Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
Benefits of Maximizing Your Immune System
It's nearly impossible to scroll through the social feeds of health and wellness influencers or read a health magazine without seeing mention of your immune system. You may wonder if the importance of a healthy immune system lives up to the hype. Having a strong immune system really can provide a multitude of benefits. Read on to learn why and how to boost your immune system to support overall health and well-being.
Benefits of a Strong Immune System
Your immune system is a network of organs, tissues, cells, and substances that protect your body against illnesses and diseases. The following are some of the benefits of a healthy immune system:
- Less illness and faster recovery: A finely tuned immune system can fight off bacteria and viruses before an infection occurs, potentially leading to fewer bouts of illness. If you get sick, a healthy immune system can fight off infection faster, so you feel better more quickly.
- Healthy aging: Your immune system helps to reduce oxidative stress due to free radicals found in pollutants and ultraviolet energy. This can reduce the damage done to everything from your skin cells to your blood vessels, lowering the likelihood of premature aging and developing many diseases.
- Improved gut health: Since up to 70% of your immune system is located in your gut, taking steps to improve its health can promote a more balanced gut microbiome and may reduce unpleasant digestive issues like flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Faster healing: Your immune system also drives the healing process, helping you recover more quickly from injuries and medical procedures.
- Reduced inflammation: Inflammation is a part of your immune system's defenses. However, inflammation can persist too long or occur when it shouldn't due to an improper immune response. Supporting a healthy immune system may lead to better regulation of inflammation.
How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
The benefits of a strong immune system are clear, so what's the secret to getting one? Following these tips is a good starting point.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Supplying your body with the right combination of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals can help fuel your immune system. Focus on eating lean proteins, whole grains, and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Avoid highly processed foods as much as possible and watch your intake of added sugars. Eat healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation.
Chronic stress can cause levels of certain hormones like cortisol to become elevated. Unfortunately, these hormones often impair immune system function. Finding ways to deal with the stress of work and relationships may help boost your immune system. You can try mindfulness meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to encourage relaxation. Also, remember that
simply talking can help. Open up to people you trust or start seeing a therapist to discuss issues.
Regular exercise supports immune system health in a variety of ways. During cardio, your breathing rate rises, which may help flush illness-causing bacteria out of your airways. Exercise has also been shown to increase the circulation of white blood cells through the body. The rise in body temperature that comes with physical exertion may even reduce bacterial growth. Plus, exercise has been shown to counteract the effects of stress hormones.
Much of your immune system's work takes place while you sleep. You may suffer from weakened immunity if you're not getting enough shut-eye. To improve your sleep, follow a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule daily. Limit blue light before bed, and consider wearing an eye mask and ear plugs or using a white noise machine to block distractions.
Try an Immune Booster Supplement
The right immune support supplements can provide the nutrients your body requires for immune function. They can complement other immune support lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Some beneficial ingredients in immune-boosting supplements include:
Beta-glucan: Beta-glucan is a type of fiber often derived from the cell walls of yeast found in fermented foods and leavened bread. Studies have shown that beta-glucan may activate macrophages, and white blood cells that kill harmful microorganisms, activate other immune cells and eliminate dead cells.
- Olive leaf extract: Oleuropeins found in olive leaf extract has been shown to support immune system activity by aiding in destroying harmful bacteria.
- Zinc and selenium: These essential minerals are required raw materials for several substances and reactions that drive immune system function.
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