25 natural ways to boost your immune system
Most Americans understand the importance of maintaining a healthy regimen that includes a nutrient-dense diet, exercise at least several times a week, and self-care activities to de-stress. But in addition to that being good for a healthy weight and clear skin, and preventative for long-term health issues from cancer to diabetes, taking care of ourselves has the added benefit of boosting our immune systems to ward off everything from the common cold to the flu—or at least help our bodies to fight illness when we get sick.
Our immune systems help to keep bacteria, toxins, and viruses at bay, and prevent us from getting sick from the diseases they cause. Immune systems further help remove unhealthy or infectious cells from our bodies and regulate the body's responses to otherwise harmless activity (whether food or our own bodies).
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the world and numbers continuing to climb in the U.S.—the country outpaced China on March 25 to become the country with the most cases in the world—many doctors and scientists have been weighing in to separate fact from fiction when it comes to natural ways to fight coronavirus. There’s no silver bullet for preventing or fighting COVID-19; but it’s as good a time as any to discuss natural ways to keep our immune systems high-functioning—especially while so many people are stuck inside, unable to visit a gym, and prone to adopting some unhealthy habits.
To that end, Stacker scoured health studies, expert medical advice, nutrition facts, and recent headlines to deliver 25 natural ways to boost your immune system. The gallery includes interesting facts—did you know your body can’t produce vitamin C on its own?—and guidelines for optimizing your water intake and figuring out which foods function as the strongest antioxidants. Keep reading to learn more about 25 ways to naturally boost your immune system.
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Drink more water
The most well-known, surefire way to boost your immune system and overall health is drinking plenty of water. Sufficient hydration (best indicated by, at minimum, light yellow urine) means blood is oxygenated, toxins will be flushed, and vital organs and muscles will function their best.
Supplement with vitamin C
It’s essential to supplement a diet with vitamin C since the body cannot make it. Vital to tissue growth and repair, heart health, bones, teeth, and cartilage, vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables (oranges, broccoli, strawberries) or supplement form.
While no science suggests vitamin C helps in the treatment of COVID-19, and there is nothing to show taking vitamin C will increase immunity to the coronavirus, taking vitamin C supplements are still considered a good way to boost overall immunity and health.
This mineral plays a very similar role to vitamin C in cellular repair and growth, as well as immune strength. Getting zinc into your diet—whether from meat, seeds, nuts, or whole grains—means boosting your body’s ability to fight infection.
Eat plenty of garlic
WebMD calls the bad-breath herb a “low-cal immunity-boosting superstar” and “elixir.” In addition to being delicious, garlic helps battle colds and toxins and is potent enough to counter bacteria and infection. It is most beneficial in its raw form.
Get plenty of exercise
In addition to improving mood and reducing stress, regular exercise is key in maintaining immune health. The CDC highlights its ability to lower the risk of chronic disease and recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise and two days of strength training.
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Enjoy the sauna
Exposing yourself to extremely hot, dry temperatures for short periods is a natural immune-boosting method. The sauna is your friend when considering the benefits of “environmental conditioning”—that is, forcing your body to adjust to extreme heat or cold.
Get enough sleep
Failure to get sufficient sleep increases the likelihood of illness and weakens the body’s ability to recover (deprivation can reduce the circulation of white blood cells), according to the Mayo Clinic. Get the recommended amount (seven to 10 hours) to keep your immune system in top shape to fight infection.
Don’t ignore stress
Chronic stress produces a similar detrimental effect as sleep deprivation. While reducing and managing it may be particularly difficult right now, focusing on its reduction with the same emphasis as diet and sleep is important to avoid suppressing your immune response. Utilize key tools like exercise and deep-breathing.
This natural immune-boosting method is only for those self-quarantining with romantic partners (not a recommendation to find new partners). By having sex, you can both improve your enjoyment of each other’s company (i.e. have fun, exercise, reduce stress) and support your overall health. WebMD mentions its effects on producing an antibody and lowering blood pressure and heart attack risk.
Probiotics play an important role in balancing the gut biome and bacteria. Among their several health benefits (digestion, allergy reduction, heart health), these bacteria can support immune health. They appear naturally in sources like fermented dairy (yogurt) and food (kimchi, sourdough bread).
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