Well, let’s all admit it – a few months ago, articles on topics such as the immune system weren’t exactly at the top of our reading list. But as you know, things have changed since then. There’s a new sheriff in the virus town and we need to explore all the ways in which we can look after our bodies to stay strong in the fight against it! What’s more – now that the first wave of COVID-19 is subsiding and we’re slowly coming out of our shells again, it’s critical that we all know how to boost our immune system in an effective and natural way, thus staying safe. Let’s tackle this challenge together!
But first things first: let’s talk immune system!
If we’re to teach you how to boost your immune system, we shouldn’t skip any steps! It’s important that we first get to know our organism’s guardian a bit better …
If nothing else did, corona probably successfully taught you one thing: our bodies are constantly under attack! Bacteria, parasites and, of course, viruses, are always out to get us. To protect us from these pathogens, our body therefore needs a system of defence.
And this is why an old friend, called the immune system, is here to watch our backs. Consisting of a vast network of various cells, organs and tissues, it stands guard 24/7, looking out for unwelcome microbes that want to do us harm. As it can distinguish between our own and the foreign tissue, it recognises and instantly attacks any invaders.
Just like anything else, fighting off an infection takes a well-synchronised team. In the case of the immune system, the major players responsible for this task are white blood cells, antibodies (proteins that are mainly produced by the plasma cells to neutralise pathogens), the complement system (proteins that are produced by the liver to help antibodies keep microbes off), the spleen, the bone marrow, the lymphatic system and the thymus.
When your immune system faces a threat in the form of a virus, a bacterium or other harmful substance, it reacts by triggering the so-called immune response, aiming to destroy the invaders and keep the organism safe.
How to get a strong immune system in a natural way?
Now we know the machinery behind our health, but how do we keep it in ship shape or even improve its function? Are there ways to boost the immune system?
Well, it’s a bit more complicated. The idea of giving our immune system a little boost is undoubtedly an attractive one, but scientists are still unsure as to how much we can exactly do to strengthen our immunity. As we’re talking about a system, it’s clear that all parts need to be well-tuned and work properly, but experts still need to find significant evidence that a particular lifestyle leads to better defence against pathogens.
What’s more, literally boosting our immune system by increasing the number of immune or other cells in the organism is not even a good idea. In fact, we like the expression “boosting immunity” so much that we’re forgetting that doing so would likely cause more harm than good. Having a “boosted” immune system would mean that the organism’s natural defenses are working in overdrive, which often results in inflammation and autoimmune disease.
We know, for example, that athletes cheating by pumping more blood into their veins (to boost the number of blood cells) have an increased chance of stroke. Besides, as our bodies’ defence troops include so many different cell types ready to fight various microbes, nobody really knows what combination of cells should be boosted. We also know that there are no supplements or exercises that are scientifically proven to actually boost our immunity.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything to improve our immune system, even if it’s just helping it to work properly.
While researchers explore in more detail what effects a healthy diet, working out, age and other factors have on our immune response (and they’ve already come pretty far, as you’re about to find out!), they certainly agree that a healthy lifestyle is the best immune system “booster” we currently know of.
So, when we explain how to “boost your immune system”, what we actually have in mind is helping it to perform its tasks flawlessly, keeping it strong and ready for any challenge. Let’s make a short recap of what strategies this includes!
Pay attention to what goes into your body!
The cornerstone of an immunity-boosting lifestyle is a healthy, balanced diet that provides enough nutrients for the organism to do its job with ease. And guess what: around 80% of our immune system actually resides in our gut, which makes proper dietary choices extra important. Experts say that when our gastrointestinal system is weak, our bodies are generally less capable of warding off infections.
Eating well – one of the best ways to boost your immune system!
For a long time, researchers have been pointing out that those who love in poverty and have limited access to food are more prone to catching infectious diseases. While they still need more research to confirm the connection, it’s already clear that the nutrients from different foods are vital for your immune system to work as it should. Let’s give a shout out to the most important ones among them:
- vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D and E;
And how does this translate into food? Experts recommend a diet rich in plant-based foods as many fruits and vegetables, along with spices and herbs (like oregano, thyme or cumin), are also known for their antiviral and antibacterial effects. Let us give you a few delicious examples of what should find its way to your dinner plates or lunch boxes:
- greens (broccoli, spinach);
- citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit …);
- nuts and seeds;
- red bell peppers;
- yoghurt …
And if you’re after great tips, here’s one you’re going to love. You can try some good old Mediterranean eating style to give your immune system a little extra boost. Including healthy fats from fish and olive oil that are coupled with ample amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, this diet will provide you with an abundance of vitamin C and other antioxidants.
Another great piece of advice we can give you includes fermented foods. We’ve raved about them before on this blog and let us tell you again that yogurt, kefir or unpasteurized sauerkraut really deserve the hype they get. Why? Because they boost the number of healthy bacteria in your gastrointestinal system, thus contributing to a healthy gut. And as we already know, overcoming slow digestion is a proper immunity buster.
And drink moderately!
We know, a few celebratory drinks here and there won’t kill anybody, but too much alcohol can quickly weaken your immune system. We don’t want to bore you with all the effects of excessive drinking as we believe you know enough, but let us just point out that too many glasses of anything that can get you drunk also lowers your immune function.
When you drink heavily, the organism has too much work with detoxifying itself to actually defend you from outside intruders. According to the newest research, this does not only mean that you are more likely to catch a cold or get an infection, but can also prolong your recovery time if you actually get sick.
But how do you boost your immune system by drinking responsibly? It’s easy. If you’re a man, don’t have more than two drinks per day (4 ounces of alcoholic beverage), and if you are a woman, limit your intake to a half of this amount.
If you still haven’t quit smoking, do it now!
Yup, another pretty obvious remark. If it’s too basic for you, you might want to simply skip this chapter, but as we really want everyone to be healthy, we can’t miss the chance to warn all those who still can’t give up on their “coffee and cigarette routine”.
Remember our article on the best ways to detoxify your body? Well, it’s not really news that many harmful substances are also released by cigarette smoke. Just think about all the carbon monoxide, nicotine, nitrogen oxides and more. All these toxins can have a negative impact on the growth as well as on the proper function of your immune system cells.
Especially now when the danger of coronavirus still looms in the shadows, let us also warn you that enjoying tobacco products will also worsen the symptoms of viral infections (think pneumonia, flu and, of course, COVID-19).
To sum up: smoking has nothing to do with ways to boost your immune system.
Improving your immune system through regular physical activity
Exercising definitely belongs to the best ways of strengthening one’s immune system. Experts say that regular workouts actually help the white blood cells and antibodies to circulate faster, which means they can discover a potential unwanted guest earlier.
What’s more, a little bit of sweating will contribute to the release of endorphins, hormones in charge of making you happy. As stress also has a negative effect on immunity, feeling good after a morning run or a round of cycling is really the way to go.
The effects of regular activity have also been extensively studied and researchers have discovered that people who work out are generally less likely to be stopped by a viral infection. What’s more, if such people happen to catch a cold, their symptoms will often be less severe than in the case of sedentary individuals.
However, just like everything else, your exercise rituals will bring the best results if you stick to moderation. If you overdo it, you’ll put additional stress on your body, which will only weaken your immune system. Find your sweet spot, increase the difficulty level gradually and you’re bound for success. If you’re a couch potato longing for change, we recommend that you start with at least a half an hour of moderate or intensive physical activity daily and you’ll see improvements soon.
Just remember that quarantine does not mean staying on the couch all day. Even in times of social distancing, it’s important to get out for a walk or a short run. If you have a back garden, try
some yoga or do a few push-ups in the sun.
But watch out: no rest = no immune system boost
Even a well-oiled machine such as a healthy and resistant body needs to rest regularly to stay strong. Have you ever encountered a problem with your computer or electronic device that required a restart? Well, consider sweet dreams a human version of a computer reboot.
To find out how we can boost your immune system by getting enough sleep, we need to look no further than at the consequences of sleep deprivation. When we lack proper rest, our body must produce more stress hormones to keep us going. These, however, will prevent the immune system from working at full capacity.
So, how much sleep should you get to improve your immunity? You can find different answers around the web and the fact that everybody is different doesn’t help either. But according to the newest studies, 7-8 hours of keeping your eyes shut is still the most accurate piece of advice!
Wanna get a strong immune system? Start by relaxing!
A healthy mind in a healthy body – who doesn’t know this saying? But not everybody knows that it’s also backed by some science. Just think about all the gastrointestinal diseases that can also be caused by added pressure of relationship turmoils or professional hurdles – from upset stomach to heartburn and even constipation. Therefore, simply relaxing a bit is the best way to boost our immune system, especially if we feel that we need to recharge our batteries.
Experts have long been interested in the relationship between stress and immunity. However, their efforts are hampered by the fact that defining stress is an extremely difficult task. Virtually the same situation may bring one person to their knees while another person will simply shrug it off. Despite this, they are making progress, especially in investigating the consequences of long-term exposure to stressful situations.
They have found out that when people are suffering from anxiety or chronic stress, their organisms boost the production of hormones that suppress the function of their immune system. We’re talking about cortisol that our bodies need during short periods of stress exposure (when we switch to flight-or-fight mode, for example). In such cases, cortisol is actually beneficial as it stops the immune system from responding until the crisis is over.
But just imagine what happens if your cortisol levels are constantly very high … It doesn’t take a medical doctor to figure out that in such a case, the immune system cannot work in the highest gear. Therefore, our defence against viruses and bacteria is weakened significantly.
What’s more, people who are under heavy stress are much less likely to pay attention to other healthy habits, for example maintaining a balanced diet and getting enough sleep. Avoid this dangerous vicious circle by taking care of your mind.
But how do you boost your immune system through helping your mind? While we know that stressful situations cannot be avoided, there are numerous strategies that can help you manage it. Always wanted to try meditation or practice mindfulness? Go for it! Thinking about hitting the gym? Do it! Preferring a different option? Nothing wrong with it! The point is that you find out what works best for you and stick to your antistress routine.
A bonus immunity boosting tip: enjoy the great outdoors
Yup, even simply leaving the apartment can provide a boost for your immune system! Heading out for some sunshine will increase the level of vitamin D in your organism, a vitamin that plays a key role in protecting your body from patogenes.
As the northern hemisphere is nervously awaiting the autumn and the possible second wave of coronavirus, it’s important to know that in the event of another lockdown, take any chances you get to enjoy some sun and thus strengthen your immune system.
That’s all? It’s that easy?
Yes, finding ways to boost your immune system is not rocket science. It’s more of an effort to avoid the unhealthy habits that would avoid the key parts of your immune defence from working as effectively as they can. Especially in these challenging times, our body deserves all the help it can get to stay alert to harmful microbes and always ready to fight them with all it has.
Even if it sometimes seems that the world around you is collapsing, work on staying positive, cooking healthy and nutritious meals and getting off the couch often enough. Because as you can see, the simplest solutions can sometimes get you the furthest.