Remember when you were a kid and mom would pump you up full of orange juice whenever you felt sick?
Well, she was trying to give your immune system a boost. To help knock that cold right out (and to send you back to school sooner).
Of course, it’s best to focus on boosting your immune system before you get sick.
Your body is a kingdom, and you need to defend it from outside attackers. It wouldn’t do much good to build up new walls once the enemy is inside now, would it?
That’s why instead of waiting for viruses, germs, and whatever else the world throws at you to attack, you need to sharpen your defenses and prepare your body.
At best, it will prevent you from ever becoming sick. At worst, it will cut down your recovery time. But how can you go about doing that? Here are a few healthy habits to boost your immune system.
In case you needed another reason to get a good night’s sleep, here is another one.
Your body repairs itself while at rest, so if you skip out on sleep your body isn’t able to repair the damaged areas. Think of it as a to-do list and your body knocks off items while you sleep.
When you skip sleeping your body doesn’t have the time it needs to complete all its tasks. Essentially, it falls behind, which leads you to become sick easier.
Just how much sleep should you be getting? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as an adult between the ages of 18 and 60 you need at least seven hours of sleep per night (1).
If you’re not knocking back some daily vitamins already now is the time to start. Why? Because there’s a good chance you’re not consuming enough of all your daily vitamins and minerals.
It’s an easy and cheap addition to your morning routine. Do you know those commercials that start off with the line, “For a few cents a day”? Well, in all seriousness, for a few cents a day you can boost your immune system and help stave off the cold, flu, and other infections.
But what kind of supplementation should you be taking? Well, each person is different, and we always recommend talking with your primary health care provider for specifics based on your unique needs.
In general, though, you’ll want to add both vitamins C and D.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead you to get sick more frequently while taking 2,000 mg of vitamin C every day has been found to cut the length of time you suffer from a cold by eight percent (2).
So while it won’t completely keep you from getting a cold, it will chip off time.
Vitamins C and D are both medicine cabinet staples. Most mufti-vitamins are packed with these two vitamins and it is reflectively easy to find food with these included.
However, there are secondary vitamins and minerals that can actually have a greater impact on your immune system and your ability to fight off a cold than C and D.
Zinc, for one, is something you need to add to your daily vitamin regimen. In fact, during a recent study of 575 people infected with the common cold, those who had been taking 75 mg of zinc a day saw the duration of their cold drop by a third (3).
What you put in your body will always play a vital role in how it performs. Thankfully, you won’t need to force you into any kind of extreme diet if you’re looking to boost your immune system.
Take garlic. Who doesn’t love garlic? Alright, take out kissing someone with garlic breath or dealing with a close talker who just asked for a second helping of garlic breadsticks, but garlic just has a way of making most foods taste better.
So, it shouldn’t come as a shock to find out that garlic will actually make you feel better, faster, if you find yourself suffering from the common cold.
During a 12-week study, individuals who suffered from the common cold and had consumed garlic on a daily basis saw their cold last thirty percent less than those who skipped garlic heavy meals (4).
Yes, if you wanted to you could easily pick up a garlic supplement, but where is the fun in that? You might as well just go heavy on the garlic with your meals. Just make sure you don’t use garlic salt.
Stick to pure garlic (fresh garlic is best as dried garlic has been sitting around for months and will no longer have the same nutritional quality as fresh garlic).
4. Take a Chill Pill
No, there’s no medicine for this. Instead, you just need to relax and try your best to de-stress whenever possible.
Yes, that is often easier said than done, but the new adage of “Netflix and Chill” might do you good. Stress wrecks havoc on the body and can cause all kinds of health-related issues.
In order to keep the body healthy, you need to keep the brain healthy.
What works for you may not work for someone else, so you need to figure out what helps you reduce stress.
For some, it is turning off all screens, sitting, and meditating for a few minutes a day. If you struggle focusing your thoughts and your breathing yourself there are great guided meditation videos online that you can play as you close your eyes and listen.
Others find working out an excellent way to reduce stress. When you work out you’ll not only burn through calories, but you’ll improve your heart rate, which will send more oxygen and blood to your brain.
This can help with brain fog and other issues that might be causing stress.
Stress can come in many forms, but typically it revolves around you either over-thinking about a particular topic or thinking about something you can’t change.
If exercise and meditation don’t help you can always talk with a therapist. Talking with someone who is trained in uncovering what is mentally bothering you is always beneficial.
And if you can’t afford to see a therapist on a regular basis there are likely groups at local community centers and religious facilities that are designed to let individuals talk about what is going on in their lives.
You might not receive the same kind of professional and trained intellect you might from a licensed therapist or counselor, but often simply talking about what is stressing you out can be all your body and mind needs to relax.
But why exactly does stress cause your bod’s immune system to weaken? Short-lived stress may cause you to lose sleep (which can put you at risk of a weakened immune system), but long-term stress, in addition to leading to sleep issues, can result in inflammation.
It also may cause some cellular imbalance within your body, which is basically like throwing a wrench into your immune system, grinding it to a halt (5).
You might not be able to directly stop what is causing you stress, but you can cut down on how it affects you both mentally and physically.
If you’re not in the habit of exercising on a daily basis you need to be. Daily exercise will do everything from helping you cut calories to improving your mood, boosting your metabolic rate, and, yes, help improve your immune system.
Now, you don’t need to just go from sitting on the couch to running marathons and training for Iron Man competitions. In fact, simply going for a brisk walk or taking up swimming will go a long way.
The right exercise for you will depend on where you are currently with your physical condition, and what kind of current health conditions you may or may not be suffering from.
However, most exercises will help your immune system. Ideally, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, you should be targeting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.
You should easily be able to do this. If broken down, it equates to 30-minute brisk walks every day during the workweek (6).
To help, you can adopt a dog. Dogs make exceptional workout partners and, studies have shown that individuals who own dogs burn more calories during the week and have a reduced body fat percentage to those individuals who do not own dogs.
Dogs can also help if you’re dealing with stress. While you probably won’t end up with one of those super dogs that can sniff out cancer or rescue Timmy the next time he falls down a well, your adopted pet will help you live a longer, healthier life (7).
Exercise is important for your general health. By elevating your heart rate and improving blood flow throughout the rest of your body you will deliver more oxygen and nutrients throughout.
While this does help fight off inflammation and other injuries, it can help deliver the necessary nutrients to areas of infection.
If you haven’t worked out on a regular basis in a while and are not sure where to start out, consult your primary health care physician.
They can help you identify specific forms of exercise that will not only help you achieve your immune system goals, but they will work with you in finding methods of working out that are easy on your joints.
If you suffer from joint pain or have other health conditions that prevent you from going all out while at the gym, having these suggestions can be all the difference from remaining seated on the couch and getting active.
Your body’s immune system is its main line of defense against all the colds, viruses, and illnesses you will come in contact with.
When you have a strong, well-performing immune system, you may be able to stop these illnesses cold in their tracks, before ever being able to cause you anything more than a slight sniffle.
However, even if you do find yourself suffering from the common cold or flu a strong immune system will get you back on your feet sooner. Keeping a strong immune system doesn’t need to be difficult.
From adding some supplementation to your daily regimen to finding ways to de-stress, a little can go a long way in boosting your immune system.
As long as you take advantage of these healthy habits to boost your immune system, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in not only how healthy you feel, but your entire body will feel more energized and roaring to take on the world.
1. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (2017, March 2). Sleep and Sleep Disorders: How Much Sleep Do I Need? CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
2. Hemila, H (2013, Jan 31). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23440782
3. Hemila, H (2017, May 2). Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28515951
4. Lissiman, E (2014 Nov 11). Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25386977
5. Dhabhar, F (2014, May). Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Journal of Immunology Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24798553
6. Department of Health and Human Services (2019, February 1). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-american s/index.html
7. Rodriguez, A (2019, Oct. 8). Owning a dog can help you live longer, study suggests. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/10/08/aha-journal-study-o wning-dog-may-help-you-live-longer/3907770002/