Have you been feeling a bit under the weather lately?
Have you been wondering why that pesky cold that you got a month ago still hasn’t gone away?
Do you immediately get sick after trying a new type of food, while your friends seem to digest it perfectly well?
All of these symptoms could be explained by a weakened immune system.
Your body’s defense against foreign organisms isn’t strong enough to keep you feeling healthy and happy.
But worry not, there are many ways you can boost your immune system, and make sure that treatable illnesses don’t keep you feeling down!
What Is an Immune System?
The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism against harmful pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, infections, allergens, and toxins.
Composed of biological structures (such as cells, tissues, proteins, and organs), your immune system protects you from microorganisms that can be detrimental to your health.
The immune system ensures that your body functions properly, so you won’t get illnesses.
Your immune system actually has two separate systems: the innate and the adaptive.
The innate immune system fights against bacterial infections through the help of white blood cells.
Meanwhile, the adaptive immune system targets specific pathogens in the body that change over time.
The immune system works in three ways, in order to ensure that your body is protected from harmful pathogens:
- It recognizes the harmful substances that have entered your system.
- It neutralizes the pathogens, viruses, and bacteria from doing more damage.
- It fights against cells that have mutated in the body (such as cancer cells).
The immune system is able to accomplish these goals by enabling some of the most important components of the immune system, which include white blood cells called leukocytes.
There are two types of cells: lymphocytes and phagocytes.
In turn, lymphocytes contain two types of smaller cells: B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes.
Both lymphocytes are made in the bone marrow, and start off as B lymphocytes.
But T cells develop when B cells enter the thymus gland.
Also, B cells detect and identify pathogens that enter the body.
But T cells produce antibodies to destroy pathogens that enter our body’s system (1).
Another effect of leukocyte is that it is as essential to your body’s immune system as phagocytes.
Phagocytes are white blood cells that destroy microorganisms that enter your body by engulfing it (2).
You can protect and boost your immune system, in order to ensure the normal functioning of white blood cells.
Then you can consume a healthy diet that’s comprised of proportioning food from various food groups (such as sufficient carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals), drinking enough water, getting adequate sleep, and maintaining the endocrine system (which works closely with your immune system to maintain bodily functions) (3).
You might think that taking the extra step to drink many liters of water every day or take a multivitamin every morning is a pain, but your body will thank you when you’re able to fight off infections and colds.
Problems that a Weak Immune System Can Cause
You might think that having a weak immune system just means that you’re more susceptible to colds and that the flu will last longer.
But that isn’t the case.
Having a weak immune system means being vulnerable to illnesses that can be severely detrimental to your well-being.
The immune system doesn’t just fight off viruses.
It ensures that all the other systems of your body are functioning efficiently.
If your innate, acquired immune systems aren’t well-equipped to defend your body from harmful pathogens, you will be highly vulnerable to illnesses and diseases.
So if any of your body’s systems malfunction, it can have execrable, long-term effects.
So here some problems that a weakened immune system can cause:
Asthma is caused by an overactive immune system.
Asthma is typically triggered when your respiratory system is exhausted and comes into contact with dust, smoke, or pollen.
It results in severe wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing (4).
Like asthma, eczema is caused by an overactive immune system.
Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema cause dry skin, and severe cases can cause rashes and hives to develop all over your body (5).
Allergic rhinitis is one of the most common problems caused by a weakened immune system.
If you have an allergy to dust, pollen, and molds, you probably have a pretty weakened immune system.
Some of the signs of this problem involve the sniffles, runny nose, and watery eyes (6).
If you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, you are likely to have a weaker immune system.
Radiation treatments affect the production and function of B and T cells, which makes you more susceptible to various infections.
Immune System Diseases
An immune system disease is a disease that causes your body’s immune system to lack a vital component to carry out its functions.
The system is slow and inefficient at tackling pathogens that enter our body.
There are four types of immune-system diseases that you can suffer from:
Primary Immune Deficiency
People are born with this immune-system disease.
Some people have typically lower immune systems than others. A person born with a primary immune deficiency does not have a fatal condition.
They just need to put in a little more effort at boosting and protecting their immune system.
A person born with this deficiency should be well-aware of their condition from a young age.
But a more severe case of primary immune-deficiency disease is SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency).
People with this highly fatal immune disease have an exceedingly weak immune system caused by dysfunctions in the B and T cells (8).
If a person with SCID is exposed to the outdoors, it can be fatal.
Acquired Immune Deficiency
You can acquire an immune deficiency when you are undergoing certain treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Radiation hampers the white blood cells in your body, but this immune deficiency is very temporary.
Likewise, other temporarily acquired immune deficiencies can occur when you catch the flu, mono, or the measles (9).
Your immune system can also be weakened by making unhealthy choices, such as smoking, drinking, and not maintaining a healthy diet (10).
One of the more prominent examples of this kind of deficiency is HIV/AIDS (11).
After getting the virus, your body can develop an immune deficiency disease that weakens the overall immune system of the body.
It’s the most severe acquired immune deficiency diseases, as it has no cure and can be fatal if not treated.
Allergic Reactions (Overactive Immune System)
While some people have to deal with a weakened immune system that doesn’t do a good job, others may have to deal with an overactive immune system.
When you have an overactive immune system, your body has allergic reactions to substances that are typically harmless, such as certain foods, dust, and pollen (12).
Ironically, some of the conditions that are caused by an overactive immune system are the same as the ones caused by a weakened immune system: asthma (which affects the lungs and the respiratory tract), eczema (which results from severe allergic reactions of the skin), and coughing and sneezing (when in contact with allergens).
These immune-system diseases are some of the most severe types: the body begins to attack its own tissues, so your body turns against you (13).
There is no known cure for these autoimmune diseases, but it can be treatable through medication and lifestyle changes.
Some of the more common autoimmune diseases include Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Age and Immunity
As we begin to age, our immune system begins to decline as well (14).
Although there is no scientific evidence about the link between a weaker immune system and age, the evidence does show that after the age of 65, your immune system extensively deteriorates.
There are many signs that your immune system is weakening with age.
You might not be able to recover from illnesses as quickly as you used to.
Therefore, you might catch colds and cases of flu more often.
Also, your wounds might take longer to heal, and you might be more susceptible to immune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes and arthritis.
Similarly, respiratory diseases and pneumonia are leading causes of death in people over 65, which aren’t typically fatal for younger people.
These results might be due to the T cells in your body, and the number of them decreases, due to the atrophy of the thymus gland.
In addition to your white blood cell count decreasing, these cells are less efficient at fighting against bacteria and viruses (15).
Many scientists also speculate that your immune system weakens, due to the bone marrow not being able to efficiently produce white blood cells.
Another reason why age might cause a weaker immune system is that of a common condition called “micronutrient malnutrition” (16).
This common form of malnutrition is found in the elderly.
In this condition, your body is deprived of the essential vitamins and minerals that it needs, in order to ensure a strong immune system.
If you are over 60 and notice signs of a weakened immune system, you should probably see a geriatric nutritionist who can guide you in taking the supplements that you need.
But besides dietary deficiencies, older people might be more susceptible to illnesses, due to their response to vaccines (17).
Studies have shown that influenza vaccinations are much less effective in people nearing their late 60s.
Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Improve Your Diet
Eating the right amount of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and sugars is essential for boosting your immune system (18).
When you eat the right foods, your body receives the right energy source for functioning properly.
Your organs need certain vitamins and minerals that you can get from fresh, whole foods (such as folic acids, zinc, iron, and selenium).
Since the immune system is composed of a variety of tissues, cells, and proteins, it is vital for ensuring that it receives adequate nutrients.
Although eating a well-balanced, healthy diet is important to maintaining overall health, it is particularly important to boosting your immune system.
However, it is unknown whether consuming the necessary micronutrients decreases the development of diseases or directly strengthens the immune system.
But people who make better food choices are usually less likely to develop certain illnesses.
But if you maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet or you simply don’t have the pallet for certain foods, you can take vitamins and herbal supplements to compensate for the nutrients that you’re not receiving.
If you take a multivitamin a day or mineral supplement, it can be very beneficial to boosting your immune system.
Opt for Organic
Eating right is one thing, but eating organic foods is on a whole other level.
Processed foods can be detrimental to health, as they have a variety of chemical additives that shouldn’t enter your body.
So it is important to eat foods that are naturally and organically grown without any harmful chemicals and preservatives.
Now, you might think that eating organic foods sounds like it’s going to hurt your wallet.
Whole-grown foods (which are grown without the use of harmful chemicals) are more expensive because nature doesn’t grow crops perfectly (unless it has a helping hand from science).
But eating organic foods will immensely benefit you in the long run.
Organic foods are grown without the use of harmful pesticides and insecticides.
They are sprayed with natural repellants and grown with natural compost.
This procedure ensures that the foods that you are eating are not tainted with substances that can alter the food’s composition.
According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2014, organically grown crops had 18 to 69% more of a concentration of antioxidants.
Growing the food organically also ensures that the vitamins and minerals are retained.
So the next time you go grocery shopping, look for foods that come straight from natural farms!
Antioxidants are one of the most valuable agents in boosting the immune system, as these substances have the capability to remove oxidizing elements that enter your body (19).
Some common foods that have antioxidants include elderberries, artichokes, pecans, wild berries, red wine, cranberries, dark chocolate, and blackberries.
Antioxidants help fight free-radical damage and prevent the development of cancer cells, thus boosting your immune system.
Since your body produces free radicals due to cellular reactions, antioxidants get rid of the byproducts and detoxify your body.
Free radicals can alter your body’s DNA, lipids, and proteins (20).
So antioxidants prevent damage from occurring by interacting with free radicals to neutralize and terminate the substances.
This process of neutralization prevents vital molecules from being damaged (21).
When the free radicals in your body are controlled, your immune system can be strengthened, and your overall health can be maintained.
Throughout this article, you will see a list of foods that contain antioxidants — because this substance is vital to boosting your immune system.
Without antioxidants, the oxidative-stress levels in your body would be off the charts, and your immune system would suffer the consequences.
Ginger has a countless number of benefits, especially boosting the immune system.
It has anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant properties that are very beneficial to our body (22).
As an antioxidant, ginger can help cleanse your lymphatic system, and remove accumulated toxins in your body (23).
In addition, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties.
When gingerol, a constituent of ginger, interacts with vanilloid subtype 1 (a receptor that’s sensitive to heat and pain), it can modulate the calcium levels in your body (25).
As an anti-carcinogenic substance, ginger has been shown to reduce and suppress the effects of a variety of cancers, such as lymphoma, hepatoma, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, liver cancer, and bladder cancer.
Its anti-carcinogenic ability is enabled by ginger’s ability to induce apoptosis, decrease proliferation, cause cell-cycle arrest, and suppress activator proteins that increase the creation of cancer cells (26).
You can incorporate ginger into your diet by adding it to your food or drinking ginger tea.
You can chop some pieces of ginger, boil it in water for a few minutes, and add a teaspoon of honey for sweetness.
Unlike ginger, Echinacea is not a common herb.
But you can find it in the form of herbs, dried leaves, pills, and tea at your nearest convenience store or pharmacy.
A study conducted by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2012 concluded that participants who took Echinacea supplements with a cold got better than participants who did not (27).
Therefore, Echinacea has powerful immune system stimulants, due to its chemical composition.
It has been shown to help treat acute upper-respiratory infections.
Although Echinacea cannot prevent colds and upper-respiratory infections, it can treat the illness when the symptoms first arise (28).
As an herbal substance, Echinacea has antimicrobial properties that control the activities of enzymes and the rate of cell receptors, which protect the body from infections.
However, Echinacea might not directly help boost your immune system, as it is not a preventive substance.
But the herb can definitely ensure that your cold is gone within a couple of days of taking it in any form.
Drinking red wine in moderation has many health benefits, most of which are scientifically proven.
Red wine contains a plethora of antioxidants, vitamins, and polyphenols that are essential to boosting your immune system.
Red wine contains polyphenols that have the ability to reduce Coronary Heart Disease Symptomatology (29).
Polyphenols help release cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-12, interferon (IFN)-gamma, and IL-10, as well as immunoglobulins, which will help protect you against various immune diseases (30).
Polyphenols are able to stimulate both innate and adaptive immune responses, in order to ensure the healthy functioning of the immune system cells in peripheral blood.
Resveratrol, a type of polyphenol found in red wine, also helps aid many of the body’s systems (31).
It can help reduce the chances of type 2 diabetes, improve cardiovascular health, and keep away common colds (32).
So the next time you need to choose a drink, opt for a glass of red wine, and see how it boosts your immune system.
Green tea seems to be the nectar of the gods these days.
Every article and website claims that it has near-magical properties.
But the benefits of green tea have been scientifically proven.
Not only does green tea help soothe sore throats, aid weight loss, and help maintain blood sugar and caffeine levels, it can help boost your immune system.
Epigallocatechin gallate is also fighting cancer, obesity, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.
The theanine and γ-aminobutyric acid found in green tea can also help reduce your blood pressure and regulate neurological functions (34).
Drinking two cups of green tea a day can help combat a variety of diseases, and boost your overall immune system.
Start today by buying a pack of green tea leaves from your nearest organic grocery store!
The vitamin D levels in your body might not seem that important at boosting your immune system, as it is a vitamin commonly associated with maintaining good bone health and calcium levels in the body.
Vitamin D helps boost your immune system through its effects on your body’s innate immune system.
It plays an important role in the innate antimicrobial response of the body — when Toll-like receptors (TLR) engage and produce bactericidal peptides, which are harmful to the body (36).
In humans, vitamin D can be obtained in the body via the synthesis of sunlight (through the skin or the diet).
Foods such as egg yolks, fatty fish, beef, liver, and other protein-rich foods contain vitamin D.
Your body needs around 50 nmol/L of vitamin D to maintain overall health.
Cut Down on Simple Sugars
Simple sugars are one of the worst substances that you can put in your body.
Known as the slow killer, this highly addictive substance is found in nearly every processed, packaged food.
Simple sugars are simply not good for your health, but they are even worse for your immune system.
Therefore, simple sugars suppress immune-system cells that are essential to fight against bacteria.
Sugarcane molasses, a form of natural, simple sugars, enhances the levels of inflammatory biomarkers in the body, which attenuates the body’s ability to fight against viruses (37).
Eating starchy foods and white carbohydrates also significantly increase your blood-sugar levels.
This impact causes the activation of the innate immune system, as pro-inflammatory cytokines are excessively produced and anti-inflammatory cytokines are reduced (38).
When anti-inflammatory cytokines decrease in your body, you are more susceptible to chronic and immune-system diseases.
Try switching to honey, agave nectar, brown bread, brown rice, and other foods with complex carbohydrates.
Your body is composed of more than 70% water, so it is an important component to ensuring its proper functioning.
Drinking at least eight glasses (preferably more) can help maintain the body’s fluid levels, hydrate the muscles, and improve the functioning of your body’s bowel system.
So you might be thinking: how does staying hydrated help boost the immune system?
Well, the effects of drinking enough water every day might not directly help boost the immune system, but the effects are present.
For instance, maintaining the hydration levels in the body ensure that your body’s thermoregulation is maintained as well.
When your body temperature is maintained, the body’s systems can function properly.
Thus, your immune system can work efficiently to combat infections and viruses (39).
Similarly, hydration ensures smooth bowel movements, which further ensure the prevention of gastrointestinal bacterial infections, kidney stones, and renal failure (40).
Water is good for the body in every way possible.
So replace your morning coffee, juice, or soda with a glass of water, and see how life-changing it can be.
Citrus Fruits (Vitamin C)
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and guavas, are jam-packed with nutrients that can help boost your immune system.
These fruits are the richest sources of vitamin C, the MVP of boosting immune systems.
You might have seen commercials of vitamin C tablets curing colds, and you might have heard old wives’ tales about drinking orange juice to cure colds.
That’s because vitamin C can actually help strengthen your immune system.
Vitamin C can help you get rid of your cold in a couple of days, so the best way to intake this vitamin is through concentrated or natural fruit juices (41).
Also, studies have shown that during infections and stress, vitamin C concentrations in the body’s immune-system cells rapidly decline (42).
Taking vitamin C supplements during infections and stressful situations helps improve the immune system’s antimicrobial activities and lymphocyte proliferation, and it maintains the redox capability of the cells to prevent oxidation and inflammation (43).
So try incorporating citrus fruits into your diet, or take a vitamin C supplement to get that extra kick to boost your immune system.
You will definitely be grateful for it the next time you catch a cold, and it goes away in a couple of days.
The old saying goes “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
But in actuality, it seems as though “a clove of garlic a day keeps the doctor away.”
Garlic has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties that can help boost your immune system.
Garlic contains active compounds, such as diallyl disulfide (DADS), diallyl sulfide (DAS), and alliin.
They block the oxidative-stress response that helps reduce inflammation (44).
As helping reduce inflammation and prevent oxidation ensures a strengthened immune system, garlic is the way to go.
Various research has shown that garlic also has anti-carcinogenic properties (45).
However, it can ensure the amount of garlic you need to consume, in order to see its effects.
But according to WHO guidelines, these daily doses are adequate: 2 to 5 g of fresh garlic (approximately one clove), 0.4 to 1.2 g of dried garlic powder, 2 to 5 mg of garlic oil, and 300 to 1,000 mg of garlic extract (46).
But don’t worry, you don’t have to gingerly bite down on a clove of raw garlic during your meal.
Instead, you can incorporate garlic into your diet by adding garlic powder, garlic oil, and freshly chopped pieces of garlic to any meal.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for living a healthy lifestyle and having a strong immune system.
Sleep allows your body to regenerate and rest.
Without getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day, you may be vulnerable to illnesses, and you may face the dire consequences of sleep deprivation.
For instance, a lack of sleep hinders the production of vital T cells and promotes the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (47).
Similarly, a study conducted by the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center tested the effect of sleep patterns on the immune system of 11 pairs of identical twins.
The results showed that the twin who received fewer hours of sleep had a lower antibody response to vaccines, and was more susceptible to catching a cold.
Thus, it proved that sleep does affect the functions of your immune system (48).
So try and get enough sleep, and make sure that you get quality sleep.
Cook with Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the most versatile oils on the market, and it is much cheaper than olive oil and almond oil.
Coconut oil seems to be able to do everything, including providing benefits to your hair and skin and working magic on oral hygiene.
You can even cook with coconut oil, which is much healthier for you than most oils.
It is anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic.
The oil can help attenuate chronic inflammations in the body and sooth internal aches.
Since it is also rich in unsaturated fats, cooking with coconut oil (compared to other oils) can lower your cholesterol levels (49).
Just make sure that the coconut oil that you purchase is virgin coconut oil, which has not been processed or refined.
But other than that, you can just enjoy the health benefits of coconut oil, and the flavor that it can add to your food.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is a leading cause of a plethora of diseases and illnesses.
So it is vital to maintaining a healthy weight by exercising, eating a healthy diet, getting the right nutrients, and staying fit.
However, maintaining a healthy weight might be more difficult for some than others, which is due to genetic composition.
But in this case, you might be on either end of the weight spectrum — underweight or overweight.
Being underweight entails that your body isn’t getting the necessary nutrients to function properly, which can make you prone to infections, illnesses, the slower healing of wounds, and excessive fatigue (50).
Similarly, being overweight can lead to avoiding diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic illnesses (51).
Therefore, obesity is characterized by chronic inflammation that hinders the proper circulation of nutrients and metabolic components in the body, which causes your immune system to do its job a little less effectively (52).
But regardless of which end of the weight spectrum you’re currently on, your immune system cannot efficiently and effectively combat viruses and infections if you don’t maintain your overall health.
So be conscious of your lifestyle choices, and start making the right decisions for your health.
Eat Foods Rich in Zinc
Many of the nutrients that are found in food have a positive effect on the immune system.
But zinc is an essential mineral that boosts your immune system because it helps to produce and repair cells that are essential to maintaining it (53).
Zinc acts as a catalyst and regulatory ion for enzymes and proteins, and for the body’s homeostasis, thus promoting and regulating the body’s immune-system responses.
Studies have shown that taking extra zinc supplements to get an adequate amount for 1-2 months can reduce the susceptibility of the body’s immune system.
Therefore, a zinc deficiency leads to dysfunctions in the immune system, as zinc is a mediator of the body’s innate immunity, neutrophils, and NK cells.
It regulates the growth and functions of T and B cells as an antioxidant and prevents free-radical damage to the body during conditions of extreme inflammation (54).
So to ensure that you are getting sufficient zinc in your body, try eating foods, such as oysters, beef, chickpeas, spinach, nuts, and beans.
Eat Foods Rich in Selenium
Firstly, selenium is essential for the proper functioning of the various components of the immune system, such as neutrophils, macrophages, NK cells, and lymphocytes.
Selenium also has anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-oxidative properties, which can boost your overall immune system and your health (55).
Selenium contains antioxidant-glutathione peroxidases, which has the ability to protect neutrophils from free-radical damage (56).
This nutrient has also shown the capability to boost the immune system, combat the development of cancer cells, and attenuate the effects of influenza and asthma in the body (57).
Its essential antioxidant properties are the main reasons why selenium is such an effective immune-system booster.
It ensures that it is maintained and that oxidative stress is reduced.
Foods that contain high levels of selenium include beef liver, sardines, Brazil nuts, halibut, yellow-tailed tuna, and chicken.
But if you aren’t a big fan of meat, opt for selenium supplements, in order to get the adequate amount for your body.
Try Dark Chocolate
You might be thinking: how could eat something as delicious as chocolate boost your immune system and benefit your body?
But dark chocolate, unlike your typical milk or white chocolate, is made from cocoa butter.
So it contains a higher concentration of cocoa powder, which is much healthier for you.
Dark chocolate also contains more iron, magnesium, vitamin E, and antioxidants, which are keys to boosting the immune system.
Dark chocolate is considered an antioxidant because it contains polyphenols.
The polyphenols found in dark chocolate have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that induce the release of nitric oxide, which results in vasodilation.
Therefore, it improves cardiovascular health and modifies the functioning of t-cells (an essential component of the immune system) (58).
A variety of studies have shown the positive effects of dark chocolate on patients who have cardiovascular, neurological, intestinal, and metabolic issues (59).
So who knew that eating something as delicious as dark chocolate could be so beneficial to your health?
But make sure that you check the cocoa concentration of dark chocolate before you purchase it — because the higher the concentration, the better it is for your health (but just as bitter).
Eat Some Avocados
From avocado smoothies to salads and toast, this green goodness is currently the media’s most talked-about health trend — and for good reason.
The taste of avocados might take some getting used to, and they can be expensive.
But avocados contain healthy fats, amino acids, and antioxidant properties that can help boost your immune system.
The amino acids and healthy fats contained in avocados also promote heart health and ensure a maintained regulation of your hormone levels.
These amino acids can also help promote immune-cell production and repair, which ensure the proper functioning of your immune system (61).
Avocado’s high nutritional value also includes fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are essential to maintaining overall health.
They also contain vitamin E, a nutrient that has the antioxidant properties needed to facilitate the immune system (62).
The vitamin E found in avocados also helps replenish an aging immune system and promotes the production of t-cells, in order to prevent the body from acquiring immune-system diseases (63).
Salmon is one of the healthiest fishes that you can add to your diet.
Not only is it a very flavorful fish, it’s also one that can be fried, steamed, or baked.
This fish is packed with nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce acute inflammation in the body and boost your immune system.
This anti-inflammatory effect caused by consuming salmon can lead to an improvement in the production of cytokines (64).
The omega-3 fatty acid present in salmon also has the ability to improve the functioning of the immune systems of older people.
As people age, the efficient functioning of their immune system degrades, and the risk of acquiring an autoimmune or infectious disease increases.
Studies have shown that adding long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to the diet helps modulate the immune-system response and improve the functioning of the immune-system cells.
Therefore, it improves the ability of the immune system to destroy pathogens and bacteria.
This impact ensures that your body is capable of protecting itself against diseases and chronic infections.
So try a new recipe with salmon, or take supplements to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Most people will tell you that sugar is horrible for your health (and it is: it’s eight times more addictive than cocaine.)
But if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you can simply go without munching on sweet things.
However, instead of adding a dash of sugar to your morning coffee or dousing your pancake batter with refined sugar, opt for honey.
Unlike most sugars, honey is not refined and packed with harmful preservatives, and it has therapeutic properties that are actually good for your health.
Also, the phenolic compounds that are found in honey contain anti-carcinogenic, antithrombotic, and analgesic properties, which help fight against free-radical damage in the body (66).
Honey also acts as an antimicrobial agent to reduce the body’s susceptibility to infectious diseases.
So use honey to sweeten your food from now on!
You might have heard of how probiotic yogurt promotes good gut bacteria.
It is necessary for promoting the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract because it protects the body from antigens contained in food.
Therefore, consuming foods that contain probiotics can help promote the gut’s defense barrier against harmful pathogens.
Probiotics help balance the functioning and control over the activities of both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines.
This impact maintains a healthy balance in the body’s immune system — which is essential to ensure a delicate balance between the innate and adaptive immune system responses of the body (67).
Probiotics maintain this healthy balance by modulating the production and functioning of macrophages, T-cells, and other vital components of the immune system (68).
You can get your daily dose of probiotics by eating yogurt (a food that contains one of the highest levels of probiotics), sauerkraut, miso soup, and other foods that have undergone fermentation.
Get an Annual Checkup
You’ve heard the saying “prevention is better than treatment.”
Getting an annual checkup is essential to ensuring that your body is functioning as it’s supposed to and that you aren’t harboring any illnesses that might haunt you in the future.
You might not think that getting an annual checkup can boost your immune system, but it can surely help you know if you need to boost your immune system or not.
In other words, you don’t need to visit your general physician.
You just need to get your blood work done and check for cancerous growths, sugar levels, and heart health.
It’s important that you take your annual medical checkup seriously because you never know what illnesses might be festering in your body.
Negligence will not only hamper your health but your wallet as well.
Focus on Your Hygiene
Having good hygiene isn’t just confined to washing your hands after using the restroom, or taking showers every day.
Maintaining good hygiene means making sure that your body doesn’t become the ideal habitat for bacteria and infections to grow in.
In other words, you should be taking the necessary steps to avoid contracting any bacterial infections.
You can accomplish this goal by eating well-cooked foods with clean utensils, treating wounds, and covering your mouth and nose when you are around people who have colds.
It might seem a bit exhausting to take extra precautions, but it will definitely ensure that you have good health and happiness — because you’re not coughing, sniffling, and suffering from stomach issues.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Remember when you sat at the dinner table with your parents, and pushed the limp pieces of spinach around your plate as you avoided putting them in your mouth?
Well, that might not have been your best idea.
Dark, leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, arugula, and broccoli) are superfoods.
These vegetables contain ample amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
The vitamin A present in dark, leafy, green vegetables helps promote the innate immune response of the body since it further promotes the function of neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells (69).
Vitamin A also helps facilitate the immune-system response of the body, maintains lymphocyte activation, and promotes the repair of T-helper cells (70).
The magnesium found in dark, leafy, greens is also essential for reducing inflammation, apoptosis, and the dysfunctions present in the innate immune-system cells (71).
Flaxseeds are fiber crops that are typically cultivated in cooler regions.
Now, you might think that these tiny brown seeds might not do much, but they pack a lot of necessary nutrients that will help boost your immune system.
These seeds are high in fiber, alpha-linolenic acid, anti-carcinogenic properties, and omega-3 fatty acids.
They also contain phytoestrogens, which help keep your body’s immune system working efficiently and effectively, in order to combat infections and autoimmune diseases (72).
As flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid, they have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to relieve the body of oxidative stress and chronic injuries (73).
You can incorporate flaxseeds into your diet by adding them to your food or use the powdered version of them in every meal.
Flaxseeds also work well in bread, smoothies, oatmeal, and pancakes.
But worry not, these seeds don’t have a strong enough flavor to overpower the taste of your food.
Oatmeal (or porridge, weird milky lumps, or whatever you want to call it) is one of the healthiest foods that you can eat.
But that doesn’t mean that you should force yourself to eat food that looks less-than-appetizing because there are so many recipes and additives that can make your bowl of oatmeal look more inviting.
Try adding a dash of cinnamon, honey, and almond milk to your next bowl of oatmeal, and see how much better it tastes.
But if you’re not a fan of these enhancers, you can always opt for bananas, dried fruits, nuts, and even unsweetened dark chocolate chips, which that jazz up any boring bowl of oatmeal.
Fiber helps keep your bowel movements clean and smooth, which is important for boosting your immune system.
The nutrients that are absorbed in your intestine are necessary for giving the components of the immune system the energy to efficiently function (75).
So the next time you see a bowl of oats, don’t avoid it, embrace it!
Practically anything and everything that you cook with or eat contains oils.
It’s practically impossible to avoid consuming oil unless you like bland foods and steam everything that you eat.
But the rest of us enjoy a bit of flavor in our foods, so cooking with oil is essential.
However, saturated oils aren’t that good for your health, and are even worse for your heart.
So if you want to avoid clogged arteries and cholesterol levels that skyrocket, opt for olive oil.
It’s one of the healthiest oils that you can cook with (or put in your hair and on your body).
Also, olive oil has the capability to modulate the body’s immune-system responses (76).
Although eating olive oil may not solely combat the pathogens in the body, it will surely protect you from clogged arteries and high cholesterol levels.
But overall, olive oil can promote the body’s immune system and make sure that you are eating healthily.
So the next time you’re making a salad, cooking meat, or sautéing some veggies, use extra-virgin olive oil.
Get Some Exercise
Although there is no direct relationship between exercise and a stronger immune system, exercise is important to improving your overall health.
And maintaining overall health means having a stronger immune system.
Exercising daily ensures better cardiovascular health, muscle health, and good circulation throughout the body (77).
The brief rise in body temperature while exercising can also help fight against bacterial infection.
Studies have also shown that adequate physical activity can help flush toxins out of our body, which prevents bacterial infections (78).
Exercise is also a great way to release stress-relieving endorphins in your body.
You don’t have to hit the gym 6 times a week or start running 5k a day.
Just start by taking a 30-minute walk around your block, and go from there.
If you are beginning your journey into an active lifestyle, doing light to moderate cardiovascular workouts every day is also sufficient.
Stress seems to be the cause of a plethora of disorders and diseases.
Although it might not be a direct cause, it can surely weaken your immune system.
And as we know by now, a weak immune system equals an increased susceptibility to illnesses (79).
If you are constantly worried about something, take some time to analyze the root cause.
Stress is detrimental to your own health, and it has very few benefits.
There have been many correlations between stress and hives, heart disease, and upset stomachs.
Stress takes a toll on your mind and body in a gradual way, but the signs of stress are not always conspicuous.
So you might have to take a step back and look at what’s stressing you out.
Heaping copious amounts of tension onto yourself isn’t just detrimental to your efficiency, but also your immune system.
Ever gotten sick after a week of stressing out? If yes, there you have it!
So wind down and de-stress.
Take a walk, light some candles, go on vacation, do some yoga, meditate, or hit the gym.
There are many ways you can reduce your stress, but it all starts with the choices that you make and the mindset that you develop.
Although boosting your immune system is the goal, you must take the necessary precautions to protect your immune system, and make sure that the changes that you are making don’t do more harm than good.
If you know that you have a comparatively weak immune system, you should be more aware of how you handle foods and go about your daily life.
But worry not.
Here are some precautions that you can take if you have a weakened immune system:
Wash Your Hands
Being germ-free might seem to be one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from viral infections and bacteria (80).
But when you’re in public places and in situations that are less than salubrious, it might be a tad harder to get rid of germs.
That’s where hand sanitizers and wipes come in.
If you know you’re going to wind up in some sticky situations, make sure that you have them handy.
Practice Food Safety
Practicing food safety is vital to protecting a weakened immune system.
Make sure that you thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before consumption.
Also, you thoroughly ensure that you thoroughly cook meats, store foods properly, and try to avoid eating out.
Maintain Personal Hygiene
Maintaining personal hygiene is essential to protecting a weakened immune system.
Therefore, you must shower regularly, wear clean clothes, take care of your more private areas, and sleep in clean conditions.
Avoid Cuts and Breaks
Having a weakened immune system means that you are more likely to be affected by bacterial infections.
To make sure that you are protected from such infections, make sure that you avoid getting cuts and breaks on your skin.
In other words, protect yourself from bug bites, papercuts, nicks from shaving, and cracked skin.
If you have a cut or a break, immediately use antiseptic to clean the wound, and apply the right ointment to prevent further exposure to bacteria.
Do’s and Don’ts
When you begin a journey to boost your immune system, you’ll start buying fresh foods, trying new supplements, going for a run every morning, and getting enough sleep.
But keep in mind there are some things that you should and shouldn’t do.
Below are four do’s and don’ts of boosting your immune system.
- Your research. Before you go on a shopping spree for vitamin supplements and herbal products, do your research. Some products are just advertised to boost your immune system, but in actuality, they might do little or nothing to improve your health. So before you get started, make sure you consult a doctor or a viable website to find out which supplements work best.
- Keep up with the lifestyle changes. Boosting your immune system isn’t a simple task. It isn’t about being more careful about vitamins and drinking more water. It’s a lifestyle change. Small acts of improvement amass a stronger, healthier immune system. You might not notice the changes immediately, but the next time you get rid of cold within a couple of days, you’ll see the change.
- Keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Drinking ginger tea and using vitamin C capsules may boost someone else’s immune system, but it’s not as effective for you. As you try different methods to boost your immune system, keep track of what works, and thoroughly follow that regiment.
- Feel disheartened. As mentioned before, boosting your immune system for the long haul involves making lifestyle changes. These changes might not show up immediately because the immune system isn’t the most tangible system in your body. So you might still get severe colds and infections that don’t heal as quickly as you want them too. But don’t worry! Stick to the improvements, and you’ll eventually have a stronger immune system.
- Go overboard. As you can see, there are many different ways of boosting your immune system. But that doesn’t mean that you should try them all out. Don’t buy all the supplements that claim to boost your immune system, or eat meals that solely consist of antioxidants. A little goes a long way. So stick to what works for you, and don’t go overboard.
So there you have it!
Your immune system isn’t a tangible part of your body, but you should still start taking care of it since it definitely has a huge impact on your health.
You simply cannot lead a healthy life without a strong immune system.
Therefore, it is vital that you take the necessary steps to boost it.
Although a gigantic list of ways to boost your immune system might seem a bit daunting, you don’t have to incorporate every measure into your daily routine.
You might already be doing a list of things to boost your immune system without realizing it.
So the best way to start is to sit down and think about what you aren’t doing, then continue with what you should be doing.
It begins with taking multivitamins every morning and gradually develops into a lifestyle change that you didn’t know you needed.
But you’ll be thankful when you’re not bedridden with a severe cold every month and an aching gash that won’t seem to heal.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
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