As we live our daily lives, we are exposed to organisms and they may get into our bodies in different ways. In one way or another, these organisms may cause disease especially if the defense mechanisms or immune system of our body is weak.
Our body is vulnerable to diseases if our immune system isn’t working at par. That’s why it’s important to improve your immune system and eventually boost your general health.
What Is the Immune System?
Before finding the right ways to boost the immune system, the first thing to do is to understand everything about it.
The immune system is composed of different organs, proteins and cells that protect your body from any foreign substances including bacteria and viruses.
It also works to neutralize and eliminate pathogens like viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites from penetrating your body.
The cells in the immune system come from the bone marrow, circulates in the blood and the lymphatic system and protect the peripheral tissues (1).
When the immune system isn’t working properly, there’s a great possibility to develop illnesses. If the immune system is underactive, your body may develop immunodeficiency and severe infections.
On the other hand, overactivity may lead to autoimmune diseases and allergies. The immune system is really amazing as it has the capability to fight against viruses and bacteria that cause diseases (2).
The immune system has two parts such as the innate and adaptive immune system. They complement each other to fight harmful substances or pathogens.
Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
In spite of the fact that we’re living in a world with infectious microorganisms, it’s important to be healthy. Your immune system plays a significant role in keeping your health as it protects you from disease-causing microbes.
Here are sure-fire ways to optimize the function of your immune system:
#1. Manage Stress and Get Adequate Sleep
Researchers found that if someone is suffering from long-term stress, it can lead him/her to high production of cortisol – a steroid hormone (6). The basic purpose of this hormone is to restrict human immunity when a stressful situation is going on.
However, the constant upheaval of cortisol level turns the immune system into something dysfunctional. Therefore, your body becomes more vulnerable to bacterial and virus attacks.
Now, how can you reduce your daily stress?
We know cutting it off fully is near to impossible. So, we are not going to sound dumb by claiming that “yes, our suggested techniques will help you have sound sleep”.
Rather, we’ve approached more rationally and have brought several practical tips that you can embrace to minimize your stress.
- Meditate: Use apps like Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace, Aura, YogaGlo, Sattva, Ensō, Inscape etc.
- Start journaling: Write your daily activities, weekly plans, and yearly goals.
- Be regular on hobbies: No matter you love fishing, drawing or playing basketball, just schedule it on your every day or weekly routine and see the change.
- Reward yourself: Give yourself points for every small achievement you encounter. Because that will make your immune system learn how to act actively on little accomplishments.
Start these today and your mind will thank you for taking care of it soon. Ignore the signs of the stressed-out situation and you’re doomed. Now the choice is yours!
Sleep can be a lifesaver here. But the thing is, it’s not easy to get proper sleep when you’re passing a stressful time. Otherwise, keeping your immune system hale and hearty wouldn’t be this much difficult.
Because as Pflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology’s review claims, sleeping is the only period when our body generates and disperses the most fundamental immune cells – cytokines, interleukin 12 and T cells. Among them, the first one is a protein that deals with inflammation.
The second one is also an inflammatory (cytokine) substance but of pro level. And the last one, which is responsible for monitoring immune response, is a sort of white blood cell.
As for the quantity of sleep, the National Sleep Foundation advises 7 hours of sleep (each night) for adults. And again, here are our most productive tips for you to overcome sleep deprivation –
- Maintain a sleep schedule. Go to bed every day at the same time. Not 10-15 minutes before or after the set time.
- Find a calm and less lighted space to take your night sleep.
- Skip afternoon naps if that’s causing insomnia at night.
- Spend at least 30 minutes daily on some exercises.
- Keep your room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees and maintain the sound level as low as possible.
- Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, etc in the evening so that your sleep during night time doesn’t get spoiled. According to some, a heavy meal just before sleep can steal your comfort.
- Try to keep electric devices like mobile phones, TV, computers away from you while you’re going to sleep. This helps to reduce anxiety and balance your sleep.
If you’re still having sleep issues after adding all these behaviors to your lifestyle, we recommend you to consult a doctor or a sleep professional.
#2. Consume More Fruits, Vegetables, Seeds and Nuts
Another natural way of boosting your immune system is eating loads of vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. Because the nutrients embedded in these foods are very handy to improve our immune system(7). However, the rule of thumb is you should do this on a daily basis.
So….which veggies should be on your list?
We prefer bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garden cress, and kale – in short, the cruciferous vegetables. They are good for the liver that’s responsible for the natural detoxification process of our body.
#3. Consider Probiotics
Having a leaky gut can weaken the immune system, and may lead to immune imbalance as well as developing autoimmune diseases.
Consuming probiotic foods is one way to boost the immune system. These are good bacteria that support the immune system and at the same time help to detoxify the colon. Likewise, probiotic organisms stimulate various cytokine responses.
Probiotics include a wide range of tasty food items. They belong to both fermented and dairy categories.
And the good news is – you can consume these savory foods as a booster to your digestive system. Most importantly, they will definitely accelerate your immunity.
From unborn child to toddler to young man and adult, everyone can enjoy the benefits of probiotics. Of course, the unborn will share it from their mother’s consumption of the same. And due to their having it at an early time, they will build an immune system that can easily fight different respiratory diseases like colds, asthma, or eczema.
Giving probiotic supplements at an early age can prevent diseases that are immune-related. It also improves the gut mucosal immune system. Taking probiotic supplements prevents the incidence of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections (8).
The best part?
Overcoming type 1 diabetes (to which many weaker immune system holders fall prey) will also be possible to prevent with probiotics while to which many weaker immune system holders fall prey to.
#4. Adequate Intake of Vitamin D
Studies have found that viral infections such as respiratory tract infections become less effective when tacked with vitamin D supplementation(9). Because such supplementation decreases the creation of the compounds that promote inflammatory effects.
Also, the possibility of getting affected by chronic diseases, like hepatitis, TB, and cardiovascular diseases, lessens as your blood begins to achieve a high volume of vitamin D.
In case, you’re curious to know which food items contain vitamin D, check out plant-based milk, fortified cereals, yogurt, and supplements!
The easiest way, though, is the exposure to the sun. Just step outside and your body will absorb the necessary vitamin D, leading to the production of antibodies, thereby more immunity.
On the flip side of the coin, if your body lacks sufficient vitamin D, you’ll become more prone to respiratory problems. So, we see nothing wrong in taking a quick 10 to 15 minutes walk under the sun for a better immune system.
#5. Consume Garlic
Garlic is another gem in the realm of immunity booster. We use this powerful antioxidant in almost all the recipes and the reason is quite clear. Allicin – a sulfur oriented compound! It remains in garlic in a heavy amount. In fact, it’s mainly known as an immune-boosting property.
Therefore, in previous days, garlic (natural decongestant!) is considered to be a powerful weapon against infections. Another reliable source (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Trusted) claims that people with high blood pressure can take garlic to lower it down. Besides, this savory ingredient is useful in delaying the solidification of arteries.
You won’t see a lot of herbs that are antiviral, antimicrobial and antibiotic at the same time. We bet it!
#6. Consider Immune-supportive Herbs
To bring a balance between different energy forces of your body (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), it’s important to reinforce your immune system. The following immune-supportive herbs are some of the most effective elements to promote your overall health condition –
Polysaccharides, one of the ingredients of Echinacea (aka coneflower), can enhance the white blood cells of your body. Consequently, you become immune to infections. This antibacterial, as well as antiviral herb, comes in a tablet or extract form.so, you won’t find it difficult to consume this immunity-boosting flower.
Anemia, the core component of Adaptogenic astragalus, helps to increase blood counts. Your stress level will also decrease. The best time to fast forward your immune system is cold and flu season. Because then you can use this herb on soups and combat exhaustion.
(iii) Yin Chiao (Honeysuckle Forsythia)
Combining 9 herbs, a formula is prepared by the traditional Chinese medication practitioners. The herbs include licorice, peppermint, Lu Gen, Jing Jie etc. Among them, peppermint is good for nasal clearance, Lu Gen bringing a soothing effect to the stomach and lungs, and so on.
Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) is widely known for its ability to safeguard you from viral infections, like ordinary cold or flu. The other benefits it can build a shield against cancer and decrease the unwanted impacts caused by chemotherapy.
Next comes elderberry. It contains an antioxidant named quercetin. It excludes the possible inflammatory impact and also works as an antihistamine. The usual use of the elderberry syrup is – whenever you observe any symptom of flu, just take one teaspoon of the syrup and that’s it! It will heal every flu disease from chronic fatigue to sinus pains and the kind!
Available in Asian countries, Andrographis comes handy in improving the liver condition, relieving sore throat and fever, appeasing digestive problems, and impeding influenza. Purify your blood and increase your immunity with the detoxifying properties of this bitter herb and win over infections.
During cold seasons, one of the gifted herbs you’ll find is ginger. I mean, who doesn’t love a cup of ginger tea while dealing with sore throat or frequent coughing? Ginger tea with honey and lemon is love.
And bring about a soothing feel on the go. Nasal congestion becomes a thing of the past when treated with this pungent root. No question asked this antihistamine is strong enough to fight the cold symptoms.
#7. Essential Oils For Immune Health
Essential oils are widely accepted as a means of fighting viruses, bacteria, and fungus. Thanks to the antiseptic properties contained in them, it helps the essential oil perk up the immunity. The basic way it works is by influencing various body activities as well as accelerating the lymph & blood circulating speed.
Common roles essential oils can help with –
- Boosts energy & aids in digestion.
- Purifies the air
- Resists the dispense of airborne germs
- Disinfectants products or surface (can be applied with sprays)
- Relieves stress (use with lavender).
- Improves skin conditions (when applied diluted on the skin)
Type of Essential Oils
(i) Lemon Essential Oil
- Treats E. coli, influenza viruses & several Staphylococcus (Staph) strains.
- Produces comforting scent.
- Helps to relieve nausea.
(iii) Rosemary Essential Oil
- Helpful for respiratory ailments
- Clears ‘foggy head’ & heals the sinuses
- Treats fungal & bacterial infections
- Contains mild anti-viral attributes.
- A powerful immune stimulant
- Potent anti-septic
- Cures viral infections related to the digestive system,
- Works as an antibacterial against E. coli, Staph & Salmonella strains.
(ii) Eucalyptus Essential Oil
- Applicable on the chest & feet.
- Treats the symptoms of colds.
- Clears congested sinuses.
- Effective against E. coli, flu, Candida albicans & Staph strains
Checkout best essential oil brands
#8. Avoid Excessive Intake of Alcohol
Irrespective of how low or high amount of alcohol you consume per day, your immune system is getting influenced by it bit by bit. However, it’s always discouraged to take booze going overboard in every sit.
Because doing so will make your body become occupied with detoxification of your entire system. Consequently, the regular activity of your immune system will be interrupted.
In 2015, Alcohol Research (a journal) shows via its review that if a person consumes excessive alcohol, his/her physical capability to combat infections de-escalates and in the face of any illness, the recovery process becomes slower.
Therefore, anyone, who is used to consistent alcohol intake, remains in a high chance of suffering from respiratory problems such as pneumonia, liver disease, or certain types of cancers.
So, our suggestions would be – seasonal drinkers should cut their habit off and the non drinkers are doing fine and should stick to their decision of avoiding it for life. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the maximum amount should be one (4 oz of a wine glass) and two drinks each day for excessive women and men drinkers respectively.
#9. Stop Smoking
Akin to alcohol, smoking is also a Big NO-NO to keep your immune system perfectly active. The primary reason is the smoke produced by the cigarette. Oncotarget’s November 2016 reviewed that chemicals like CO (carbon monoxide), NO2 (nitrogen oxides), cadmium, and nicotine, hamper the natural growth and prevent the regular functionality of the immune cells, namely B cells, T cells, and cytokines.
To worsen the case, smoking plays a big role in aggravating viral & bacterial infections. TB, flu, pneumonia, and other infections concerning the lung are its major attacking points. CDC adds that rheumatoid arthritis (it’s all about joints) or post-surgical infections can also get easily attacked by this so-called cool habit.
Also, specialists suggest avoiding passive smoking as far as possible.
Therefore, if any smoker is looking to rebuild and then reactivated his/her immune system, it’s high time they should take the first step of cutting this habit off.
CDC recommends that they can start with counseling, behavioral therapy, or some other concrete stuff like prescribed non-nicotine medications or nicotine replacement items.
#10. Do regular Exercise
Exercises have a lot of benefits and when you do on a regular basis its advantages also go double. Starting from infections caused by bacteria or viruses to chronic diseases can easily be defeated by maintaining an exercise routine.
Therefore, patients suffering from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or overweight individuals should make a habit of doing workout either at home or at the gym. Read what are the best home exercise equipment for workout.
Endorphin is another reason you should cling with daily exercise. This hormone is ideal to decrease pain and you’ll start feeling a pleasing vibe. So, once you begin exercising, it’s gonna work as a stress relieving tool for your system.
However, you should avoid intense workout unless you’re used to it. Because there are several cases recorded so far that portray how strenuous for long duration steals away the immunity process.
So, for adults, a moderate level of workouts like walking, running, jogging, or cycling are fine. Choose either minimum 75 minutes of running or 150 minutes of walking or cycling each week.
Common Immune System Diseases
As it is important to know how to boost your immune system, it is also necessary to know the different immune system disorders caused by either autoimmune attack or excessive immune response.
Here are some of the common immune system disorders;
- Asthma and other allergies
If your immune system is weak, you’ll be susceptible to allergens that may trigger allergic diseases like allergic rhinitis, asthma, food allergies and atopic dermatitis. Dust, pollen and mold are common allergens that cause your body to develop allergy symptoms (3).
Allergic reactions happen when your body has developed antigens against any substance. Exposure to such substances repeatedly may result in allergies.
- Immune deficiency disorders
If one or more parts are missing in your immune system, most likely you may develop an immune deficiency disease. Such disorder may be the result of existing illness or medication, or genetic disorder is also known as primary immunodeficiency (4).
HIV/AIDS is an example of immune deficiency disorder and drug-induced immune deficiency. Infections that are life-threatening can cause severe impairment in your immune system.
- Autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases force your immune system to bout your body cells and tissues. After World War II, the prevalence of this immune system disorder increases throughout the world.
In fact, millions of Americans nowadays were living and suffering from autoimmune disease. It’s not easy to diagnose this disease accurately. The symptoms of autoimmune disease are vague and disparate; thus it may take a few years to diagnose the disease.
Examples of such diseases include inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s disease and Grave’s disease.
The first thing to do to treat such a condition is to stay away from factors and foods that can damage the gut, thus prevents leaky gut (5).
Getting sick can affect your life in many ways. That’s why to avoid such a situation, it’s important to boost your immune system. This way, it can function properly and protect you from developing illnesses and infections.
is a registered dietitian with over 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science from Dhaka University and has worked with various clients to help them achieve their health goals through personalized diet plans. Mounota is passionate about educating people on the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle and has written extensively on the subject for various publications.