How to Support Your Immune System

How to Support Your Immune System

Publish Date July 7, 2023

Our immune system does many things, but most importantly it fights off illness and foreign invaders. There are many ways we can support our immune system, including consuming foods high in nutrients that play significant roles in immune health. Knowing what our bodies need, and types of foods to best support those needs is key to achieving optimal immune health.

Why Should you Focus on Supporting Your Immune System?

Pathogens, including viruses and bacteria, are always circulating in the environment and are present throughout our immune system. Living a fast-paced, stressful lifestyle where health isn’t a main priority can lead to a weakened immune system. Remember, just because you’re exposed to a pathogen doesn’t mean you’ll feel sick. How well you take care of yourself and how strong your immune system is will determine whether that pathogen gets the better of us or not. The more you focus individually on your health and immune system, the higher chance you’ll have of collectively keeping yourself healthy and safe.

Here are some causes that can lead to a weakened immune system:

  • Excessive stress
  • Inadequate sleep/rest
  • Excess alcohol intake
  • Excess sugar intake
  • Smoking
  • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
  • Not eating enough calories, including protein, carbs and fat
  • Over-exercising
  • Inadequate nutrients, especially vitamins A, C, D and the minerals iron, zinc and omega fatty acids

What Does Your Immune System Need?

First of all, for any system in your body to function optimally, taking care of yourself is essential. Prioritizing eating well, drinking adequate fluids, managing stress, sleeping seven to eight hours each night and being physically active will support a healthy immune system. When any one of these components is disrupted, it will decrease your natural immunity. Getting adequate exercise every day has been shown to enhance white blood cell function, increase circulation of white blood cells and antibodies and even help flush bacteria out of the lungs. And since excess stress can weaken your immunity, managing and relieving stress is also key.

Meditation is a growing technique people are using to de-stress and sleep better, which helps support a strong immune system. Besides meditation, simply making time weekly to do something you love and having time for yourself can help relieve stress.

Foods to Support Your Immune Function

There are certain nutrients that the immune system relies on to carry out its major functions. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, often comes to mind, but the omega fatty acids, vitamins A and D, and the minerals zinc and iron are also essential for peak immune system function. Ensuring that your immune system gets adequate amounts of these essential nutrients is a great way to keep your immune system strong.

Here are some examples of foods that support immune function:

  • Fresh bell peppers, strawberries and citrus fruits, such as oranges or grapefruit: High in vitamin C, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and can also support phagocytosis, the process by which our cells literally eat harmful pathogens.
  • Fatty fish, like salmon: High in vitamin D, which has been shown to help activate immune cells like white blood cells and T cells.
  • Orange vegetables including butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes: High in vitamin A, which helps keep protective mucous membrane barriers strong.
  • Oysters, some red meat, baked beans and pumpkin seeds: High in zinc, which can aid in the development of many immune cells like neutrophils and T & B cells.
  • Beef, lentils and spinach: good source of iron, which helps supply oxygen to cells in the body, including cells of the immune system.
  • Bone broths: Many ancient forms of medicine used bone broths to support immunity by extracting nutrients from the marrow of animals.
  • Grass-fed meat and dairy as well as fatty fish and hemp seeds: Sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which can increase phagocytosis.
  • Speaking of nutrition, studies have shown that fasting can help enhance the immune system as well. It has even been shown to protect against some cancers. Fasting has to be done carefully, in moderation and always check with your doctor before you attempt a fast.

Remember, prioritizing your health is what you should do daily. If you nourish your body appropriately, it will function at its best. Viral and bacterial illnesses peak around college finals, the start of school in the fall and the holidays. These are very stressful times, so managing stress and supporting your immune system during these times is key. When temperatures fluctuate widely, either too low or too high for extended periods of time, this also puts added stress on our bodies. Stay warm in the winter, keep cool in the summer and follow these immune-supporting tips as part of a healthy routine to keep your immune system strong and ready for action. You can also check out this link for more info on vaccines from Kroger Health. Remember, don’t just sit there…be healthy!

Explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

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