The immune system is a beautifully complex defense system that helps protect us from harmful pathogens, and the concept of "boosting" oversimplifies its intricacies. If you have been researching how to boost your immune system, it is important to understand that our immune system actually can’t be boosted—rather, it requires balance and harmony to function properly.
Read on to learn how you can get proactive and support strong immunity with healthy lifestyle choices, vitamins, minerals and herbs.
How Does Your Immune System Work?
The immune system is a network made up of white blood cells, proteins, and organs including your lymph nodes, gut, skin, tonsils, spleen, and bone marrow. Working together, this network defends the body against bacteria, germs, viruses, parasites, toxins, and fungi. When your body senses an antigen, or invader, it signals to the defense system to gear up, and inflammation can result.
In health, your immune system can sense which cells are yours and which are invaders, so it can attack foreign cells and prevent or limit disease. Your body is smart — it also learns from every encounter you have, creating antibodies that remember those specific germs in case they return.
A little inflammation is good, but too much over time can actually cause disease. One way this happens is through an accumulation of cytokines, a type of protein that helps regulate the immune response. When the body is responding to a pathogen, an overproduction of cytokines can trigger a storm. Instead of your system working strategically to remove the pathogen, it attacks everything around, leading to more damage than protection.
8 Ways to Balance Your Immune System
There are several tweaks you can make in your lifestyle to provide immune support and promote health daily. Some, such as choosing the best immune-boosting foods, involve a little forward thinking as you plan your groceries, while others can be done anytime, anywhere.
Feed your gut bacteria
70 to 80% of your immune cells are in your gut. There’s a direct link between the flora in our microbiome and the strength of our immune systems, so it’s important to feed yourself healthy foods and vitamins if you want to function at your highest level and prevent infections.
A healthy gut microbiome, or the beneficial bacteria that resides in your stomach, can prevent invading pathogens from making it through your digestive tract. To feed your gut flora, you want to consume probiotics, or living microorganisms that encourage balance in your microbiota. You can get probiotics by eating and drinking fermented foods like kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, and coconut probiotic yogurt.
Practice nasal breathing
When you breathe in through your nostrils instead of your mouth, it conditions your breath as it enters the body. Your nose is designed to filter out dust and irritants, increase your oxygen uptake, and humidify air with each breath you take. When you breathe through your mouth, you’re receiving none of these conditioning benefits, and can actually dry out your mouth and worse. If you tend to snore or sleep with your mouth open by habit, “mouth taping” can help you retrain yourself to breathe correctly and strengthen your nasal passages.
Get plenty of sleep
Deep rest is vital to maintaining a healthy immune system. In one study, healthy adults who slept fewer than 6 hours every night were found to be more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep more. Everyone’s different, but aim for at least 7 hours of shuteye each night, keeping in mind that growing bodies will need more.
Take cold showers
There’s a strong and growing body of evidence on the beneficial effects of cold immersion for your health. With an eye to immune health in particular, a 2015 study of over 3,000 adult participants without comorbidities found that the cohorts that took a routine hot-to-cold shower had 29% fewer sick days from work compared to the control group.
Not only does a rainbow of fruits and veggies provide fiber to feed your healthy gut bacteria, but produce also contains juicy antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support a strong immune system. Mushrooms, avocados, broccoli, garlic, cacao, spinach, and a host of other plants provide you with the immune-balancing mineral Zinc, while citrus fruits, red peppers, papaya, and kiwi are among the foods that supply immune superstar Vitamin C.
Healthy fats can also help your body reduce inflammation. Look to nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil for Omega fatty acids that will help protect your body.
Physical activity is a great way to help stimulate circulation in your body and keep things generally running smoothly. And the good news is that exercise can start working immediately to promote immune health. Research shows that even one session of moderate exercise can improve the effectiveness of vaccines in those whose immune systems are compromised. Try to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
A hydrated body is a body that’s much less at risk for falling prone to disease and infection. It’s important to drink plenty of liquids, like water and herbal tea, if you feel yourself getting sick, to help your body regenerate lymphatic cells that naturally fight disease. In your everyday, the average person should aim to drink 64 ounces of water. If you find yourself struggling to remember, set reminders on your phone, or fill a large container and keep it where you work. You may need more fluids if you exercise heavily or live in a hot climate.
Chronic stress undoes so many healthy functions in our body, and one way it can show up is in increased inflammation and imbalanced immune cell function. When our bodies are run down, certain parts are working in overdrive and certain functions are deprioritized, meaning that we’re more vulnerable than usual. Stressful situations, like exams or wedding planning, can often result in a “come-down” crash of falling sick after, so it’s important to limit stress with exercise, mindfulness, and calming tactics whenever possible.
In addition to balancing your stress and immune system, it’s always a good idea to take basic immune health precautions like washing your hands and produce, keeping surfaces in your house clean, and limiting your exposure in places where people are often sick, like waiting rooms and pharmacies. It’s also a good idea to purify your air — houseplants can help.
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Balancing Your Immune System with Vitamins
Ideally, we’d all eat nutrient-dense whole plant foods with every meal and make the above lifestyle choices in support of a healthy immune function. But the reality is that tracking nutrients in your diet is easier said than done, and to err is human. To support a healthy diet efficiently, a steady stream of proven immune allies keeps you balanced and resilient.
- Vitamin C: So how does Vitamin C help immune system function? Studies show that Vitamin C can increase antioxidant levels in your body by up to 30%, helping your body fight free radicals and inflammation.
- Vitamin D: A Vitamin D deficiency can increase your chances of getting sick and experiencing a storm of those cytokine proteins attacking your system.
- Probiotics: In addition to fermented foods, gut-friendly probiotics are available in supplement form.
- Elderberry: Early research suggests that this inky blackberry could reduce symptoms of upper respiratory viral infections.
- Echinacea: One study of over 700 people concluded that those who consumed Echinacea recovered slightly quicker from colds compared to the placebo.
Zinc: Zinc is renowned for its ability to help promote immune health.
In a study of 575 people who had the common cold, participants who supplemented with over 75 milligrams of Zinc per day reduced the length of their colds by 33%.
- Reishi: The Beta-Glucans present in this adaptogenic mushroom can help modulate immunity by activating cells for a quick response.
SuperPower® is clinical strength immune support combining 4 fundamentals: Liposomal Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Chelated Zinc, and Reishi Beta-Glucans. For proactive immune support, take 1 capsule daily. If you need extra support or feel your system is compromised, take 3 capsules every day for 10 days.
Immune health is often one of those things we forget to think about until it’s too late — we’re already on that flight next to someone with a cough, or we get hit with a wave that knocks us out before an interview. Yet our everyday health is so important for accomplishing all that life demands of us. Building a foundation for health is about making healthy choices into daily habits so we can strengthen our body’s natural responses. If you are seeking a strong immune system, Moon Juice has the supplements for you.
- National Library of Medicine, The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33803407/
- System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33803407/
- National Library of Medicine, Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28165863/
- National Library of Medicine, Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26118561/
- National Library of Medicine, The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/
- National Library of Medicine, Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23440782/
- National Library of Medicine, Nutrigenomics of extra-virgin olive oil: A review https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27580701/
- National Library of Medicine, Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26477922/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Water and Healthier Drinks https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/water-and-healthier-drinks.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fhealthywater%2Fdrinking%2Fnutrition%2Findex.html
- National Library of Medicine, Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24798553/
- National Library of Medicine, Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30670267/
- National Library of Medicine, Echinacea for treating the common cold: a randomized trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21173411/
- National Library of Medicine, Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28515951/
- National Library of Medicine, Regulation of Immune Function by Vitamin D and Its Use in Diseases of Immunity https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29080635/
- National Library of Medicine, Effect of five-year supplementation of vitamin C on serum vitamin C concentration and consumption of vegetables and fruits in middle-aged Japanese: a randomized controlled trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12805247/
- National Library of Medicine, Effect of probiotic on innate inflammatory response and viral shedding in experimental rhinovirus infection - a randomised controlled trial https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28343401/
- National Library of Medicine, The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/