8 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
Protect your health.
Cold and flu season is officially here. And unfortunately, it looks like it's always going to be COVID season. Experts say the coronavirus spreads yearlong instead of the cold-winter peak that leaves many of us miserable with the flu. So, no matter what time of year it is, there's no time like the present to boost your immune system. There are simple things you can do to reinforce your body's built-in disease fighters. Here are eight ways to boost your immune system naturally, according to the experts.
"As we head into cold/flu/RSV/COVID season, there are many ways to bolster our immune systems naturally," says Jesse Feder, RDN, CPT, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. "As a dietitian, I highly recommend getting in your four to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This can ensure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are essential for keeping our immune systems strong." He advises eating a variety of different colored fruits and veg—you know the saying "eat the rainbow"—to get a spectrum of immune-boosting nutrients.
"Regular exercise is a valuable component of a healthy lifestyle that helps your immune system," says registered dietitian Sarah Harper, MS, RD, LDN. "It can reduce stress, which indirectly supports your immune system. Additionally, maintaining a balanced exercise routine can improve immune responses, reduce inflammation, and improve overall health." Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise) each week. "These activities can include brisk walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, biking, dancing, gardening, playing sports, or just taking your dog for a walk," says Harper.
"A fiber-rich diet can promote a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a crucial role in immune function," advises Dr. Michael Green, a California-based OB/GYN and co-founder of the anti-aging wellness center Winona. Probiotic-rich foods or supplements can support a healthy gut, which is closely linked to immune health.*
"Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night," says Green. "A well-rested body is better equipped to fight off infections."
"More than 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract," says registered dietitian Lauren Mahesri, RDN, LD. "This means that the foods we eat are in direct contact with the cells that protect us from bacteria and infections. The most important nutrients to keep our immune system strong are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, zinc, Vitamin E, and Vitamin D."
"Frequent handwashing with soap and water helps prevent the spread of germs and infections," says Green.
"When we are not eating enough protein, our body starts to prioritize which bodily functions it can support," says Mahresi. "This can cause a weakening of the immune system because the body doesn't have enough protein to support it. To calculate your daily protein needs, multiply your weight in kilograms by 1.3 to 1.5. If you are overweight or obese, use your ideal body weight, or goal weight."
"Adequate hydration is essential for a properly functioning immune system because it supports immune functions," says Harper. "When you're well-hydrated, your immune cells can move more effectively to combat germs and maintain your health." To stay well-hydrated during colder months, she recommends drinking plenty of water or non-caffeinated teas, eating foods high in fluids like fruits and vegetables, and avoiding overconsumption of dehydrating beverages like alcohol.