The immune system is your body’s natural defense network – when it is weakened or compromised, you are more susceptible to disease and infection. You can encourage your natural healing response with these suggestions:
- Get regular exercise. It strengthens the immune system, in part by maintaining good circulation. Aim for 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity most days of the week.
- Wash your hands frequently. Most of our contact with germs is with our hands, and scrubbing them with soap and water can ward off colds, flu, and other infectious illnesses. Make it a point to wash your hands often and when you are in a potentially infectious environment – antibacterial soaps aren’t necessary, just use regular soap and water.
- Make time for rest. Inadequate rest can have negative effects on your immune system, energy levels and mental alertness. Create a sleep and rest schedule and stick with it.
- Learn to manage your stress. Increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol can weaken the immune system, leading to a host of health issues. Try writing out your thoughts in a journal, taking a “news fast” – avoiding the news on TV, the internet, papers and magazines – and practicing relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and visualization.
- Get social and be positive. People who stay socially active and have a positive outlook tend to be healthier and live longer than those who are negative and isolated.
- Eat plenty of fresh (preferably organic), whole fruits and vegetables. Aim for a variety of colors, from greens to bright reds and yellows. A synergistic mix of antioxidants helps boost the immune system and decrease the risk of illness.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. The regular consumption of inflammation moderating foods in combination with herbs such as garlic and cooked Asian mushrooms (shiitake, oyster mushrooms, maitake and enoki) can help support a healthy immune system.
- Minimize your consumption of sugar and alcohol. It can impair the function of white blood cells and other immune issues.
- Take a daily antioxidant supplement. A quality supplement can help fill in any nutritional gaps in a healthy diet and support overall immune function.
- Astragalus. This root of a plant in the pea family has antiviral and immune-enhancing properties and a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to ward off colds and flu.
- Echinacea. The dried root and leaves of the purple coneflower can help stimulate immune activity and boost resistance against bacteria and virus.
- Immune-enhancing mushrooms. Maitake, reishi, agaricus, and enoki all provide immune-strengthening benefits. Combination products are often more effective than individual species.
- Arctic root or rhodiola. Also known as “golden root” or “roseroot,” this is traditionally used in Eastern Europe as a general tonic and can help reduce the harmful effects of stress on the immune system.