When it comes to getting sick and fighting off infections, the immune system works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep us healthy. The immune system is a complex part of our bodies that distinguishes between normal and unhealthy cells. When it realizes there’s a problem, it responds and tries to fix it. When it cannot fight off the unhealthy cells, infections arise.
Every day we are exposed to potentially harmful microbes such as bacteria. It is important to take proper care of your immune system so it can take care of you. Immunity boosts are especially important during flu season and other times of year when viral infections are spreading. Diet and exercise are two areas where you can take steps to improve the strength of your immune system.
Strengthening the Immune System with Diet
Think about your diet. In order to keep your immune system operating at its fullest potential, your diet should be full of nutrients such as:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
These nutrients among others have been known to promote function and growth of the immune system. They can be found in a variety of foods. For example, Vitamin C can be found in chicken broth, tea with honey, and citrus. You can also purchase supplements to ensure you’re getting the proper daily value of nutrients in your diet.
One thing to note is that you should avoid processed food. An immune-boosting diet is full of minimally processed foods. Consuming a large amount of processed foods can have a negative effect on your immune system and your overall health. Diets high in refined sugar and red meat should also be avoided. Foods to include in an immune boosting diet can include:
- Citrus such as grapefruit and oranges
- Red Bell Peppers
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a high-fiber plant-rich diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole gains, and legumes supports the growth and maintenance of beneficial microbes. Your immune system heavily relies on your gut health. Foods like yogurt that are high in probiotics which are living bacteria that promote a healthy gut.
Using Exercise to Boost the Immune System
Physical activity is one of the main pillars to having overall good health. Once you have your immune boosting diet in place, exercise is another factor that can increase immune system health. Physical activity can help to flush out bacteria in the lungs and airways, which can reduce risk of illness.
You don’t have to go all out and practice exercise rigorously to boost your immune system. A 2019 scientific review states that acute exercise can vastly lower risk of illness and reduce inflammation in the body. Acute exercise is moderate to more intense exercise that lasts less than an hour. Think a cardio workout tape, or going on a light jog.
Exercise increases blood flow and circulation of the immune cells. What that means is the cells that know how to fight off infection and pathogens will reach areas of the body that are at risk of infection quicker. The more you exercise, the longer the cells will be traveling around the body, which will boost immunity. Make sense?
Now that we know a little bit about how exercise can help to boost your immunity, what kind of exercise should you be doing? It is suggested that aerobic activities are best for the immune system.
- Taking a walk around the block is enough to get the blood flowing. Try to take about a 30-45-minute walk to help boost your immune system.
- Strength Training
- Weight lifting and strength training are a great way to get your body moving differently than it does on a daily basis. It increases blood flow and can help relieve stress, thus strengthening the immune system.
- High-Intensity Interval Training
- Intense interval training should not be done on a daily basis, but perhaps a few times a week. This type of exercise gets your blood flowing at a higher rate, so it’s also good for getting those cells to float around your body.
Keeping your immune system in tip top shape is essential for protecting yourself from infection and disease. A balanced diet full of fruits and veggies paired with exercise can boost your immunity. Nutritious minimally processed foods will keep your gut healthy and happy. Exercise gets infection fighting cells moving through the body in your blood to fight off any signs of infection. Your immune system always has your back, so you owe it some love and care to keep it working for you.