Updated: April 1, 2020
We are still in the midst of cold and flu season, and in light of recent events, now is the time to find ways to boost your immune system.
In addition to washing your hands often, there are plenty of other ways to boost your immune system and stay healthy. Read on for five simple tips to bolster your immune health to help fight off potential viruses and infections like the common cold.
#1. Get a good night’s sleep
Have you noticed that you’re more likely to get sick when you don’t get enough sleep? It’s not your imagination. Studies have shown that not getting enough z’s can result in higher levels of stress and more inflammation in your body.2 These issues spell trouble for someone who is trying to fight an illness. Studies have also found that well-rested people who receive a vaccine have stronger protection against the illness than their sleep-deprived counterparts.3
Wondering how much sleep you need to stay healthy? Adults need approximately seven to eight hours of sleep to keep their immune system strong.4 In today’s busy world, it can feel almost impossible to get this much rest. But just remember, it’s easier to schedule more time to catch some shut-eye than it is to be out of commission for a week or longer after catching the flu or a viral infection.
#2. Adopt healthy eating habits and follow your rhythm
Eating right is important for more than just weight loss, though research indicates weight loss alone can help improve immune function.Your body needs certain nutrients to function properly and fight off the germs you encounter in daily life. There are certain foods can actually help boost your immune system. Some immune-boosting foods include bone broth, citrus fruits packed with vitamin C, carrots, almonds and more.
A well-balanced diet includes a variety of high-fiber carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It should also be rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain critical vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and E, zinc and beta-carotene. When selecting fruits and veggies, go for brightly colored options, such as berries, apples, carrots and spinach — all of which are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and zinc.
It's also important to not only consider what you eat, but when. Our bodies follow a 24-hour daily cycle, also known as our circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm acts like an internal clock, which reacts to your environment's light and dark phases.5 When regular disruptions occur, such as shift work or lack of sleep, health consequences ranging from metabolic syndrome to mood disorders and beyond may occur.6 What's more—chronic disruptions in your rhythm can impact your immune system,7 which may leave you more susceptible to catching an illness.
So how can you follow your natural rhythm? Besides getting enough sleep, try integrating a daylight nutrition strategy into your routine by eating when it's light out and avoiding late-night meals and snacks. By giving your body a break from digesting food, it can focus on 'cleaning house' and rejuvenating your cells. To learn more about how you can integrate this type of eating strategy, read more here.
#3. Try to stress less
Life can be stressful at times. But long-term stress can make you more vulnerable to everything from the common cold to serious illnesses.8 The reason why is simple. Chronic stress causes your body to be exposed to a constant stream of stress hormones that can suppress your immune system.9
You aren’t alone if you think it’s unlikely to get rid of stress entirely. Everyone experiences stress in life, but you can take steps to manage it. Some excellent options for stress management include meditation, connecting with friends and loved ones and working out. Find a combination of stress relievers that works best for you!
#4. Get your heart pumping
Exercise can not only help alleviate stress and aid in weight loss, but it also has immunity-boosting health benefits. When you break a sweat regularly, you are less likely to get colds than someone who does not exercise as frequently or who does not work out at all.10
For the biggest health benefit, aim for a total of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking and a couple days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all of your major muscle groups.11 Even including a few smaller intervals of activity throughout your day (10-20 minutes) can be beneficial. Not only can this help you fight the flu and other illnesses by boosting your immune system naturally, but it may also help you make progress in reaching your weight loss goals.
When you do hit the gym, make sure to take some extra precautions to protect yourself from germs, especially during flu season. Some helpful tips include wiping down machinery with a towel or a wipe before and after use, washing your hands consistently, and bringing your own water. Alternatively, you can opt for a workout at home or go for a run or walk to stick with your fitness routine.
#5.Toss the cigarettes and alcohol
It comes as no surprise drinking and smoking can make you more prone to illness. Research shows that cigarette smoke and upper respiratory tract infections, like the flu, interact to increase lung inflammation and damage, which can make flu symptoms worse for smokers.12 As for alcohol, drinking too much of it can weaken your immune system’s response against the flu.13
By using these immune-boosting tips, you can help boost your immune system to fight the flu and other illnesses while simultaneously improving your health and wellness.
Are you looking to start a healthier lifestyle? Incorporate healthier foods and get started with your weight loss journey by booking your free appointment with Jenny Craig. You can even get your food delivered straight to your doorstep!
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig