Contrary to popular belief, you technically cannot “boost” your immune system. Just like it sounds, your immune system is a “system,” not just a single function. There are still a lot that things that need to be learned about the connection between our lifestyle and immune system. However, embracing healthy lifestyle changes can help to support it.
One of the first keys to supporting your immune system is aiming for at least five to nine fruits and vegetables daily. If you consider filling half of your plate with color and include these foods with snacks, you will be able to accomplish this! These things don’t have to be boring – for example, hummus, guacamole and peanut butter can be used to add flavor. Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies are similar in nutrition content (especially since fresh fruit can be difficult when staying at home more often). Canning is another option; however, it is recommended that you rinse the food off in a colander to remove the salt.
Lastly, if you consider supplements to fulfill your five to nine servings, you should reconsider and try to switch to a “food first” approach. Supplements are not a cure-all. When you eat fruits and vegetables, you also get an added benefit of fiber.
In addition to keeping yourself nourished, you should also aim for eight hours of sleep as an adult, teens and children should aim for nine to 10 hours. If you struggle with waking up in the middle of the night, we recommend implementing a wind down routine. Phone apps like Headspace and Calm are now offering free meditations. Not smoking and limiting your alcohol consumption to less than two drinks a day for men and less than one drink a day for women is also beneficial.
It is unknown how much of an effect stress necessarily has on one’s immune system, however it is known that having reduced stress has some sort of benefit. Stress can come in a variety of different ways and is also unique to the individual. Stress may increase food cravings or emotional eating tendencies. For some, stress may cause you to push off meal times and eat less, compromising your immune system.
Exercise can also reduce stress. Although it has not been found to have a direct link to strengthening your immune system, it can be considered beneficial. This is also because it can also help with depression and management of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes.
While there is no way to truly boost your immune system, leading an active, healthy lifestyle can certainly benefit it. Visiting with a registered dietitian and utilizing other resources can certainly be helpful if you are unsure of where to begin.