We’ve all been sick. And we’ve all been very unhappy about it.
Whether it’s the common cold, a stomach bug, or something more serious that’s taking you out of commission, being sick is pretty much the worst. The good news is that — while there’s no way to prevent coming down with any of these illnesses 100 percent — you can get ahead of a lot of common ailments.
It’s all about the immune system.
In order to avoid being sick as much as possible, it’s important to know how to boost your immune system. There are plenty of ways to do this, from getting better sleep and eating well to practicing healthy hygiene and staying active. Using these strategies will do more than just keep your immunity high — it will help you feel healthier, in general!
Before we get into how to boost your immune system, though, some basic info about the immune system would probably be helpful, don’t you think?
Why is the immune system so important?
Here’s the thing about your immune system — when it’s working the way it’s supposed to, you don’t need to be very aware of it. It’s really only when it’s not working right that you need to start thinking about things like immunity. If you’ve ever been sick and found yourself wondering how to avoid being sick, like ever again, what you’re really asking yourself is how to boost your immune system.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) lays out the importance of the immune system very clearly: “The immune system plays a vital role of protecting your body from harmful substances, germs, and cell changes that can make you sick.”
When disease-causing parasites, viruses, and bacteria enter your body, it’s up to your immune system to recognize them and fight back. It’s also responsible for fighting cancer cells and other disease-causing changes that actually happen within the body.
How does it work?
(This is where the experts at NCBI are really going to school us.)
Here’s the deal: antigens — AKA anything the body doesn’t recognize as its own — trigger a healthy immune system to go to work. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi all fall under that antigen category and can kick off the process that will (hopefully) strike them right back down. They attach to receptors on immune cells and those immune cells jump into action.
Over time, your body also creates antibodies, which are adapted to fight specific germs that you’ve already come into contact with. This is why there are certain illnesses that you can only get once. Over time, a healthy immune system learns to more effectively fight certain antigens, building immunity throughout your life. Ironically, while you may be the one trying to figure out how to boost your immune system, your bod is doing some of the work all on its own!
What are white blood cells?
A quick note on white blood cells, bulldoggers, because you may have heard about them as part of this whole immunity issue. A conversation about how to boost your immune system would be kind of incomplete without a little clarification about them!
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, white blood cells are immunity cells! They are the ones tasked with fighting the antigens we were talking about a few seconds ago. White blood cells flow through your bloodstream and rush to help destroy bacteria, viruses, and other invaders when they enter your system.
Shoutout to white blood cells — you’re the real heroes.
Why is it important to know how to boost your immune system?
Because the stronger your immune system, the better equipped your body will be to recognize dangerous substances and get. them. out!
When your immune system is going strong, those white blood cells will get to work faster and more effectively so you can be back in business and feeling like yourself again. You can return to your usual busy, multitasking, high-energy ways!
Now that we’ve established some basics about immunity and why it’s key to know how to boost the immune system, here are some ways to go about it…
Are you sick of hearing nutrition tips? Well, you’re about to get (at least) one more… because eating certain foods is an effective way to support your immune system! Per the National Institutes of Health, poor nutrition is actually the number-one cause of low immunity around the world.
For improved immunity, Healthline recommends eating plenty of foods high in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, red bell peppers, and papaya. Poultry, sunflower seeds, green tea, shellfish, garlic, ginger, spinach, and broccoli can also do the trick.
We’ll never tell you to stop eating delicious treats like chocolate or red wine, but if you’re asking us how to boost your immune system, we’ve gotta direct you to some of these other foods, too.
Sticking to good hygiene habits is about more than just looking and smelling your best. It’s also important for preserving and boosting your immunity so your white blood cells can do their work!
According to Harvard Health, consistent hygienic habits are actually the first line of defense against germs entering your system. Don’t skimp on frequent hand washing, covering your nose or mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and thoroughly cleaning injuries.
Beyond just boosting your own immune system, these habits can prevent the spread of germs to other people. A win-win!
You can take your healthy hygiene habits a step further by being careful with the way you handle food in the kitchen. Harvard Health recommends washing your hands before and after touching raw food, rinsing fresh food before eating it, defrosting frozen foods only in the fridge or microwave, and cooking meats to the correct temperature.
These may seem like no-brainers, but you’re asking how to boost your immune system, so…
Any time you travel, you tend to put yourself in places and situations with a lot more people than you would be around otherwise. Seriously — have you ever seen crowds bigger than the ones you experience in train stations, airports, and major tourist destinations? Doubtful.
Although traveling is bound to put your immune system in jeopardy to some extent, there are ways to keep those white blood cells on your side. Wash your hands as much as possible and carry hand sanitizer with you. Before you travel, find out if there are additional health measures you need to take once you get to your final destination!
It seems like there are endless benefits to getting better sleep.
One such benefit? A stronger immune system! Per The Sleep Foundation, getting seven or eight hours of sleep during cold and flu season — and any other time a lot of people around you are under the weather — can keep you from catching something icky.
Yes, we recommend exercise and physical activity for pretty much everything… but there’s a reason for it! In this case, there may even be multiple reasons, since there are several theories out there about why working out benefits immunity.
Per the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one theory suggests that it gets your white blood cells moving faster through your bloodstream so they are better able to track down potential danger. Another theory suggests that exercise flushes bacteria out of your airways and lungs. A third says that a cardio session or butt-busting workout can slow down the release of stress hormones, which helps the immune system, too.
Don’t be so eager to practice how to boost your immune system, though, that you push yourself too hard. It’s important to take days off from working out!
Stay healthy out there, bulldoggers!
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Featured image: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash; Sneezing image: Brittany Colette/Unsplash; Citrus image: Rayia Soderberg/Unsplash; Airport image: Ashim D’Silva/Unsplash