Published on August 30, 2018
Last updated September 23, 2020
By Kat Odell
You probably don’t think much about your immune system on a day to day basis—until you aren’t feeling well. Most of the time our complex network of cells and organs work 24/7/365 under the radar, fighting off infection and pathogens. But decisions you make each day can help (or hinder) this all-important system.
Since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that guarantees good health for everyone, we reached out to 5 different powerhouse wellness pros to get their top tricks to help keep you feeling well and energized.
It’s no secret that gut health impacts our overall immunity, and that’s why health coach Ryan Carter turns to bone broth. “Around 70 percent of the immune system is housed in our digestive tract,” explains Carter, noting that bone broth contains a spectrum of wellness-promoting compounds, including glutamine. It’s “one of three main amino acids [that] feeds our intestines to repair and increase white blood cell production,” which both increases healing and keeps our immune system happy, he says.
Try it: Sip bone broth instead of coffee for your afternoon pick-me up, or use it in place of water when making a batch of rice or quinoa.
Boost the bugs
Speaking of gut health, incorporating probiotics through fermented foods like sauerkraut and miso as well as supplements is an easy way to help you stay well. “Probiotics can help modify our inner ecosystem to strengthen our innate and adaptive immune responses,” says youtheory® chief scientific officer Dr. Nick Bitz. “Probiotics are not only our first line of defense against external pathogens, but also set forth a cascade of immune and inflammatory reactions throughout the entire body.”
Try it: Toss a few spoonfuls of sauerkraut or kimchi into your salad, and add a probiotic supplement to your daily routine.
Your mom was right (again): For good health, cut down on sweets and eat your greens. You know it’s the way to have more energy, keep your weight in check, and more importantly—it’s also the nutrient-packed path to boosted immunity, says registered dietitian nutritionist Maya Feller. “A diet mostly composed of plants supports a strong immune system,” she says, adding that it’s also important to eat “foods in their minimally processed (aka natural) forms, and limit added sugars and lab-made fats and salts.”
Try it: Put your sandwich fillings on top of greens instead of between bread slices, and stir half of a mashed avocado into your tuna salad instead of mayo.
Get your zzzs
If you’re often up late scrolling Insta or binging on Netflix, it’s time to consider an earlier lights-out routine. “Without sleep the immune system literally grinds to a halt,” explains pharmacist and wellness expert Dr. Lindsey Elmore. “The stress hormones cortisol increases, and this leads to increased inflammation in the body.” Plus, “infection-fighting antibodies and T-cells” decrease, which makes it harder for our bodies to fend off illness.
Try it: Move your bedtime 10 minutes earlier every night for a week. Keep moving it earlier gradually until you’re clocking 8 hours per night on the reg.
Embrace (some) bacteria
The backlash against antibacterial soaps made us all look at dirt a different way. When it comes to immunity, author and recipe developer Kezia Neusch says that letting one’s body naturally combat certain bacteria helps us develop stronger immune systems. “I let my kids eat food off the floor at home and in the yard,” she confesses. “Things like that actually let them build a [stronger] immune system.”
Try it: It’s important to wash your hands, especially during flu season—but avoid antibacterial soaps, and try to stress less about sanitizing every. Little. Thing.
Hungry for more?
- 5 Ways to Boost Immunity This Winter
- Souped Up: A Golden Chicken Bone Broth Recipe
- Why Your Gut Controls Your Life