Five Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the specter of infection and illness impacting all aspects of daily life. Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed it may not be widely available for some time, and many scientists predict that similar new threats will emerge in years to come. Recent history has many examples of pandemics including the 1918 H1N1 virus, commonly known as Spanish Flu.

Having a strong immune system is a proven way to reduce the impact of infections and viruses. New drugs and treatments for coronaviruses are emerging, but a naturally strong immune system is the first line of defense. Simple lifestyle and diet changes can improve your body’s ability to fight all kinds of illnesses and increase your chances of survival from even the most severe infections.

The following are natural ways to boost your immune system.

1) Maintain a healthy weight

It’s well known that being overweight increases risks of a range of illnesses including coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes. New evidence suggests it can also impair your immune response. Several factors are involved including decreased cytokine production due to obesity. Cytokines play an important role in the body’s defense system by stimulating the movement of cells towards areas of infection. A report by Public Health England in July 2020 makes a clear link between excess weight and greater risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

2) Nourish your body

Improving your immune system by changing your diet isn’t just about reducing calorie intake for weight loss. Cutting back on junk food and takeaways and filling up on fruit, vegetables and protein can make a big difference to your health. Focus on meals and snacks packed with disease-fighting nutrients. Citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli and spinach are examples of foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Inflammation within the body caused by vitamin deficiencies can complicate the impact of viruses.

3) Support gut bacteria

The importance of gut bacteria for the immune system has only recently been recognized. Diversity is the key to health. A gut populated with many types of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms helps to teach the body’s defense systems the difference between what’s good and bad. Inflammatory response could arise every time you ingest different types of pollen, food additives or non-pathogenic microorganisms in dust or dirt if bacteria within the gut had an adverse reaction.

Prebiotic and probiotic foods promote the growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria. Prebiotics are special types of plant fiber that the human body struggles to digest. They act as a fertilizer to aid the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive system. Probiotics, found in cheese, yogurt and supplements, are live bacteria that live in the intestines and help to maintain good health.

4) Get a healthy amount of sleep

The importance of sleep in both mental and physical health shouldn’t be overlooked. As well as increasing your risk of catching viruses like the common cold, a lack of sleep can impair the time it takes for you to recover. Release of cytokines is a natural process during sleep, so the body builds up its defenses while you rest. The amount of sleep a person needs varies depending on age and other factors, but sleep deprivation is a common problem in the developed world. Between seven and eight hours a night is generally believed to be the optimal amount for healthy adults.

5) Take regular exercise

There has been some debate about the impact of exercise on the immune system, but experts now generally agree it’s beneficial as long as it’s not too strenuous. Physical activity promotes good circulation, and this allows cells and other elements of the immune system to flow through the body. Exercising outdoors has the added benefit of activating the production of Vitamin D within the body, and this can also help to fight viruses and infections.

Stomach complaints, fatigue and frequent minor infections are signs that your immune system may need a boost. The changes suggested in this article will help and will also benefit your general health and wellbeing over time.