Published on June 16, 2020
Last updated April 11, 2021
Immune health is top of mind right now and, like many aspects of our health, our immune health is impacted by our diet and other lifestyle choices. A robust and healthy diet strengthens our immune system, while an unhealthy diet can have a negative impact. It can even get to a point, as with inflammation-related diseases and autoimmune diseases, where our body loses its ability to distinguish between itself and pathogens that threaten our health.
The good news is that, to a certain extent, we’re in charge of what we eat and how we live our lives. We can start making choices right now that support a healthy immune system.
These five daily habits might seem simple or obvious, but they can also be incredibly powerful. The key to their effectiveness is consistency. Maintain each habit, and you may notice immediate benefits to your mood and energy level, that you recover more quickly from exercise, and that you don’t suffer from GI issues or brain fog.
1. Put sleep at the top of your to-do list.
If you pick just one thing to change in your routine to prevent illness or heal from one, it should be sleep. “During the night we actually turn on some pretty serious immune activation to help us kill pathogens,” says Dr. Heather Moday, a physician and integrative immunologist. “Sleep is also when we repair our cells, especially our brain cells, and when we do most of our digesting and absorbing of nutrients,” she adds.
Want to get better sleep, starting tonight? Make your bedroom more conducive to sleep by “keeping it free of technology” and making it dark and cool, says Dr. Moday.
2. Take 10 minutes a day to practice mindfulness.
While some amount of stress if good, “over time, stress hormones really wreak havoc on our immunity,” explains Dr. Moday. They lower “the number and activity of some of our important immune cells, like T-cells, and natural killer cells.” Chronically high cortisol, our main stress hormone, weakens our gut barrier, which is where most of our immune system lives.
So how do you make lowering your stress a daily habit? Take 10 minutes each day to do practice mindfulness. Dr. Moday’s favorites include meditation, yoga, journaling, and breath work.3.
3. Add antioxidants to your breakfast.
One of the best things you can do to support the health of your immune system is to fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants like vitamins C, D, E, and A, along with zinc and selenium. “Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radical damage in our body and cool down inflammation and repair damaged cells and DNA,” Dr. Moday explains.
The more bright and diverse your diet is, the better. Try these easy ways to incorporate more veggies into your diet.
Pro Tip: If you suspect you may not be getting enough fruits and veggies, you can also add a daily supplement to your routine. Youtheory® Immune+ Daily Wellness, which contains 100% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc, as well as a blend of organic mushrooms, which are known to fortify the body’s natural defenses and enhance vitality and Wellmune®, a natural beta-glucan extract clinically-proven to help support the body’s immune system.
4. Move your body.
When you get sick, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. But the truth is, exercise plays a critical role in your immune health. Dr. Moday explains: Exercise puts our body under a type of short-term stress called “eustress,” which actually makes us stronger and more resilient in the long-term. Even “in the short-term, exercise can make our immune cells better at killing pathogens.”
“Both aerobic activities such as running and biking along with high-intensity exercise and weight lifting all have benefits to our immune system,” says Dr. Moday. Even brisk walking, gardening, or dancing in your living room every day will support your immune system.
5. Add fiber-rich foods to your plate.
“The headquarters of our immune system is in our gut — and our gut bacteria eat fiber almost exclusively,” says Dr. Moday. When we eat fiber, it encourages more diversity in our gut flora, which has been linked to a stronger and more balanced immune system. On the other hand, when we don’t get enough fiber, this which hurts our ability to fend off infections.
According to Dr. Moday, we should aim for about 30 grams of fiber per day. Aim for nuts and seeds, like chia seeds and almonds, as well as whole fruits and veggies. Bonus: You may also find that your digestive health and blood sugar balance improve when you increase your fiber intake.