Our immune system does a great job protecting us from infections, whether from viruses, bacteria or other germs that make us sick.
And if any of these microbes do break through our defences and make us sick, the immune system can spring into action, fighting the invaders and restoring us back to full health. But does the immune system need help to work effectively? Could we do a better job at helping our body defeat these tiny microorganisms?
This question has gotten more attention than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of us wondering how to boost our immune system. But the answer is not always simple.
There are many factors that could impact our immune system: from the food we eat to how stressed we are and how often we visit the gym. Although there is no magic recipe for strong immunity, boosting our general health and wellbeing should give us extra ammunition against invading microbes.
Here is what you need to know about the different ways to strengthen the immune system by improving your general health.
Eating different foods is key for a strong immune system, to make sure you’re not missing out on important nutrients that your body needs. Aim for a good mix of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and, depending on your dietary choices, dairy and meat or animal-free alternatives. Don’t forget that germs can make a breakthrough via your digestive system too, so probiotics such as yoghurt and fermented foods can help give the good bacteria in your gut a boost.
Another good rule is to reduce the amount of processed foods, salt and sugar in your diet and replace them with fruit snacks or whole grain alternatives. Smoothies are a great way to add a healthy combination of fruits and vegetables to your daily routine that is also delicious and can satisfy nagging sugar cravings.
Check out our article on immunity-boosting foods for more helpful tips.
Research1 shows that sleep can enhance our body’s defences. Good quality, uninterrupted sleep is another way to strengthen the immune system. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding using your phone or other electronic devices just before bed time can be very helpful if you’re struggling to get enough hours of sleep.
Emotional stress might also throw off the immune system2, especially if it’s prolonged. Finding ways to manage stress levels is not always easy, but there are a few tactics worth trying such as meditating, journaling, connecting with people and spending more time outdoors. Don’t forget that you can always talk to a health professional whenever you’re struggling to cope with stress. Your GP will help you find the right solution that works for you.
Wondering how to boost your immune system even more? One of the best things you can do for good health is to start exercising regularly. Any type of exercise will do, whether it’s weight training, swimming, going out for a bike ride or even walking. The NHS recommends to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity and do strengthening exercises for your muscles at least two days a week.
Washing your hands with warm water and soap is one of the best ways to keep germs away. But good hygiene practices should also be at the top of your mind when cooking. Remembering to keep surfaces clean, separating raw meat from the rest of the products and washing containers thoroughly is key to protecting ourselves from dangerous bacteria.
There are a few nutrients you should know about if you’re trying to boost your immunity. They contribute to the good functioning of your immune system and an insufficient daily intake of these important vitamins and minerals might weaken your immune response. That means it’s important to ensure you’re getting plenty of them each day. The good news is that you can take most of these nutrients from a varied and well-balanced diet. Supplements are also available if you’re not always able to get the right amount from the food you eat.
These are some of the essential vitamins and minerals working together to help strengthen the immune system:
Discover more about the vitamins that help our immune system stay strong with our handy article, next.