7 Healthy Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System
As if we didn't have enough to think about already, the start of Fall is just 4 weeks away.
And that means cold and flu season is nearly upon us.
Is your immune system ready?
Now is the time to get your immune system in tip-top shape, so it can fight off any infections that come your way.
Here's how to boost your immune system to get your defenses ready.
It should come as no surprise that your diet plays a key role in the health of your immune system.
And if you want to keep your immune system fighting strong, you have to paint your plate with a rich array of colorful foods.
Colorful whole foods are full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, or fighter-nutrients, as I call them.
These are the warriors that support your immune system. The bright, splashy guys who get in there and help your immune system get the job done.
Tops of them all – the big guns – are the orange fighter-nutrients.
These are the foods that are packed with vitamin C.
Anything orange or yellow (think citrus, peppers, and even strawberries or tomatoes) is going to be good for your immune system during cold and flu season – and beyond.
In addition to the "oranges," there are the green fighter nutrients.
The greens are packed with phytonutrients and minerals that are also essential to your immune system.
Leafy green veggies like arugula, broccoli, kale, cabbage, spinach and chard are super fighters when it comes to immunity support.
Eating enough protein each day is also critical to keeping your defenses up, while too little protein can weaken your immune system.
You see, your body needs antibodies to fight off viruses and other infections.
But your body can't make antibodies without amino acids, key compounds that come from consuming protein.
Also, animal foods, like beef, contain zinc, a critical mineral your body uses to make t-cells, key components of your immune system that help thwart infections.
Fermented foods are also great for your immune system.
These types of foods flood your body with good bacteria, which crowd out the bad bugs that can make you sick.
Examples of fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi.
Beyond your diet, there are lifestyle changes you can make to bolster your immune system.
Like getting regular sleep each night.
Without deep, quality sleep, your body won't have the strength to fight off an infection.
Also, when you don't get enough sleep, your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, increase. And, elevated cortisol levels can suppress your immune function.
"Quality time" in the bedroom with your partner can also boost your immunity.
Intimacy with your partner not only lowers levels of immune-suppressing cortisol, it also can rev up your immune system.
You see, making love with your partner once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA).
And, IgA is a key protein that helps your immune system fight colds and the flu.
You know what else helps rev up your immune defenses? Regular exercise.
It not only helps decrease inflammation in the body, but it also improves your circulation.
And when your blood is moving more freely, your immune cells roam your body at a higher rate, looking to snuff out pathogens that could make you ill.
One study found that adults who participated in aerobic activity five or more days a week lowered the number of upper respiratory tract infections (like the common cold) over a 12-week period by more than 40%.
And finally, you want to continue to wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
Handwashing is still your best defense against picking up viruses.
Don't wait for the cold weather to set in.
Get your immune system strong now, so you're not stuck on the sidelines this Fall season.