How to Build a Strong Immune System
Fortify your immune system with the right lifestyle and dietary habits.
Our immune system is vital for protecting us from diseases and infections. A diet rich in vitamin C helps to boost our immune system, but many other factors other than diet affect it as well.
But while there is no quick fix to improving our immune system, there are habits we can adopt to help it function optimally. Apart from a balanced diet that consists of vitamins and minerals, healthy lifestyle habits such as sufficient sleep and exercise most effectively prime our body to fight infections and diseases.
Here are some ways to develop a strong immune system.
Catch your Z’s
As vital as it is, getting adequate sleep is often overlooked. To maintain a healthy immune system, it’s important to have at least seven to nine hours of rest each day. Skimping on it can negatively affect your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to an infection, usually a cold or the flu. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s time to incorporate good night-time habits to load up on the sleep you lack.
Have a balanced diet
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps you meet your daily nutritional requirements. Eating well-balanced meals will provide the vitamins and minerals that will keep your immune system running smoothly. Protein is a key building block of immune cells, so whether you eat meat or a plant-based diet, make sure you have enough micro and macro nutrients at every meal. Practice smart snacking habits and choose those that offer plenty of nutritional benefits without busting your daily calorie count, such as power food-loaded energy balls.
Take supplements if needed
Common nutritional deficiencies such as iron or vitamin D can weaken your immune system and put you at greater risk for infections. To counter this, go for regular blood tests to check that your body has all the essential nutrients it needs to function well. Otherwise, nutritional supplements can help to boost the level of key nutrients in your body. Be sure to seek advice from a medical professional before taking them!
Together with a healthy diet, regular physical activity is essential for a smooth-running immune system. Exercise stimulates blood circulation, which helps to move cells and vital substances around the body and to the immune system. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity a week.
Load up on prebiotics and probiotics
Prebiotics encourage the flourishing of gut flora, which help to keep not just your digestive tract healthy, but your entire body as well. Probiotics are live good bacteria in your gut that help to boost your immune system, alleviate depression, fight obesity and more. Go for foods such as kimchi, yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut for probiotic benefits.
Stress affects your immune system’s ability to combat antigens, thus making you more susceptible to infections. Furthermore, cortisol (the stress hormone) can reduce the number of lymphocytes in your body. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are one of the main types of immune cells in the body. Low lymphocyte count can lead to an impaired immune system.
Drink in moderation
Think twice before you chug that beer or take another shot. Your body has to work extra hard to metabolise alcohol, which reduces its efficiency in other functions. Excessive alcohol intake can upset the microbiome balance in your gut and negatively affect your immune system, leaving you more prone to viruses and infections.