12 Simple Habits to Naturally Boost Your Immune System
What you eat, your attitude, and the amount of exercise you get can all play a role in strengthening your immune system and preventing illness.
Take time to find calm
“Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your immune system,” says Tania Elliott, MD, infectious disease expert and allergist at NYU Langone in New York City. To help relieve some anxiety and tension, pause for two minutes a day to just breathe and focus on the now. “Meditation can definitely help,” she says. You can also try practicing this mantra throughout the day: There is no past or future, just the now. Here are more things that can happen to your body after just 15 minutes of meditating.
Have a giggle
Another easy way to squash some stress: laugh a little. Finding joy and giggling about it can release neurons that help fight stress and potentially, illnesses, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Sing your way healthy
A study of a German choir revealed that singing activates the spleen, helping to increase the blood concentrations of antibodies and boost the immune system. If group singing isn’t for you, belt out your favorite tunes in the shower—even just listening to music has some great health benefits.
Make room for mushrooms
Mushrooms have been valued in the Far East for more than 2,000 years. But experts now see more benefits of this food in all forms of medicine—particularly your immune system. One small study found that shiitake mushrooms improved T-cells and reduced inflammation, both important for keeping you healthy.
Another great way to boost your immune system? Get moving. Exercise can change your body’s antibodies and white blood cells, which help you fight off diseases and infections, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Elliott suggests incorporating more movement in your day simply by walking around during phone calls and meetings or doing squats while watching TV. Don’t miss these habits that might be harming your immune system.
But get rest too
Moderation is key. Always include plenty of recovery days in your training schedule to preserve immune system health. Even more importantly, make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night to help your body recover from the mental and physical stress of the day, says Elliott. Here’s what happens when you don’t get enough sleep.
You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of turmeric, a trendy spice often found in curry dishes that you can easily sprinkle on veggies and pasta, too. The reason it’s so great for your wellness is because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, providing you with a strong system to fight of sickness, says Elliott. In fact, here are more things that happen when you eat more turmeric.
Look for produce high in quercitin
In addition to anti-inflammatory foods and those packed with antioxidants, Elliott suggests trying fruits and veggies that have quercitin. This is a plant pigment or flavonoid that boosts the immune system and blocks histamine—the chemical that releases in the setting of allergies and infection, causing redness congestion, and swelling, Elliott explains. Kale, tomatoes, broccoli, raw asparagus, capers, and blueberries all contain high amounts. Learn what happens to your body when you don’t get enough fruits and veggies.
Get some ginger
Ginger is another one of Elliott’s go-to inflammation-fighting foods. “This is my favorite, because not only can you ingest it, you can also create a humidified treatment with boiling water and fresh ginger for breathing in, which helps decrease inflammation in your lungs and sinuses,” she says.
Of course, there are some things out there that mess with your immune system, too, particularly alcohol. The main reason it messes with your health so much is because it often also ruins your sleep, Elliott says. Anything that interrupts your sleep also disrupts your immune system. Also, chronic drinking can suppress the production of certain blood cells, upping the risk of infection. Now, you’ll want to brush up on these 20 tips from people who never get sick.
Keep your allergies in check
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may sniffle and sneeze. This can lead to inflammation in your sinuses, which makes it easier for a cold to take hold. To bolster your immune system and fight off sniffles, talk to your doctor on how you can get your allergies under control. In the meantime, here are natural allergy remedies that provide relief.
- Tania Elliott, MD, infectious disease expert and allergist at NYU Langone in New York City.
- Mayo Clinic. "Stress Relief from Laughter? It's No Joke."
- Ecancermedicalscience. "Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers." 2016.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Exercise and immunity."
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition. "Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults." 2015.
- Archives of Virology. "Exposure to cold impairs interferon-induced antiviral defense." August 2017.