Simple tips to help boost your immune system this season!
Why keeping your immune system healthy is so important
Your immune system is a complex system of organs, cells, and proteins that work together with the overall goal to protect you from infection. When the immune system is not functioning optimally, the infection may go unnoticed, or your body may not be able to respond sufficiently, resulting in you feeling sick.
Not only is your immune system your first line of defense, but your immune system impacts your energy, your weight, your mental health, your gut health, your hormones, your brain health, your recovery after a workout, and much more!
Now more than ever, it is critical that you prioritize your immune health. In this post, we’re going to discuss how your food and lifestyle choices impact the health of your immune system so that you can make informed decisions and stay healthy.
The role of your gut on immune health?
Did you know that a large part of your immune system is located in your GI tract? Your GI tract is packed with about 100 trillion bacteria that provide protection and are lined with cells that release proteins to recognize foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc). As a Dietician, I cannot stress enough how much the food you eat impacts your gut health and therefore your immune system.
Foods that boost your immune system
The food you eat can make a major impact on the immune system. When determining what foods to eat to boost your immune system, I look for antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, and vitamins and minerals.
Foods I love for immune health:
- Garlic – antibacterial properties
- Onion – rich in quercetin (a potent antioxidant and natural antihistamine)
- Ginger – helps with detox and inflammation
- Turmeric Root – anti-inflammatory affects
- Oregano – contains antiviral and antibacterial compounds
- Basil – rich in antioxidants
- Parsley – high in Vitamin C
- Apple Cider Vinegar – contains prebiotics which is good for the gut
- Bone Broth – rich in collagen and amino acids which are great for gut health
- Kefir/ Yogurt – contain probiotics for good bacteria in the gut
- Sweet Potatoes and Carrots – high in beta-carotene an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory effects, also rich in Vitamins A and B
- Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, red bell pepper) – high in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory effects
We recommend aiming for 5-7+ servings of fruits and veggies (combined) per day to ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of nutrients. This may sound like a lot, but is easily achieved if you make sure about ½ of your plate is veggies. Remember, veggies don’t have to be boring and can easily be snuck into your meals without affecting its taste. An easy way to do this is by prepping a bunch of veggies at the beginning of the week, so it’s easy for you to grab.
Supplements to boost your immune system
Even with a healthy diet, I recommend most of my clients take supplements as it is often hard to get all the nutrients you need from diet alone.
Supplements I love for immune health:
- Vitamin A (on occasion) – anti-inflammatory
- Vitamin C – high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory
- Vitamin D – so important especially during the winter!
- Elderberry – helps with symptoms of the common cold and anti-inflammatory
- Zinc – helps with symptoms of the common cold
- Ginger – high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory
- Prebiotics and probiotics – important for your gut health
Be sure to consult with a health professional to find the right dosage for you.
Lifestyle changes to boost your immune system
Have you ever gotten sick when you’re really stressed out? That’s because stress can suppress your immune system and why evaluating your lifestyle is important for your immune health.
My top lifestyle tips for immune health:
- Get moving! – move your body for at least 20 minutes every day, but don’t overdo it otherwise you’ll end up stressing out your body and making things worse
- Get outside – getting fresh air can make all the difference on your mental health, plus it has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase immunity
- Practice mindfulness – think: yoga, meditation, and journaling to help reduce stress, and increase gratitude
- Get enough sleep – aim for at least 6 hours per night
- Make time for your family and friends
- Cut back on caffeine and alcohol
- Drink water! Aim for 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day
- Avoid allergens and environmental toxins
Your immune health matters more now than ever, but boosting it does not have to be complicated. Focus on eating a colorful diet and a balanced diet and incorporating the foods I mentioned above daily. Get into the habit of taking daily supplements, whether that be a multivitamin or whatever is recommended by your health professional. Lastly, prioritize yourself by engaging in daily activities to reduce your stress levels.
Not sure where to start, or want to figure out your specific needs? Work with me!