10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System

If you are the sort of person that catches the sniffles, coughs, and colds in a heartbeat, try some of these easy and effective tips to boost your immune system and stay healthy.

1. Stop Smoking

Everyone knows smoking is bad for you. It increases your risks of getting lung cancer and other severe lung diseases. The damage that the smoke does to lung cells can cause COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), emphysema, and swelling. Heart disease, stroke, and premature aging are also connected to smoking, but some of its biggest effects are on the immune system.

What it does: Smoking makes you more susceptible to infections because it destroys vitamin C and other important antioxidants that kill mutated cells and fight infections. It also destroys antibodies, which are compounds that fight infection.

2. Cut Down on the Sugar

Twinkies, M&Ms, and cupcakes always seem like a great idea when we are stressed or need a little pick-me-up. Sugary, chocolaty foods release endorphins that have a painkilling effect and make you feel happy, and while this makes you happy in the short-term, it doesn’t make your body happy in the long run. Cutting out sugar can have an even bigger effect on your immune system than quitting smoking.

What it does: Eating sugar impacts white blood cells by taking up space that should be filled by Vitamin C. Vitamin C and sugar have a similar molecular structure, so they compete to share space in the white blood cell. So, the more sugar in your body, the less Vitamin C you’ll have. While sugar tastes good, it doesn’t help your body fight infections. Try and eat more berries and fruit if you have a sweet tooth instead of crippling your immune system with refined sugars.

3. Eliminate Junk Food

People say an army marches on its stomach. Well, so does your immune system. Nutrition is extremely important for the immune system, and lacking certain vitamins and nutrients and substituting them with sugary, non-nutritious food can cause it to crash. Eat more fruits and vegetables that are filled with vitamins A, B6, C and E and things such folic acid and copper.

What it does: Eating nutrient-poor foods often means that you are not getting the vitamins and compounds that you need. Studies show that not eating enough vegetables and fruits can lower antibody response because of a lack of important vitamins such as A, C, B6, and others. If you do not enjoy eating vegetables or swear by refined bread instead of whole wheat, then try taking a multivitamin everyday so that you don’t fall short on the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need.

4. Exercise Moderately

You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from exercise. However, if you’re the sort of person that doesn’t leave the house all day, maybe you’d benefit from the PokemonGo craze. A daily walk of about 30 minutes (even if it’s to catch pokemon) or a Pilates class a few times a week can not only keep you fit, but boost your immune system.

What it does: Exercise promotes circulation which allows white blood cells, antibodies, and other substances the immune system uses to function more quickly and effectively. Exercise can also get rid of bacteria from your lungs because of the increased oxygenation that can prevent airborne illnesses.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is probably one of the most important and underrated ways to stay healthy. Binging Netflix till the wee hours of the morning may seem like a good idea at the time, but come flu season you’ll notice the difference. Studies have shown that getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night can promote your body’s ability to heal itself.

What it does: Sleep deprivation can cause higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which will not only depress your immune system but can also lead to increased inflammation. Beyond that, researchers are not completely sure how sleep improves your immune system. But, the results are clear: 7 to 8 hours of sleep is necessary for a good immune system.

The Good Immune Guide Infographic

6. Don’t Binge Drink

Binge drinking is unfortunately a fan favorite among college goers and young adults. It’s well known that binge drinking affects brain development, the liver, and can even cause cardiovascular problems.

What it does: Studies have shown that the effects of intoxication on the immune system last anywhere from hours to days after consumption. Alcohol increases inflammation, and also ramps up the immune system for a short period of time, then causing it to crash. Post drinking, scientists have found higher levels of cells that signal the immune system to become less active.

7. Drink Some Green Tea

Green tea has been lauded as a super food for its metabolic powers, its many antioxidants, and its place as a healthier alternative to coffee. However, green tea can also have great effects on your immune system. For the maximum effect of green tea with minimum bitterness, add a little lemon and honey after steeping for 2 minutes. However, make sure not to add milk as that can counteract the goodness of green tea.

What it does: Green tea is filled with plant antioxidants called polyphenols. One particular type of polyphenol called catechin has been known to kill influenza viruses and boost immune system response to it as well. The reason you shouldn’t drink green tea with milk is because the proteins bind to the polyphenols and defeats the purpose.

8. Relax

Much like how sleep reduces stress hormones, being stress-free is also beneficial for your immune system. Work, school, relationships, friendships, family- nowadays everything is a source of stress. Many colleges and schools report a huge rise of sick kids when finals come around. Prolonged stress can lead to anxiety and depression, which can lead to other, more serious, health problems. If you find yourself overly stressed, try meditating, getting massages,taking long relaxing baths, or listening music to reduce it (music has amazing health benefits!)

What it does: Chronic stress makes your body produce too much of the stress hormone, which depresses the immune system. “Chronic” means that the stress is frequent and ongoing, so repeatedly practicing relaxation techniques should hopefully take the edge off.

9. Get Some Sunshine

Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B6 are all important- but so is Vitamin D. During the winter it may be hard to open the door and force yourself out into the frozen tundra, but it is necessary to keep your immunity up. Just 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight everyday will give you the dose you need. But be careful to not overdo it- too much could give you sunburn and increase your risks of skin cancer.

What it does: Lower levels of vitamin D have been associated with a higher risk of respiratory infection. There are some foods you can get Vitamin D from such as cod liver oil and egg yolks, but the sun is by far the cheapest and most accessible source.

10. Laugh More

When people say, “laughter is the best medicine” they really aren’t kidding- laughing doesn’t just heal a broken heart, it gives your immune system a boost. While there really is no way to force yourself to laugh, just have fun with friends and do things that make you happy.

What it does: As has been said again and again, stress is bad for you. However, laughter can be a powerful antidote to the effects of stress. Studies have shown that laughter and humor significantly increases concentrations of certain antibodies in your body that protect against infections. Laughter has also been reported to increase the presence of cells that attack cancer cells and other virally infected cells- increasing the effectiveness of the immune system.

About The Author

Deepti Varathan is a writer specializing in psychology and neuroscience. She is passionate about modern medicine and finding other therapeutic techniques, and how both of these affect the developing brain. Deepti works for CogniFit, a major vendor in cognitive assessments and neuroscientific brain training programs.