This blog is about how to boost the immune system.
I have been using these strategies for more than 5 years. And the beautiful thing is, they’ve become a lifestyle.
As a result, I don’t need to think about strengthening my immune system.
In this blog, you discover what the immune system is and which foods weaken it. After, we take a closer look at which foods, vitamins, herbs, and habits boost your immune system.
Let’s improve your immune system now.
- What is the Immune System?
- Foods That Weaken the Immune System
- Foods to Boost Immune System
- Best Herbs for Immune Boosting
- Immune Boosting Vitamins
- Exercise for Immunity
- The Best Thing to Boost Your Immune System: Sleep
- How to Boost Your Immune System Day to Day?
1. What is the Immune System?
The immune system exists out of many processes, cells, organs, tissues, and bacteria that all work towards the same goal.
To protect your body from intruders.
Possible intruders are viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.
Your body excretes immune cells in a variety of places throughout the body. In the:
- Bone marrow
- Lymphatic system
Your immune system is constantly on the lookout for invaders. The moment it sees one it mounts an attack to neutralize the threat.
Yet, when your immune system is weak it won’t be able to protect you the way it should. Intruders slip through your defenses and you get sick.
Don’t you want this to happen? Then it’s important to boost your immune system by living a healthy lifestyle.
2. Foods that Weaken the Immune System
Before we have a look at how to boost your immune system, let’s see which foods limit your immune system from functioning properly.
Why do we look at foods that limit immunity?
Because most of your immune system resides in the gut. The place where your food is digested.
Refined sugars provoke inflammation in the gut. Because sugar has nothing your intestine can digest, it moves right through the gut wall into the blood. This confuses your immune system which then responds with what it always does: inflammation.
Unfortunately, refined sugars are everywhere. Processed foods often have some type of sweetener in them. If it’s not described as sugar, it might be called high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, or malt.
This blog discusses the 56 names sugar can be called on a list of ingredients.
Saturated fats are fats from sources like:
- Fatty beef
In addition, saturated fats are added to baked and fried foods to make them crunchy.
It turns out that saturated fats can short-circuit the immune system which leads to an inflammatory response. Over time, such an inflammatory reaction can lead to damage in the liver and intestine.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that only 5-6% of your calories come from saturated fats. With a dietary need of 2000kcal that’s only 13 grams per day.
3. Foods to Boost Immune System
Foods that boost the immune system are rich in antioxidants and fiber. Besides that, probiotics can be beneficial as well. Still, their effect isn’t as significant as that of fiber and anti-oxidants.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants help to fight free radicals. Free radicals are byproducts of natural processes in the body. Besides that, air pollution, cigarette smoke, industrial chemicals, and X-rays produce free radicals as well.
The more we live, the more free radicals our bodies produce.
Free radicals are also called oxidants.
See, how it’s all in the name? Anti-oxidants work against oxidants.
Since free radicals can provoke inflammation, anti-oxidants reduce inflammation.
This is a list of substances that act as anti-oxidants:
- Beta-Carotene & Other Carotenoids you find in orange, red, and deep yellow fruits, and some dark leafy vegetables. Examples are tomatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin C. Found citric fruits like lime, lemon, and orange. And in broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage.
- Vitamin E. This anti-oxidant you encounter mostly in wheat germ, sunflower seeds, avocados, almonds, and olive oil.
- Selenium. The only mineral that we know of so far that acts as an anti-oxidant. Selenium rich foods are fish, meat, brazil nuts, shiitake mushrooms, and whole wheat pasta.
Remember, how I said at the beginning of this blog that the intestine excretes most of the immune cells?
That’s done by millions of bacteria that live there. All these bacteria together are called the gut flora, or microbiome.
Do you know what they love to eat?
We humans don’t process fiber, but the microbiome does.
It eats it to stay strong and healthy.
There are tons of fiber-rich foods but here are some to give you an idea:
- Whole Grain Rice
- Green peas
- Sweet Potatoes
- Squash (Pumpkin)
High fiber foods are sometimes also called pre-biotics. Because they help feed microbiome.
Probiotics are a result of fermentation and are bacteria that are beneficial to your gut flora.
Thus, fermented foods can improve your immune system:
Good sources of probiotics are:
- Kefir (both water and milk kefir)
4. Best Herbs for Immune Boosting
Ginger, turmeric, and garlic are three immune-boosting herbs. I choose to discuss these specifically.
Because there’s a high chance they’re already in your kitchen.
An Ayurvedic herb like Ashwagandha can help boost your immunity as well, but it’s harder to come by.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and has a great flavor. I love to throw it into my food or to make tea.
My go-to tea for when I feel that my body is fighting off a cold:
- 2 cm of ginger
- Juice of a lime
- ¼ teaspoon of chili flakes
- Honey (I add it after pouring the tea in my cup)
Curcumin or turmeric is a strong antioxidant and supports the immune system by reducing inflammation.
But you know what’s the most beautiful thing about turmeric?
You can throw it on all the food you cook. It’s a natural flavor enhancer, it’s part of the curry spice mix and is often used in Indian dishes.
Are you someone that doesn’t like the flavor of curcumin?
Throw half a teaspoon into your smoothie and you’ll never taste it again.
Do you like garlic?
I love it! Up to a certain amount at least.
When I’m sick I sometimes brew a tea of garlic and lime. This combination make the tea bitter and hard to swallow.
Still, it does boost my immune system right away.
For everyday use, garlic is a great tastemaker in almost any dish. Just cut it up, and throw it in.
Are you curious about the recipe that I use when I’m sick?
Take one lime cut in quarters and four crunched dents of garlic. Put in 1 liter of water and boil for 5 minutes. Then wait another 5 minutes and you’re ready to go.
It’s not going to be nice. But it’s worth it.
5. Immune Boosting Vitamins
Here are three that are important for your immune system.
Vitamin A helps the adaptive immune system to respond to unwanted guests in the body. It helps immune cells that kill and clear out intruders.
Good sources of Vitamin A are:
- Sweet Potato
- Winter Squash
The most popular one when we talk about the immune system. Less vitamin C equals less resistance.
Thus, maintaining a high intake of vitamin C will boost your immune system.
Vitamin C can be found in a wide variety of foods and that’s why supplementing is often unnecessary.
You find vitamin C in:
- Brussel Sprouts
Remember that cooking destroys vitamin C. So, either cook your broccoli for 3 minutes or opt for fruits like oranges and kiwis.
Besides being absorbed by the kidney and the liver vitamin D the immune system also uses vitamin D. By connecting with specific immune cells, it helps them to carry out their immune tasks better.
To get enough vitamin D you need to expose yourself to sunlight daily.
Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Clouds, rain or a busy day can all stand in your way.
Thus, if you live in countries where winters are dark it might be an idea to supplement vitamin D.
6. Exercise for Immunity
As a result, you’re better at warding off unwanted intruders. Moreover, the increased blood flow and sweating help your body clear out toxins.
Yet, too much exercise can be counterproductive. Because when you strain your muscles the damage leads to more inflammation in the body. Which in turn deregulates the microbiome.
So, the best thing to do is, exercise often, but don’t force it.
Besides that, aerobic exercise might be the best way to strengthen your immune system. Aerobic exercise is endurance-based sports like hiking, long-distance running, cycling, and mountaineering.
7. The Best Thing to Boost Your Immune System: Sleep
Finally, the thing that strengthens your immune system best.
Do you wonder why?
- Regenerating Tissues
- Saving memories from your short-term memory to your long-term memory
- Growing and repairing tissues
- Replenishing energy
- Releasing hormones like growth hormone
In fact, your immune system uses sleep to adapt to unwanted bacteria. It creates a long term memory that it can use for future recognition of intruders.
Do you want help with boosting your immune system? Maybe health coaching is something for you.
8. How to Boost the Immune System Day to Day?
In this blog post, I discussed a variety of ways to boost your immune system.
The question is, how do you apply them in your daily life?
These are my recommendations:
- Sleep 7-9 hours every night
- Make sure you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, around 8 servings (that’s 800 grams)
- Reduce intake of refined sugars and processed foods as close to 0 as possible
- Replace refined white bread for whole wheat bread. White pasta for whole wheat pasta and white rice for whole-grain rice
- Exercise daily with at least 2 days of heavy exercise each weak – but don’t go over your limit
- Limit alcohol to 0-2 glasses a day
- Use spices like ginger, curcumin, and garlic while cooking
- During winter supplement with Vitamin D
- In case you notice cold or flu-like symptoms brew teas of ginger, curcumin, garlic, and lime to give your immune system a boost
Which of these habits boost your immune system most?
I believe these 3 habits are key to a strong immune system:
- Sleep 7-9 hours every night
- Reduce intake of refined sugar and processed foods as close to 0 as possible
- Eating 8 servings of fruits and vegetables
Boosting your immune system always is a great idea. It doesn’t matter which time of year if you exercise often or if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
A strong immune system helps ward off disease which allows you to do the things you love.
What about you? How do you boost your immune system? Write a comment and tell me about it!