7 Research-Backed Ways to Improve Your Immunity

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September 1, 2022
immune health
Photo Credit: Boris Jovanovic

As we all started returning to our normal, pre-pandemic behaviors, i.e. seeing all the people, giving them much-needed hugs, and maybe being a tiny bit less vigilant about washing our hands, many of us likely came down with something or other. And now that we’re in the back-to-school season, the risk of getting sick is definitely top of mind. Luckily, there are a handful of science-backed ways to improve immunity.

Try one (or all) of these tips to boost your immune system this season, thanks to a doctor’s recommendations. Often it’s the simple things that matter the most.

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1. Monitor your stress.

woman stressed at her computer

Ever noticed how you get sick at the most inconvenient time, like right before a big presentation at work or over the holidays? That’s because stress sabotages a healthy immune system and leaves you more vulnerable to infection.

“If you are chronically stressed or experiencing adrenal exhaustion, you have high cortisol and that is what decreases your immune system,” says Dr. Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., an integrative and functional medicine doctor and founder of Revive Atlanta MD. “Many of us get sick once or twice a year, but if you’re getting sick multiple times during cold and flu season, it’s likely that your stress levels are to blame.”

To combat chronic stress, try meditation, yoga, and journaling. And take an honest look at your schedule to see what responsibilities you might be able to cut down on.

Read More: 5 Super-Simple Ways to Combat Stress

2. Eat health-supporting foods.

healthy. bowl of food with ginger

Eating more health-supporting foods can help keep your immune system in fighting shape. In general, stick to colorful fruits and veggies, which are full of beneficial antioxidants. Eating foods rich in antioxidants have been proven to ease common cold and flu symptoms, and ward off the free radicals that increase your risk of developing chronic diseases. Foods powerful in antioxidants include almonds and spinach (for vitamin E), carrots and sweet potatoes (for vitamin A), and berries and green tea that contain polyphenolic flavonoids.

3. Consider taking supplements.

supplements in spoons on blue background

If getting access to fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t an option for you, it may be worth a trip to the doctor to get tested for nutrient deficiencies.

“Nutrient deficiencies can create inflammation in your body and lead to you getting sick more often,” says Dr. Gandhi.

Be sure to look into these immune-boosting supplements when your body needs a little extra support.

  • Vitamin C: Studies show regular supplementation has a “modest but consistent” effect in reducing cold symptoms.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis. On the flip side, supplementing with vitamin D has been shown to reduce your chance of colds and respiratory infections.
  • Quercetin: Quercetin has anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. Translation: It has the potential to keep you healthy this winter in more ways than one. When taken daily, quercetin may reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections. It may also be beneficial for people with asthma or allergies to lower inflammation and keep the immune system in check.

As always, be sure to discuss with your doctor first before adding supplementation into your daily routine.

4. Keep alcohol to a minimum.

man pouring a glass of whiskey

Alcohol affects your body in myriad ways, including your immune system. According to Cleveland Clinic, drinking daily, or on a consistent basis, will make you even more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other illnesses. Alcohol weakens the immune system by impairing the function of immune cells and disrupts immune pathways that make it easier for your body to fight off disease.

Read More: The Best Alcohol-Free Spirits to Try Right Now

5. Pour another cup of tea.

improve immunity

Tea is one of nature’s most incredible creations thanks to its immune-boosting properties. And while green tea tends to get all of the credit due to its high antioxidant content, research shows black tea is also incredibly beneficial for your immune system.

As the authors of one study published in Nutrition Research concluded: “…there is evidence to suggest that [black] tea may have beneficial effects on certain immune parameters, which has implications for improving gut health and resistance against infections such as the common cold.”

Like we need another excuse to reach for an Earl Grey latte!

6. Move your body.

yoga outside

Scientists aren’t sure exactly why or how exercises boost immunity — but they know that it does. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exercise helps flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. It could be because physical activity boosts our white blood cell count. It may also work by way of reducing stress, which can make you more efficient at fighting infections.

Plus, the type of exercise doesn’t matter, so choose the type of movement you enjoy! Dance around the house, do a HIIT workout, or take a walk when the sun is out. It all counts!

7. Make sleep a priority.

woman sleeping in bed with dog

Skimping on sleep is one of the worst things you can do for your immune system. According to Mayo Clinic, people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus or a common cold.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, Dr. Gandhi suggests leaning on natural remedies like magnesium and CBD oil. Even more importantly? Make sure you’re maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, which means you go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day.

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