Health and Wellness

You Can Strengthen Your Immune System—Here’s How

Scientists don’t understand everything about immunity. But they do know that taking steps to boost your overall health can go a long way in making sure your immune system is putting up the best fight for you. Here are some effective ways to give your immune system the boost it deserves:

Load Up on the Right Vitamins and Nutrients

There are a handful of different vitamins that help your body form a stronger defense:

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays important roles in the body, including reduction of inflammation, supports immune function, and glucose metabolism according to the NIH. The healthier your foundation, the better your body will be at fending off illness. Fatty fish and fortified cereals are high in Vitamin D, but it’s tough to absorb from food. Depending where you live, you may be able to get it from about 10 minutes of sun exposure, or through a supplement.
  • Zinc: It has been found to shorten the length of cold symptoms and may help heal wounds, and the Mayo Clinic notes that zinc lozenges or syrup is especially effective if you take it as soon as you feel the symptoms of a cold coming on. Good dietary sources of zinc include meat like chicken thighs or ground beef, fortified breakfast cereals, crab, and seeds.
  • Vitamin B-6: This is a great nutrient when you want both your brain and your body to stay sharp. Foods rich in Vitamin B-6 include chickpeas, bananas, tuna, and potatoes.
  • Beta-carotene: This antioxidant converts to Vitamin A once it’s in your body, and according to Mount Sinai, can help support eye health and overall immunity. If a food has an intense, rainbow-worthy color like yellow, orange, or green, (hello carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli), it’s probably chock-full of beta-carotene.

When possible, choose diet over supplement

See if you can get a vitamin through diet before you try a supplement. The nutrients tend to absorb better that way. You also risk taking a dangerous amount if you’re not careful with supplements. There are exceptions to this rule—Vitamin D, for example, is tough to get through food, and if you have a severe vitamin deficiency, you may need the strength of a supplement to get your levels up. But in general, check with your healthcare provider first, measuring for vitamin D levels can be done through a simple blood test. Your provider can also help you understand how supplements could react with certain conditions or medications, and they can help with appropriate dosing for your specific body and health history.

Add Fermented Foods to Your Plate

New research is emerging about the importance of gut health for our overall well being and immunity. Recently, researchers from Stanford found that fermented foods can help improve gut health and they hypothesize this may help your immune system fight off long-term illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular disease. You may already eat a diet rich in fermented foods—fermentation is a staple of many global cuisines. But if you don’t, try to incorporate delicious foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickled vegetable mixes, tempeh, yogurt, and kombucha.

Reduce Stress

Stress can disrupt levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and reduce your number of infection-fighting white blood cells, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Plus, it can keep you up at night, which also wreaks havoc on your immune system over time. Stress reduction can seem impossible, but it’s worth a solid try. Start small by identifying one stress reliever that works for you, like exercise or listening to music. This week, find time every day for that—even if it’s just a 5-minute walk around the block or blasting your favorite song at top volume between meetings. Even just a few moments of stress relief can help.

Practice Smart Living

Give your immune system a break by taking these measures to prevent illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Don’t touch your face, eyes, or nose without washing your hands first
  • Stay up to date on important vaccinations like the flu shot
  • Use hand sanitizer and frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces like phones, doorknobs, keyboards, and railings

Interested in building an immunity boosting plan tailored specifically for you? Our clinicians can talk to you about the vitamins and nutrients your body needs most, and the best sources, whether that’s on a plate or from the pharmacy.

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