Live, Eat, and Exercise To Support Your Immune System

Key Points

  • Your immune system protects you against viruses, infections, and diseases. 

  • Eat healthy food, practice good hygiene, get enough sleep, and exercise to support your immune system. 

  • Exercise to support your immune system for at least 150 minutes weekly.

Are you feeling run down and always on the brink of getting sick? Want to get your health back on track? It may be time to exercise to support your immune system.

There are many benefits to getting outside and staying active. You soak in the sunlight, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the gorgeous greenery and scenery around you. Throw in some exercise to support your immune system and you're quadruply set!

It's Important to Have a Strong Immune System

A strong immune system keeps your health in tip-top shape! It shields you against sickness and disease. 

Your immune system fends off germs, viruses, harmful bacteria, parasites, and allergens. It recognizes these foreign cells (antigens) as “invaders” and creates antibodies to defend you.

Pretend your immune system is a home security system. It's useless with a broken, damaged, or disconnected alarm.

The result? You’re vulnerable and defenseless against dangerous intruders. You no longer feel safe in your own home! 

The same goes for your immune system. When you don’t properly care for your body, it can’t take care of you. Attending a kid’s birthday party, shopping at a mall, or airport traveling suddenly poses very real consequences. 

Weak immune system leads to sickness

Signs of a Strong Immune System

A strong immune system is vital. It prevents disease, improves energy levels, aids recovery from illness/injury, and fights fatigue. 

Here’s how to tell if your immune system is living its best life:

  • You have ample energy.

  • You stay alert and focused.

  • Your sleep quality is excellent.

  • You rarely get sick. 

  • You regulate your emotions well.

  • You bounce back from colds like they're nothing.

  • You have a healthy digestive system.

In the words of R&B legend James Brown, you feel good!

Signs of a Weak Immune System

Do you get colds more than two to three times a year? Are you battling infection after infection to no avail? If so, your immune system desperately needs some TLC. 

Signs of a compromised immune system include:

  • You suffer from elevated heart rate and/or blood pressure.

  • You have digestive issues such as chronic bloating, inflammation, constipation, gas, diarrhea, etc.

  • You’re frequently ill and battle sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, brain fog, and body aches.

  • You’re persistently stressed out.

  • You recover slowly from sickness.

  • Your body's cuts and injuries take longer than normal to heal. 

Boost and Improve Your Immune System

Your immune system is incredibly complex. Your lifestyle choices, gut health, nutrition, hygiene, sleep, stress levels, exercise, and attitude affect how well it operates.

There are ways to boost your immune system.

Focus on Your Gut Health

Ready for some fun facts?

  1. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut! 

  2. Your healthy gut bacteria teach your immune cells (T-cells) to fight antigens and stimulate a strong immune response.

If your gut health isn’t right, your immune system doesn’t stand a chance. They're intricately connected.

There are several ways to nourish and heal your gut.

Eat a Nutritious Diet

Whole, unprocessed foods are key. Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. Healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil are also important. Wild-caught fish, protein at every meal, and natural herbs and spices encourage gut-bacteria diversity. 

Antioxidants contribute to gut health by regulating the balance of those good bacteria. These are in blueberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and dark chocolate. 

Fiber cleanses your colon, maintains a robust gut lining, and decreases constipation. Eat more beans, berries, popcorn, whole grains, apples, and nuts.

Nutritious diet for strong immune system

Hydration is imperative to a nutritious diet. Water carries nutrients throughout the body and reduces waste and toxins. Drink at least six to eight glasses per day. 

Pro Tip: Limit processed and pre-packaged foods. They’re addictive and delicious but exacerbate gut inflammation and digestive issues. 

Get Prebiotics and Probiotics 

Probiotics are essential to gut health. Bacteria-stripping elements like antibiotics, unhealthy foods, surgeries, and stress imbalance your gut microbiome. An imbalanced gut causes digestive woes, autoimmune problems, sleep issues, and fatigue.

To counteract these symptoms, take a daily probiotic supplement. How to choose the right one? Look for Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Bacillus coagulans strains on the ingredients label. 

Prebiotics also reinforce your gut’s healthy bacteria. Prebiotics feed probiotics. They’re like fertilizer for your gut!

Prebiotics improve digestion and metabolism. They regulate bowel movements, increase nutrient absorption, stabilize blood sugar levels, lower inflammation, and keep your appetite in check.

Prebiotics come in supplements. They're also found in foods like garlic, onions, bananas, oats, apples, asparagus, tomatoes, watermelon, and wheat products. 

Pro Tip: One or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily offers probiotic and prebiotic benefits. 

Support Your Liver

Your liver filters out harmful chemicals and bacteria from the bloodstream. It also breaks down foods, turns fats into energy, and builds proteins to keep your muscles strong. This workhorse organ performs over 500 important functions

Milk thistle, dandelion root, and selenium are top liver supplements. Support your liver further through the foods you eat. Kale, Brussels sprouts, blueberries, cranberries, garlic, olive oil, and green tea are liver lovers!

Pro Tip: Limiting or avoiding alcohol is best for your liver. Why? Alcohol kills your liver cells.

While the liver regenerates new cells, excessive alcohol consumption hinders this ability long-term. Too much alcohol causes serious, irreversible damage to your liver. 

Practice Good Hygiene

Good hygiene is a must. It prevents you from contracting and spreading germs, fungi, and bacteria. 

Always wash your hands before and after handling food and touching a sick person. Also clean them after using the restroom, changing baby diapers, contacting bodily fluids, petting animals, and touching dirty surfaces. 

Not-so-fun fact: Germs hang out on surfaces for up to several hours! Skeptical about an area’s cleanliness? Wash your hands. Scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds and rinse well.

Washing hands regularly

Shower or bathe at least once a day. Focus on areas prone to body odor and bacteria buildup: armpits, groin, pubic area, and feet. Shower immediately after exercising.

Sweat breeds bacteria, leading to breakouts, yeast infections, and more. 

Cold showers are great for recovery. During the last 30 to 60 seconds, rotate the knob (as far cold as you dare) for a chilling finale! 

Take Daily Vitamins

Montana-based cardiologist and professor of culinary medicine Dr. Michael S. Fenster says, “There is a fundamental relationship between the diet, nutritional status, and the immune system. Proper nutrition serves a critical function in maintaining healthy cells that maintain a protective barrier between our bodies and potentially toxic invaders.”

Vitamins protect healthy cells, support the growth and activity of immune cells, and aid the production of antibodies. Vitamin supplements are a great addition to your daily regimen. They also fill nutritional gaps for people on restrictive diets due to food allergies, pregnancy, or illness.

Seeking a more holistic approach? There are plenty of vitamins in the foods you eat!

Taking vitamins for immunity

The top vitamins for immunity are:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C triggers white blood cell activity. White blood cells release chemicals that attack virus-causing cells. Like a little cell army — armed with ammunition — they patrol your body to keep it safe.

Vitamin C shortens the duration of colds, provides instant immune defense, and treats respiratory infections. Most immunity-bolstering medicines contain vitamin C.

It’s the best vitamin for the immune system!

Food sources: Oranges, strawberries, spinach, kiwi, sweet peppers, parsley, and thyme.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is the "anti-inflammation" vitamin. It regulates immune system activity and fights infections.

Vitamin A strengthens your epithelial tissues and mucous membranes — two barriers that keep pathogens out. 

Food sources: Natural cheeses, yogurt, eggs, salmon, tuna, tomatoes, cow’s milk, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D doesn’t just battle illness, it also reinforces calcium absorption. This supports bone health, muscle movement, and nerve function.

The “sunshine vitamin” is a must-have! Why? Vitamin D deficiencies make you more susceptible to colds, flu, and COVID-19. 

Food sources: Salmon, red meat, liver, and egg yolks.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 aids the creation of white blood cells and T-cells. It also promotes brain health, boosts energy, and enhances your mood.

Vitamin B6 keeps your immune system locked and loaded against potential threats. 

Food sources: Pork, chicken, tuna, soy, peanuts, chickpeas, oats, and bananas. 

Pro Tip: Want to get immune-boosting vitamins through supplements? Go for it! Avoid products exceeding 100 percent of the daily recommended dose. 

Get Enough Sleep

Your body manufactures immune cells and infection-fighting proteins (cytokines) while you sleep. Cool, huh? That’s why adequate sleep is crucial! Aim for seven to nine hours each night. 

If you don’t get enough sleep, your body forces you to rest by getting sick.

Proper sleep for good immunity

Isn't it better to cozy up in bed than toss and turn for hours? Being too stuffy to fall asleep is no joke.

Find it challenging to hit the sheets early? Melatonin, Zzz-Quil, Kava, and cutting off your caffeine supply after 2p.m. work wonders. 

Manage Stress

Prolonged stress makes you more susceptible to illness and infections. It hinders your immune response, breeds and aggravates inflammation, and affects your sleep. 

To reduce stress in your life, make time for activities you enjoy. Read a few chapters before bed, cuddle your fur babies, whip up your favorite meal (you know the one), or get immersed in a feel-good movie. 

Set healthy boundaries, fine-tune your time management skills, and vent to a trustworthy friend. Break some bad habits, listen to your favorite music, and unplug from social media.

All these are stress-busters.

Exercise Regularly

Consistent exercise is a tried-and-true way to strengthen your immune system. Physical activity flushes bacteria out of your lungs and airways, reducing your likelihood of getting sick. 

The science behind this advice? Exercise induces physiological stress. This increases the circulation of white blood cells and antibodies. Your reinforced "cell army" receives its marching orders to seek and destroy the enemy.

These immune cells stick around for up to three hours post-workout. 

There is a catch. Occasional exercise isn’t enough. You must be consistent.

It's like cleaning your room once a month versus sprucing it up every week. Not only does your room look and stay cleaner with a weekly effort, but it’s also easier to keep it clean.  

The same goes for exercise and your immune system. Consistency reaps greater benefits. 

Exercising regularly

With that said, there is such a thing as exercising too much.

Overtraining syndrome is training beyond your body’s ability to recover. It leads to fatigue, deteriorated performance, hormone imbalances, insomnia, irritability, and lowered immunity. 

Pushing yourself too hard for too long places enormous stress on your body. Strenuous exercise causes your cortisol and adrenaline levels to surge. This disrupts your system’s natural processes. 

How Long To Exercise for Strong Immunity?

Doctors and fitness professionals recommend exercising 2.5 to 3 hours per week. If you need more motivation, recruit a workout buddy or take group fitness classes

Which type of exercise is best for your immune system? Studies suggest a blend of cardio and strength training. Cardio improves your heart health. Strength training maintains a suitable weight and generates lean muscle.

Need cardio ideas? Try walking, running, dancing, and cycling. For strength workouts, incorporate push-ups, mountain climbers, squats, planks, and wall sits.

Pro Tip #1: Avoid severe muscle-damaging sessions. The muscle repair process competes with your immune response. Opt for moderate-intensity workouts instead.

Pro Tip #2: Your training “sweet spot” depends on your athleticism, health, and a variety of other factors. Experiment and adjust until you discover what works for you. 

Start Building Your Immunity Now

Ready to feel wonderful and at home in your own skin again?

Make the necessary diet, hygiene, lifestyle, and fitness changes to your daily routine and reinvent a healthier you. Take it one step — and one category — at a time if need be.

For more health, wellness, and fitness advice, subscribe to Fit&Fab today.

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