It feels great when the whole team is behind you; for example, when your immune system is primed and excited to rally for your health. Go on a winning streak with these 6 proven ways to boost immunity naturally. From simple lifestyle hacks to natural medicines, you may be just a few plays away from another healthy day. Here’s what research evidence shows are proven ways to help keep your immune system strong, and ready to work hard.
The best offense is a good defense – or, so the sports saying goes. When it comes to your health, this may be true too. Your best chances of winning against a viral opponent are with an immune system that’s feeling strong, prepared, and ready to defend. That means it’s got all of the equipment and fuel (nutrients) it needs. It’s also important to ensure your immune system isn’t being overworked, or distracted. You can imagine how poorly a team would perform if it was distracted by spectators throwing things on the field. When your immune system is constantly defending against harm caused by diet, stress, or environmental pollutants it may not be able to offer its best performance against a virus or bacterial infection. Minimizing sources of stress and environmental toxins may prevent your immune system from becoming over-worked.
Adopting some holistic healthy habits into your day may help reduce the amount your immune system has to work as well as ensuring it has the proper fuel and building blocks it needs to perform. Here are 6 proven ways to boost immunity, naturally.
The best play of the year is to reduce stress. It’s one of the most frequently noted, scientifically proven ways to boost immunity naturally. Last decade, sitting was dubbed the new smoking, but stress perhaps should be called the new sitting. Whether acute or chronic, stress induces significant negative effects on the human body, including changes in cognitive performance (difficulty concentrating, sleeping, and memory), increased heart rate and blood pressure, heartburn, inflammatory-based bowel problems, and suppression of immune cells.
To reduce stress try breathing, getting sweaty, and eating certain foods, such as dark chocolate. Two months of deep breathing was shown to be significantly effective at lowering stress in a study investigating stressed adults. Beyond their lowered cortisol levels (stress hormone), the adults noted improvement in their ability to maintain attention. Getting sweaty helps to reduce your reactivity to stress and enhances your resilience to it. As for eating chocolate, scientists think eating dark chocolate (40g per day) for two weeks can help reduce stress.
The top performer on your fork, if you’re looking to boost immunity naturally, may be a mushroom. Most of a mushroom, about 90%, is fungal polysaccharides. That’s a type of starch in mushrooms that appears to have immunomodulatory effects, according to results from human clinical trials. One starch, in particular, called beta-glucan, activates immune cells, such as macrophages, T cells, natural killer cells, and cytokines. The potential health benefits of mushrooms’ effects on the immune system are extensive. It has scientists excited – it’s an area of research worth watching.
Even the tiniest players can have a big impact on the final score. Researchers have long been studying the human gut and the microbes that live there. Good microbes, called probiotics, are proven to boost immunity naturally. Probiotics cross-talk with the immune system through receptor sites and other signaling pathways that exist along the digestive lining. This enables the probiotics in the gut to elicit a systemic immune response. This immune-boosting effect of probiotics has researchers excited about its potential beyond inflammatory gut disorders, with studies noting, certain probiotic strains reduce the risk of catching the common cold, influenza, and other upper respiratory tract infections.
Sleeping is important to your health. Tired adults are more susceptible to catching a virus, such as the common cold than those who get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, shows research. If you struggle to sleep, consider your cortisol levels during the day – if they are high, adaptogens, such as Ashwagandha, may be helpful. Allow yourself time to recover – every coach knows rest is key to any teams’ success.
Practice Good Sleep Habits:
Without the right equipment, it’s hard to have your team ready for the big game. Deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, as well as vitamins A, B6, C, and E alter immune responses in animal studies. Scientists worry that humans could have weakened immune systems if their diet lacks these micronutrients. Eating a variety of whole food plants, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats, provides the body with these micronutrients.
Let’s take a time out, huddle up, and consider if there are other challenges our immune system is trying to tackle. One way to boost immunity naturally is to avoid harmful beauty products – switch to toxin-free ones. Next, consider ingredients in your laundry soap, dish detergent, or air freshener. Opt for greener household cleaners, or better yet, switch to hot water, vinegar, and baking soda. Between the use of cleaner beauty and cleaning products, and the addition of a few plants in your home, you can reduce volatile toxins in your household air and reduce the number of toxins your immune system has to tackle on a daily basis.
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Influence of regular physical activity and fitness on stress reactivity as measured with the trier social stress test protocol: a systematic review. Sports Med 48;2607-2622.
The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults. Front Psychol 2017;8:874.
Medicinal mushrooms in human clinical studies, Part 1. Anticancer, oncoimmunological and immunomodulatory activities: a review. Int J Med Mushrooms 2010; 19(4):279-317.
Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects. J Proteome Res 2009;8(12):5568-5579.
Potential of mushroom compounds as immunomodulators in cancer immunotherapy: a review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2018 Apr 22.
Prospective study of probiotic supplementation results in immune stimulation and improvement of upper respiratory infection rate. Synth Syst Biotechnol 2018 Jun; 3(2): 113-120.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.