Building a strong immune system is always a concern of mine as someone with chronic illness. Anytime I get sick with the flu, a cold, or another virus, it can be more intense because any sickness causes a POTS flare for me. So, it’s really important for me–and all chronic illness warriors–to build and sustain a strong immune system. Check out these nine tips to help you stay healthy all year round!
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Get Vitamin C in Your Diet
Ensuring you get enough vitamin C in your diet is the first step to building a strong immune system. This vitamin plays a vital role in supporting a healthy immune system. It helps your body produce certain types of white blood cells that fight off illness. Not only does vitamin C help produce these white blood cells, but it also assists in protecting them against free radical damage in your body.
Taking products like Emergen-C and Airborne is one way to boost your immune system quickly. Another option is taking vitamin C as a supplement (Example: Thorne – Vitamin C with Flavonoids). However, you can also get vitamin C through food sources, such as bell peppers (yellow peppers are best), oranges and orange juice, strawberries, lemon, and leafy greens like kale. Try my kale and white bean soup to get some vitamin C in your system!
Get Plenty of Vitamin D
I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of vitamin D for your immune system. Normally, you can just step outside and get your daily dose of this powerful vitamin from the sun. But it’s winter. And if you live in the northeastern U.S. as I do, you aren’t spending a whole lotta time outdoors.
Or maybe you live somewhere warmer and sunnier than me and this isn’t a problem for you. If so, I’m highly jealous. Get some sun for me too, please! This winter, I started taking a vitamin D supplement to boost my immunity. Because let’s face it, I’m not seeing as much sun as I do in the summer. I take Bio-Tech Pharmacal – D3-5 Cholecalciferols usually twice per week because it’s a higher dose of vitamin D (5,000 IU). Consult with your doctor for the proper dosage that’s right for you!
Don’t Forget About Zinc!
Did you know zinc is an important mineral for immunity? Well, it sure is! According to a 2017 study, researchers determined the importance of zinc for immunity by studying people with zinc deficiency. Those who had zinc homeostasis (not too much or too little in their body) experienced a well-functioning immune system with balanced immune cell numbers!
So consider adding more zinc-rich foods to your diet for building a strong immune system. Examples include shellfish, beans, chickpeas, seeds, nuts, dairy, and eggs. Ground beef and other meats like pork and lamb are also excellent sources of this mineral.
Alternatively, you can also try one of my favorite products for cold and flu season: Cold-EEZE Cold Remedy Lozenges. Whenever I start to feel that raw, scratchy feeling in my throat or like my nose is getting stuffy, I take a Cold Eeze lozenge immediately. Like I run to my medicine cabinet and scramble for the Cold Eeze box. I swear I don’t get as sick if I take this product soon enough! It works well as an effective immunity booster thanks to the healthy dose of zinc it provides.
Have You Tried Elderberry For Immunity?
Maybe you haven’t heard of this powerful little berry before, but it’s officially my new secret weapon for building a strong immune system.
Clinical studies are researching the effect of elderberries on physical health, particularly its ability to fight the common cold and influenza. In one 2016 study, airplane travelers who took an elderberry extract were found to have shorter cold durations and less severe symptoms than those in a placebo group who did not receive the extract.
Last winter was the first year I tried an elderberry supplement, and it was also coincidentally the first winter I didn’t get the flu in three years! Now I can’t prove that this is because I started taking an elderberry supplement. But it sure seems like it could be a contributing factor given all the research that’s been done on its abilities as an immunity booster!
(P.S. I take New Chapter Elderberry Force Capsules, available on PureFormulas.com!)
Don’t Stress The Small Stuff
Prolonged stress is SO bad for our bodies, including our immune systems. If we want to help our bodies stay strong, we have to keep our stress levels in check.
So here’s my proposal. Take a chunk of time out the day–whatever amount you can afford–to NOT stress over anything in your life. I know, easier said than done, right? But look at it as a mental vacation from whatever is causing you tension. Do something to distract yourself and help yourself unwind. Get in a good workout. Watch a funny movie with your family. Cook a nice dinner with your partner. If you have a hobby, carve out some time to devote solely to that. I love to exercise, write, and escape into a good book to distress.
Find something to do at least once a day that allows your mind to shut down and recuperate from the stressors in your daily life. Maybe that requires you to silence your phone or turn off email notifications for this mental time-out. If so, then do it! Don’t let stress eat away at your immune system!
Build Your Immune System With a Smoothie
I love making smoothies because they are pretty dang quick and easy to make! They’re also a great way to get fruits, vegetables, protein, and immunity-boosting nutrients. If you think that sounds gross, lemme stop you right there. I promise, smoothies with the right ratio of ingredients (sweet fruits to bitter vegetables) taste delicious!
Boost your immune system quickly with my mango and berry smoothie, packed with vitamin C-rich strawberries and spinach. Or whip up your own creative concoction with oranges and tropical fruits to build a strong immune system while feeling like you’re on a mini vacay! The possibilities are endless with smoothies!
Get Your Beauty Sleep
Sleep is restorative for the body, period. A lack of sleep can leave us more susceptible to illness because it weakens the immune system. According to a 2013 study, sleep deprivation negatively altered various immune markers that could make us more likely to contract respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold. So getting your beauty sleep is crucial for building a strong immune system! Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night!
Eat Garlic (Then Maybe Brush Your Teeth)
If you love garlic as much as I do, then this tip shouldn’t be so hard to do. Turns out, when you chew or crush whole garlic, it produces a compound called allicin. But allicin is unstable, so it immediately converts into other compounds that have immune system-protecting powers. These compounds stimulate certain white blood cells important for immune function such as lymphocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells.
So crush up your garlic before you cook it or take the time to chew the garlic in your food. Then maybe go brush your teeth because nobody likes garlic breath!
Exercise is Great…But Not Too Much
I wanna talk a little about how exercise affects your immune system. Yes, exercise is amazing for our bodies and overall health. But did you know that too much exercise can sometimes be bad for your immune system? Yup. It can. But it’s all about the duration and the intensity of your workouts here.
One 2015 study found that post-exercise immunosuppression occurred after an exhaustive endurance or a resistance exercise at a high-intensity level. So, if you exercise too hard for too long, all that effort places too much physical stress on your body, and your immune system suffers.
However, not all exercise is bad for the immune system. In fact, light to moderate intensity exercise is actually good for immunity. Studies show, like this 2009 study, that moderate intensity exercise actually lowers inflammation in the body. But that’s not all. This kind of exercise also bolsters anti-viral immunity activity in the respiratory tract.
So, all in all, while too much exercise at the high-intensity level can make our immune systems temporarily vulnerable, moderate-intensity exercise can have a beneficial impact on building a strong immune system.
While we’re still in the midst of cold and flu season, supporting a healthy immune system is vital to not falling ill. I got very sick with POTS (check out my diagnosis story) after getting a bad case of the flu that later developed into pneumonia. It took me until I went to Cleveland Clinic to recover from my most severe POTS symptoms. So protecting myself and building a strong immune system this time of year is something I take very seriously. These immunity-boosting tips I use can really help!
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy out there and taking good care of themselves!
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