Are you tired of catching a cold or flu? Catching whatever “bug” is going around can seriously derail you, whether that means slogging through your workday with a terrible sinus headache or having to miss important family gatherings because you’re stuck in bed.
Fortunately, there are many effective ways to boost your immune system naturally, which will help prevent you from catching cold and flu viruses. This is especially important during the winter months when the flu and severe colds run rampant.
Below, I have described how a strong immune system prevents cold and flu viruses. I have also compiled a detailed list of easy ways to boost your immune system on a daily basis, which will help protect you from the cold and flu viruses. When you incorporate these strategies into your routine, you’ll be taking effective measures to decrease the risk of getting sick.
How Does the Immune System Work?
Your immune system is an intricate group of organs, tissues, and cells that help your body fight germs. Its job is twofold: the first is to recognize germs that may cause harm to the body. The second part is to prevent these pathogens from entering the body. If the germs do successfully enter the body, your immune system’s job is to destroy them.
A healthy immune system defends you from unhealthy bacteria, parasites, and viruses. This protects you from a whole slew of ailments, including the flu, colds, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and more.
Daily Habits That Promote a Healthier Immune System
The following list includes easy ways to strengthen your immune system that you can incorporate into your daily lifestyle. They are simple and don’t take much time to implement, but by implementing them, you may greatly improve your overall health and help reduce your number of sick days.
1. Get Enough Sleep:
Sleep has a huge impact on your overall health and wellness. It reduces stress levels, curbs chronic inflammation, and – you guessed it – supports a healthy immune system!
The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night, so make this a priority.
If insomnia is something you struggle with, check out How to Overcome Insomnia and Get Better Quality Sleep for helpful strategies. Your well-rested body will thank you!
2. Consume Plenty of Vitamins and Minerals:
According to Harvard Medical School, micronutrient deficiencies compromise the body’s immune system. Some of the most important nutrients include copper, iron, zinc, folic acid, selenium, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E.
To ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need, make sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can supplement this by taking daily multivitamins.
3. Reduce Sugar Intake:
While it’s fine to consume sugar in moderation, it’s definitely something you should limit – especially refined sugar. Consuming large quantities of refined sugar weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to illness and less prepared to recover quickly. Given that the holidays are upon us, this is often challenging this time of year. Consider opting for natural sweeteners, such as raw honey or real maple syrup.
4. Be Wary of Antibiotics:
Overuse of antibiotics weakens your immune system’s response to disease. This is because antibiotics can disrupt your gut health.
In fact, according to a study conducted by the University of Virginia, antibiotics impair white blood cells’ ability to attack germs.
If you have a severe sickness that persists for at least a couple of weeks, it may be appropriate to take antibiotics. But most of the time, rest and plenty of fluids will allow your body’s natural defenses to restore you to health.
5. Ingest Garlic:
Another proven way to boost your immune system is to consume garlic. Not only does garlic improve immune functions, but it also possesses antibacterial, antifungal and anti virus benefits. You can add it to the foods you eat, or you can even eat one peeled garlic clove a day.
6. Drink Lemon Water:
Start each day with a large glass of lemon water. The amount of unhealthy, man-made toxins in our environment is high, and drinking lemon water will help detox your system and get rid of potential disease-causing agents.
7. Keep Your Stress Under Control:
It is normal to feel worried or anxious from time to time, but chronic stress can seriously weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to disease and infection.
According to NIH, Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, an expert stress researcher at Ohio State University, has found that chronic stress diminishes your body’s response to vaccines and makes it more difficult for your body to recover from wounds and illnesses.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to reduce stress, such as:
- Reducing your caffeine consumption
- Staying connected to nurturing relationships with friends and family
- Avoiding unnecessary situations that trigger anxiety
- Journaling your thoughts and feelings
- Practicing yoga and stretching
Even just five to ten minutes a day of mindful meditation will have a powerful impact on your health and wellness. Since meditation reduces stress, it helps strengthen your immune system.
To illustrate, an encouraging study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that employees who practiced mindful meditation for an eight week period showed an improvement in the left-sided anterior region of the brain, which plays a role in the body’s immune system.
An added bonus is that meditation forces you to calm down, be quiet, and intentionally notice your mind and body sensations. This can help you notice if you are just starting to feel sick, so you can give yourself the extra self-care you need before it turns into a full-blown cold that really puts you out of commission.
9. Take Care of Your Gut Health:
As the great Hippocrates once said, “All diseases begin in the gut.” In fact, 75-80% of our immune system is located in our gut! There are numerous foods and pathogens that can irritate the gut. One way to take care of your gut health is to consume probiotics, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
However, gut health is a complex issue, and there is no single solution that works for everyone. If you suspect that your gut health is subpar, I recommend functional medicine diagnostics to get to the root cause and find effective solutions.
10. Take Advantage of Fermented Foods & Probiotics:
Probiotics are a healthy type of bacteria that prevent the risk of infection. They also reduce inflammation, help your body absorb healthy nutrients from the foods you eat, and promote good gut health.
You can take probiotic supplements or eat fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics. Some examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi.
11. Exercise Regularly:
Make exercise a part of your daily routine. Aim for 20 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise. You can do this by taking a walk or, better yet, engaging in a more vigorous aerobic workout, like jogging or following along with an exercise video. Since exercise helps with blood circulation, it enables the cells of your immune system to move throughout your body and do their job more effectively.
If you have been living a sedentary lifestyle, you can begin slowly. Do not feel like you have to become a pro athlete overnight! Simply start with a small goal, such as walking for twenty minutes a day, three times a week. You can gradually increase intensity as your body gets accustomed to physical exertion.
12. Remember to Wash Your Hands:
This list wouldn’t be complete without a friendly reminder to wash your hands. Do this mindfully, so that you’re thoroughly cleansing every square inch of your hands. Take it a step further than just washing your hands after using the bathroom; make it a habit to wash them before you eat and after you get home from running errands, too. Always dry your hands after washing them, since wet skin can be a magnet for germs.
13. Take Advantage of Eucalyptus
More and more studies are recognizing the importance of using essential oils to prevent sicknesses like colds and the flu. Eucalyptus, in particular, has scientific evidence for fighting bacterial infections and enhancing the immune system. You can diffuse eucalyptus essential oil, and you can also drink eucalyptus tea.
Create the Best Wellness Plan at The Dempster Clinic-Center for Functional Medicine
Determining the best ways to improve your individual immune system is complex, and there is no “one size fits all” plan for ensuring your immune system is as healthy as it can be. At The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine, I can work with you to develop a custom health plan to help you prevent sickness.
I am happy to offer a Complimentary 15-minute Discovery Session for all prospective patients. This session can take place over the phone or at the clinic in person. It provides an opportunity for you to learn more about the services I offer and how they can be of benefit to you.
Please schedule an appointment today! Your best-functioning immune system awaits.
Dr. John Dempster, ND
The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine