Immune health is top of mind right now — and it’s not changing anytime soon. Like many aspects of our health, our immune system is strengthened by a robust and healthy diet and can suffer greatly from an unhealthy diet and poor lifestyle choices. It can even get to a point, as with inflammation-related diseases and autoimmune diseases, where your body loses its ability to distinguish between itself and pathogens that threaten our health.
The good news is that to a certain extent, we’re in charge of what we eat and how we spend our days, which means we can start making choices right now that support a healthy immune system. Remember, every day, you can do something to naturally boost your immunity — whether that’s taking an effective supplement or simply getting a good night’s sleep. These five powerful daily habits might seem a little simple or obvious — because they are! However, the key to their effectiveness is consistency. Keep things simple so you can maintain each habit, and remember that these practices are how you can keep yourself, and your family, healthy now and throughout the year.
Put sleep at the top of your to-do list.
According to Dr. Heather Moday, a physician and integrative immunologist, “sleep is number one.” According to her, if you pick one thing to change in your routine to prevent illness or heal from one — sleep. “During the night we actually turn on some pretty serious immune activation to help us kill pathogens. Sleep is also when we repair our cells, especially our brain cells, and when we do most of our digesting and absorbing of nutrients,” she says. Unfortunately, many of us skimp on sleep, putting work, fitness, and socializing higher on our priority lists.
So how do we get better sleep tonight? Make your bedroom conducive to good sleep, which means “keeping it free of technology and making them dark and cool,” says Dr. Moday.
Read more: Surprising Foods That Help You Sleep Better
Take 10 minutes a day to lower stress.
As Dr. Moday explains, “over time, stress hormones really wreak havoc on our immunity by lowering the number and activity of some of our important immune cells, like T-cells, and natural killer cells.” Not to mention, chronically high cortisol, our main stress hormone, weakens our gut barrier, which is where most of our immune system lives. The result? We are more prone to illnesses.
So how do you make lowering your stress a daily habit? Take 10 minutes each day to do something that requires mindfulness. Dr. Moday’s favorites include meditation, yoga, journaling, and breathwork.
Add antioxidants to your breakfast.
According to Dr. Moday, one of the best things you can do to support the health of your immune system is to fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, which contain super antioxidants like vitamins C, D, E, and A, along with zinc and selenium. “Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radical damage in our body and cool down inflammation and repair damaged cells and DNA,” she explains. The more brightly and diverse your diet is, the better.
If you suspect you may not be getting enough antioxidants through your diet, try adding them to the first meal of the day. You can also add a daily supplement to your routine, such as Youtheory® Immune+ Daily Wellness, which contains 100% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc.
Youtheory Immune+ Daily Wellness also contains a blend of organic mushrooms, which are known to fortify the body’s natural defenses and enhance vitality, as well as Wellmune®, a natural beta-glucan extract clinically-proven to help support the body’s immune system.
Move your body.
When you get sick, the last thing you want to do is exercise. But the truth is, exercise plays a critical role in your immune health. As Dr. Moday explains: “Both aerobic activities such as running and biking along with high-intensity exercise and weight lifting all have benefits to our immune system.” Why, you ask? According to Dr. Moday, exercise puts our body under a type of short-term stress called “eustress,” which actually makes us stronger and more resilient in the long-term. Plus, “in the short-term, exercise can make our immune cells better at killing pathogens and long-term exercisers have stronger immune systems as we age,” she continues.
You don’t have to join a crossfit gym to get these benefits, either. Some brisk walking, gardening, or dancing in your living room every day will support your immune system.
Add fiber-rich foods to your plate.
According to Dr. Monday, “The headquarters of our immune system is in our gut — and our gut bacteria eat fiber almost exclusively.” When we eat fiber, it encourages more diversity in our gut flora, which has been linked to a stronger and more balanced immune system. The problem is that the average American doesn’t get nearly enough fiber, which hurts our ability to fend off infections. According to Dr. Moday, we should aim for about 30 grams of fiber per day. As an added bonus, you may also find that your digestive health and blood sugar balance improve when you increase your fiber intake — talk about a win-win!
So which foods should you add to your plate? Aim for nuts and seeds, like chia seeds and almonds, as well as whole fruits and veggies.
When you start incorporating these powerful habits into your routine, you might notice immediate benefits to your mood and energy levels. But how do you know if you’re boosting your immunity too? According to Dr. Moday, if you “have lots of energy, don’t get sick often, recover well from exercise with no joint pain, and don’t suffer from GI issues or brain fog, you’re doing pretty well.”