Your immune system is what protects you from disease and infection. When you’re healthy, germs, viruses and even parasites can be quickly identified and eradicated. With a weak immune system, however, you are more prone to illness: colds and flus will hit harder and wounds will be slower to heal.
Thankfully, there are plenty of natural ways to support and boost your immune system naturally and keep your body (and mind) feeling its best . Collectively, the following healthy lifestyle habits can make a big impact:
- Dietary habits
- Exercise regimen
- Sleep routine
- Stress management
Ready to upgrade your disease-fighting system?
Major progress has been made in the study of the gut biome over the last decade. Researchers have discovered connections between what you eat and what you think, how much energy you have, how stressed you are, and, importantly, how robust your immune system is.
This continual evolution in research adds a whole new meaning to the adage: You are what you eat.
Studies have shown that the majority of the immune system (estimates of almost 70%) is located in the gut. So, to improve your immune system, you can start by being mindful of what you eat every day.
In 2016, the FDA removed KIND Bars’“healthy” label because of the high levels of fat. In an FDA hearing, senior vice president of KIND, Justin Mervis, demonstrated the outdated notions of what constituted “healthy eating” with a riveting presentation:
“A chart displayed by Justin Mervis…showed “healthy” food items — at least according to the existing FDA definition — next to ones that are not. Under “healthy”? A bowl of brightly colored children’s fruit cereal, a low-fat chocolate pudding cup and frosted toaster pastries. The non-"healthy" items included almonds, avocados and salmon.”
The FDA reversed its decision on KIND Bars and claimed they would reconsider what should be constituted under “healthy.” So, if the Food and Drug Administration had healthy backwards, you can imagine the negative effect this has had on the consumer.
To lead you to the right path, leading experts in diet and nutrition have agreed on a few overall guidelines:
- Avoid heavily processed foods and meats – A good rule of thumb here is to shop the perimeter of your store, where perishable items are more likely to be.
- Consume a variety of natural proteins, grains, legumes, colorful vegetables and fruits – By providing your gut biome with a variety of such, the chances of lacking specific nutrients and vitamins are decreased.
- Pay attention to your stomach – Everyone has a unique genetic makeup, gut biomes and palette. Keep trying new foods and incorporate as many natural colors into your diet. If it helps, write down the new foods you’re trying along with how they make you feel.
Nutrition and diet advice expands far and wide. Why it seems like there’s a “new trend” every week is held within that last guideline. What’s important to keep in mind is that different diets work for different people. If you listen to your body, eat real food from nature (as opposed to “food-like substances'', to quote Michael Pollan) and always pay attention to how you feel, it will benefit you long-term
Plus, always shooting for a variety in your dietary choices will result in new favorite foods (which is always exciting).
Supplement your Health and Avoid Unhealthy Behaviors
With this broad definition of healthy eating in, let’s discuss two other important elements to the gut biome.
Supplements are a great way to introduce key vitamins and nutrients that you might be missing. Certain diets might lack iron, vitamin-B12 or other vitamins and minerals. One way to identify this is to perform a standard blood test with your physician.
Next, you should consider avoiding the behaviors that don’t serve your health. The major ones, according to Healthline, include smoking cigarettes and drinking excessive alcohol.
By following these tips, and supplementing your body with healthy dietary choices, your gut biome and immune system will be happier and healthier.
Exercise and the immune system have a deeply-connected bond: to a certain extent, staying active supports a strong immune system. It’s never fun to exercise when you’re sick -- and in fact, it’s typically advised against. However, when your body is stagnant for extended periods of time, your immune system make weaken.
It’s this chicken-or-the-egg conundrum that makes exercising while healthy so important.
This connection can be seen in a review of physical activity and immune system health. David Nieman and Laurel Wentz found:
“Acute exercise (moderate-to-vigorous intensity, less than 60 min) is now viewed as an important immune system adjuvant to stimulate the ongoing exchange of distinct and highly active immune cell subtypes between the circulation and tissues. In particular, each exercise bout improves the antipathogen activity of tissue macrophages in parallel with an enhanced recirculation of immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, NK cells, cytotoxic T cells, and immature B cells.”
With a combination of acute training and daily workouts, you can support and improve your immune response. Whether this is cardio (running, biking, swimming, walking) or strength training (weights, HIIT, etc.)—the response seems to be clear:
Consistent exercise strengthens your body and your immune system.
What to Do About Sore Muscles
There’s nothing worse than doing something healthy and having it backfire. Sore muscles may feel like punishment for doing something good for your body. If an increased exercise regime has left you with aches and discomforts, CBD supplements are a great option to help with exercise-induced inflammation.
While getting a good night's rest certainly feels wonderful, you might be surprised at its actual health benefit. Your immune system does its best work while you’re sleeping. When your body is in sleep mode, the immune system releases a kind of protein called cytokines. Different cytokines have different functions. Some cytokines help your body sleep and some help fight infections and inflammation. But without a full night’s sleep, your immune system has a harder time producing these proteins and protecting you from illnesses.
According to Dr. Eric J. Olson from the Mayo Clinic, “Sleep deprivation may decrease production of protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.”
The less sleep you get, the more likely you are to get sick. Your immune system relies on healthy sleep habits to keep you well, and adult bodies typically need between seven to eight hours of sleep.
If you need some help grabbing a full night of zzz’s, try these tips from sleep expert Matthew Walker:
- Create a sleep schedule – Set a strict bedtime and wake-up time for yourself that works with your day-to-day life. You may struggle to fall asleep and wake up at first, but the more you stick with it, the easier it will become.
- Cool down your sleeping area – Open a window or turn your thermostat down to 65°F. The cool air will encourage your mind and body into sleep mode.
- Spend the hour before bed screen-free – Your smartphone, TV and laptop all emit blue light that tells our brain’s light receptors to stay alert. Turn off your devices and use the hour before bed to relax your mind in preparation for a good night’s rest.
- Stop drinking caffeine after 1 pm – Even though we may not feel the effects of a cup of coffee a few hours later, the caffeine is still in our bodies. Switch to herbal teas or water after 1 pm for a better night’s sleep.
Alternative Sleep Aids
Sometimes a little alternative sleep remedy can go a long way. Some alternative sleep aids to consider are:
- Lavender sachets – Place a sachet of dried lavender under your pillow. Lavender’s soothing scent may help lull your mind to sleep.
- Bedtime meditation – A guided meditation before bedtime can help you relax and clear your mind before you go to sleep.
- CBD for sleep routine – Sometimes after a long bustling day, our minds have a difficult time slowing down enough to drift off into sleep. CBD tinctures may help calm your busy mind which can lead to a better sleep routine.
Minimizing Stress and Other Methods
Our mental well-being can have a huge effect on our body’s ability to fight diseases. Studies have shown that long-term stress can lead to increased inflammation in the body and increased risk of contracting infections. By taking care of your mental wellness, you’ll be giving your immune system a fighting chance against illness.
The effect of stress on the immune system can be minimized with some of these stress-management techniques:
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness is the act of rooting yourself in the present moment instead of letting yourself focus on past or future anxieties. Activities like meditation, tai chi and yoga are a great starting point to incorporate mindfulness into your stress management.
Go outside – Scientific reports show that spending time in nature can reduce stress levels, decrease blood pressure, and even improve your memory functions. Whether you sit outside or go for a hike, schedule some time every day to enjoy the amazing effects of nature on your mental health.
- CBD for stress – With the uncertainty of everything happening in the world, it’s easy to get worried and stressed. Wondering how to manage stress? Taking CBD capsules is a natural way to help deal with these and create more room for mindfulness.
Healthy Immune System, The Natural Way
There are no shortcuts or magic pills that can ramp up your immune response- well, except for what a doctor may prescribe. To keep your immune system strong and healthy, preventative care is essential. This means that to offer yourself the best chance at beating an illness, you’ll want to regularly practice these four guidelines for a healthy immune system:
- Eat healthy, diverse foods and follow your gut
- Exercise 4 or more times a week to improve your immune response
- Sleep well and regularly
- Meditate, get out in the sun, and do what’s right for your body
Start making these changes to your lifestyle and building a strong immune system. To supplement your healthy routine, consider incorporating Plant People’s CBD supplements for natural, organic goodness. Once you implement the above tips, you’ll be on your way to healthy, clean living.
Harvard Health. How to boost your immune system. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
Food Dive. What actually makes food 'healthy'? https://www.fooddive.com/news/what-actually-makes-food-healthy/437816/
Healthline. 10 Processed Foods to Avoid. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/processed-foods-to-avoid
Health.gov. A Closer Look Inside Healthy Eating Patterns. https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/chapter-1/a-closer-look-inside-healthy-eating-patterns/
ScienceDaily. 'Healthy' foods differ by individual. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151119133230.htm
Healthline. 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-common-nutrient-deficiencies
Healthline. 8 Surprising Things That Harm Your Gut Bacteria. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-things-that-harm-gut-bacteria
WebMD. Exercising When Sick: A Good Move? https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/exercising-when-sick#1
Science Direct. The compelling link between physical activity and the body's defense system. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254618301005
MayoClinic. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757
Berkeley News. Everything you need to know about sleep, but are too tired to ask https://news.berkeley.edu/2017/10/17/whywesleep/
Science Daily. How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm
NCBI. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/
Business Insider. Being outside can improve memory, fight depression, and lower blood pressure. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7
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