Flu season is nearing its end, but it’s not too late for you to come down with one more case of the sniffles, even after flu shots. To keep the flu virus and other infectious diseases away, you can give some love to your immune system with a healthy diet and plenty of natural supplements.
Your immune system is made up of billions of cells throughout your body, including familiar white blood cells (lymphocytes, which are made in your bone marrow), antibodies, the lymphatic system, the spleen, and more. Keeping your body healthy is a complicated process, as there are a lot of germs (known as antigens in biology terms) in the world that are constantly mutating and changing. Hence why it’s so important to maintain a healthy immune system.
Boosting your immune system isn’t necessarily about increasing the amount of immune cells—your body does that automatically when you’re sick. Instead, the best immune support strengthens and provides nutrients to key internal systems. When the rest of your body is in good shape, if you get sick, your immune system will be able to fight back more effectively.
Lifestyle also plays a role in immune support. Some behaviors put you at a greater risk and weaken your body’s natural defenses, like smoking. The good news is that many immune-boosting lifestyle choices are simple! Using hand sanitizer, washing your hands, getting regular exercise, drinking enough water, and sleeping well are all things that will help out your immune system as well as boost your overall health.
There’s also a lot of research being done studying the impact of other factors like stress on the immune system. Stress has both long and short term effects on your health, and even perhaps on your overall lifespan. How does it all work in your body? Essentially, stress suppresses the effectiveness of your immune system through the hormone corticosteroid.
That may sound familiar to you, because corticosteroids can be prescribed from a pharmacy as an anti-inflammatory, because inflammation is a sign that white blood cells are at work. Corticosteroids reduce the chemical triggers for white blood cells and are typically used to treat a wide variety of disorders, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions and autoimmune diseases where an overactive immune system attacks other parts of the body. Corticosteroids help weaken the immune system and thus, lessen the symptoms associated with these conditions.
In the short term, there’s not much risk. However, long-term stress and immune suppression can have very serious health consequences and lead to chronic illness. That’s why healthy stress management is the most important thing when it comes to your immune system.
Natural Immune Supplements
But you can also help your immune system along with natural boosters! Unsurprisingly, it starts with what you eat.
Foods like yogurt are rich with helpful bacteria that help your digestive system break down everything properly and not cause problems. Green tea is rich with antioxidants, which slows cell damage caused by unstable free-radicals. Garlic as well—it contains allicin, which breaks down into various sulfur-compounds (also what gives garlic its strong flavor and smell) that improve the functions of some types of white blood cells. You can also take oregano oil supplements, an antimicrobial infection-stopper, to make up any gaps in your diet.
The best thing for your health, however, is Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a micronutrient essential to good immune health by supporting important immune cell functions. Vitamin C improves your skin’s natural barrier against pathogens and those pesky free-radicals. It also improves your body’s natural internal defenses as well, enhancing microbial-killing chemicals.
That’s a lot of science, but basically with Vitamin C, your defenses are stronger, and with a deficiency of it, your body is more prone to infection and illness due to a weak immune system. You can find vitamin C naturally in many fruits and vegetables.
You can make a tonic rich in Vitamin C and other immune-boosting ingredients by simmering apple-cider vinegar, lemon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and water or tea over the stove. As long as you don’t go too heavy on the vinegar, not only is this incredibly good for you, but it’s also warm and delicious! With this, you can prevent drinking all that icky cold medicine.