- Marlo Rapp
Lifestyle & Nutrition Tips to Support a Healthy Immune System
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Our immune system works every day to remove and neutralize bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens. The question is, how do we support our immune system so that it can function optimally and best protect us?
The majority of people would benefit greatly from a healthier lifestyle. This is true any time, but especially during the cooler months - even here in Florida. Between holiday stress and overindulgence, less sunlight, and cooler temperatures, it’s especially important to do all you can to boost immunity during the winter. Thankfully, much of what your body needs to support and optimize its natural defenses can be found with nutrition, herbs, and lifestyle habits.
Sleep - Did you know that getting inadequate sleep may increase your risk of getting sick? Research has found that people who sleep less than six hours per night are four times more likely to get a cold than adults who are not sleep deprived. Prioritize your zzz’s and get 7-8 hours a night to reduce your chance of catching a cold or flu.
Exercise - Studies have found that moderate exercise not only reduces inflammation but promotes blood circulation and healthy turnover of immune cells. Physical activity may also help flush bacteria out of airways and lungs.
Stress - Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, suppressing protective immune responses as well as exacerbating pathological immune responses.
Hydration - Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining good health and immune system function. Dehydration can impair your body’s ability to flush out toxins and protect against illness. In addition to water, herbal teas like lemon, peppermint, and ginger are a great way to stay hydrated.
Smoking - This is one to avoid, as smoking can impair the immune system and the body’s ability to fight infection or disease.
Alcohol - Consuming excess alcohol deprives your body of essential immune-boosting nutrients. It also negatively impacts gut health, which in turn impairs the immune system and the body’s ability to ward off infection. You can enjoy alcohol in moderation, but be sure not to overdue it.
VITAMINS & NUTRIENTS
Probiotics - Did you know it is estimated that 70-80% of your immune system is based in the gut wall? If you want to promote immune system function - as well as overall health - then cultivating gut health should be a top priority. Different strains of probiotics have different functions, many of which promote immune health. Various probiotics have been found to help the body identify and target harmful pathogens, support immune cells, and promote the production of natural antibodies. Research has also found that certain strains of probiotics are “effective for fighting the common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections,” including Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacillus paracasei.
Bone Broth - In addition to probiotics, bone broth supports gut health, immune function, and inflammation while providing essential amino acids, collagen, and other important nutrients.
Antibacterial/Antiviral Foods - Incorporating antibacterial and antiviral foods into your diet is a great way to support immune health. Some of our favorites include onions, garlic, turmeric, and ginger.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids - This essential nutrient is a must have in any diet, not just for its immune support but overall health benefits as well. Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may enhance function of immune cells, as well as benefit brain and eye health, depression, anxiety, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) - NAC helps the body break down excess mucus, as well as acts as a protective shield during cold and flu season. It is also a precursor to the super antioxidant glutathione; together they support the body in detoxification and other essential functions.
B Vitamins - B vitamins are vital for immune function, cell health, and energy.
Vitamin C - Research shows that vitamin C may help reduce the duration and symptoms of the common cold, bronchitis, and respiratory infections. Vitamin C foods like asparagus, lemons, strawberries, oranges, broccoli, kiwi, and peppers provide beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Vitamin D - This is one of the most important immune-strengthening nutrients. In addition to providing beneficial protection against the cold, flu, and respiratory tract infections, research has found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased rates of mortality and severity of COVID-19. In addition to high quality supplements, sunlight, red meat, egg yolks, liver, and oily fish are among the best sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin E - Vitamin E plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong against viruses and bacteria, as well as the production of immune cells and red blood cells. Vitamin E also provides powerful antioxidant protection. Atlantic salmon, avocado, rainbow trout, almonds, and hazelnuts are excellent sources of vitamin E.
Trace Minerals - Zinc, copper, and selenium have been shown to be important to immune system functioning. In particular, zinc may help reduce the duration and symptoms of the common cold.
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