1. Focus on Micronutrients.
One key lifestyle change to strengthen your immune system is adhering to a healthy diet with an emphasis on micronutrients. Filling nutrient gaps is vital. A large body of research shows that nutrient gaps can impair immune function and weaken the immune response. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins and magnesium) are critical for every stage of the immune response. Inadequate micronutrient intake is associated with compromised sleep quality and decreased production of antimicrobial peptides and white blood cells—all of which are associated with a weakened immune system.
2. Put Out the Fire.
Chronic inflammation is linked to many major diseases and can have a severe impact on your immune system. One of the best ways to combat chronic inflammation is through proper nutrition. Eating a balanced diet that limits consumption of ultra-processed foods, including refined carbohydrates, soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, and trans fats, specifically partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, is a great way to combat chronic inflammation. An emphasis should be made to consume anti-inflammatory foods, particularly fatty fish, berries, and nuts.
3. Eat These 3 Foods.
When it comes to supporting a healthy innate immune system, three specific foods are particularly healing:
- Mushrooms: contain a diversity of bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides, proteoglycans, terpenoids, phenolic compounds, and lectins. These compounds can benefit the immune system through their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Black Rice: Black (or purple) rice are cultivars of the standard rice species Oryza sativa. The deep purple color in these cultivars comes from the grain’s high concentration of anthocyanins, which is also the principal anthocyanin of other known immune-benefiting fruits like elderberry.
- Citrus Fruits: Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which is key to fighting off pathogens and supporting a healthy immune system. Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, including oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.
Related: 4 Hacks to Improve Immunity
It Takes Guts (to Keep Your Immune System Strong)
What’s the most important thing when it comes to your immune function? It’s maintaining healthy gut flora—making probiotics a must. “Probiotics help keep your gut running like a well-oiled machine, reducing inflammation and preventing infection during cold and flu season,” says Emily Kiberd, DC, a top wellness expert at Urban Wellness Clinic in New York. “Almost 70 percent of your immune system is found in the gut flora,” she says. “Gut bacteria are everything! They help your body digest food and play an integral role in regulating your metabolism, weight, and immune system. A resilient immune system goes hand in hand with a healthy, well-functioning gut. In fact, the number of bacteria in our gut outnumber the number of cells in our body 10 to 1.” And don’t forget prebiotics, fiber-like food that feeds the “good” bacteria in your gut. They work synergistically with probiotic supplements. —Jenn Rice
Signs of a Sluggish Immune System
According to Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the following six symptoms can signal weak immune function:
- High levels of stress
- Frequent colds
- Digestive problems such as diarrhea, gas, or constipation
- Slow-healing wounds
- Frequent infections
- Constant fatigue
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