens to be the busiest, most stressful time of year. Whether you’re inundated with visitors, frantically trying to declutter your home, shop for gifts or prepare all the festive food it can feel like your battling a never-ending to do list.
Stress has a critical impact on your immune system. It can lead to poor sleep, sugar cravings, poor exercise and burnout. How we identify and relieve stress varies from person to person. For me, I love using my Biomat to reduce stress whereas others find meditation, using a weighted blanket or a detox bath can help to calm the mind and lower stress levels.
By managing our stress levels, we can reduce the hormone cortisol which suppresses our immune system’s effectiveness. It is one of the easiest ways to boost your immune system naturally as you can start immediately with minimal effort, equipment or expense.
4. Exercise More
One of the best ways to boost your immune system naturally is to get moving! It doesn’t need to be a rigorous four hour stint in the gym. Instead, just 30 minutes of walking each day can can help your immune system fight infection. There are also many ways to burn calories without trying including mowing the lawn (350 calories an hour) and cleaning (300 calories an hour.)
Exercise is an easy way to boosts your immune system as it helps to improve sleep, lower stress levels and increase the circulation of immune cells in your body. Research also shows that physical activity may help to flush bacteria out of our lungs and airways. This may reduce your chances of catching a cold or flu.
It is also believed that as our body temperature rises during and after exercise this potentially prevents bacteria growth. The temperature rise may help the body fight infection (similar to the reaction of a fever.)
5. Use an Infrared Sauna
Just like exercise can raise body temperature to help fight cold and flu, saunas have a similar effect. Saunas have been around for thousands of years. It was made popular in Finland and used as an ancient form of a bath. Today, many traditional saunas are used at home or often at a spa, gym, or fitness facility. They operate at high temperatures – usually 160-200 degrees – with a low level of humidity. This type of sauna may not be as effective for your health as it just heats the air around you, usually via steam.
Infrared saunas use far infrared energy to heat the body. This is the same type of heat produced by the sun and our bodies, so it’s a direct source of heat rather than traditional saunas, which use indirect heat (i.e. steam) to heat the body. You get the benefits of sunlight therapy without the harmful UV rays.
In addition, infrared saunas are used between 110 to 140 degrees – which is much lower and more tolerable than traditional saunas. There’s also no pre-heating like traditional saunas, which can help to cut down on energy costs too. It’s more of a gentle heat, yet it’s still effective in helping the body’s natural ability to fight infections – like the cold and flu. Learn more about the benefits of infrared saunas.
6. Use Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation (PBM), is a non-invasive therapy that delivers beneficial low-level wavelengths of light to your cells. This light energy increases the mitochondrial function, improving the body’s ability to produce cellular energy and enhancing healthy cellular function. In a nutshell, red light therapy is like food for the skin and cells.
Red light therapy can be great for those who aren’t getting enough natural light due to staying indoors, working at a desk job, living in a climate without daily natural sun, etc. And for those who do get a healthy dose of sunlight each day, red light therapy still has a huge benefit as there are different wavelengths and colors in the light spectrum – and each has a different effect on the body. There’s been a lot of research done on light therapy, and it’s actually a narrow band of red and near infrared wavelengths that have shown to have the biggest health benefits to the body.
Red light therapy can help to improve sleep, reduce inflammation in the body, and boost the immune system. Learn more about the benefits of red light therapy.
7. Drink More Water
Another easy way to boost your immune system naturally is to drink more water. Water helps to carry oxygen to your cells which is essential for an efficient immune system. Water also helps to flush out toxins, so by upping your water intake you will prevent toxins building up which would otherwise have a negative impact on your immune system.
I recommend using a Berkey water filter system to ensure the water you drink is of the best quality. If you struggle drinking water in the colder months, I recommend adding this honey lemon elixir to warm water to boost your immune system naturally. Lemons are a great source of vitamin C which as I mentioned earlier, is great for the immune system as it protects cells and helps to fight colds. Lemon water is also believed to aid digestions and detoxification.
8. Supplement Wisely
A healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious meals from whole foods, good sleep hygiene, minimal stress and plenty exercise is the best way to boost your immune system. Supplementing these lifestyle choices with vitamins, herbs and minerals can help to support the immune system.
It is important to note however that supplements can react with any over-the-counter medication you’re currently take. They may also not be appropriate depending on your current health so always check with a healthcare professional before adding them to your diet.
- Vitamin D – A study of 11,321 people in 2019 found that supplementing with vitamin D significantly decreased the risk of respiratory infections both for those deficient in vitamin D and those with adequate levels.
- Zinc – Zinc is a mineral that you will often find added to other supplements or health products such as lozenges that are meant to boost your immune system. This is because it is essential for an efficient immune system yet Zinc deficiency affects around 2 billion people worldwide, particularly older adults. A study in 2019 found that 64 hospitalized children with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRIs) that took 30mg supplement of zinc per day, were released from hospital and over the infection by an average of 2 days quicker than those who didn’t take the supplement.
- Elderberry – although more research is needed, one small review found that elderberry could reduce the symptoms of viral respiratory infections. My elderberry gummy snacks are a great way to boost your immune system naturally, especially if you have kids that struggle with supplements.
- Garlic – Maybe a surprising addition to the list, but a reputable, 12-week study in 146 people found that by supplementing with garlic, they reduced the incidence of the common cold by about 30%.
Hopefully with these suggestions you can make positive lifestyle changes that will boost your immune system naturally. While it’s tempting to throw money at products promising a quick fix, it’s usually the simple solutions that are the most effective. These tips won’t boost your immunity overnight, but with consistency and you will notice your overall health improve dramatically. Better sleep, a healthy diet and reduced stress all go hand in hand with feeling and functioning better. If you keep these up, you’ll be more than ready for cold and flu season.
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