Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Immune System

With cold and flu season approaching, on top of the ongoing COVID pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand how your immune system works and how to strengthen it. Your immune system protects you from illness-causing viruses, bacteria, and other harmful pathogens in your environment. It is your first defense against sickness and can even help you recover quickly if you do get sick. Your immune system isn’t one specific organ, but rather a combination of different organs, tissues, and cells in your body. If your immune system is weak you will become sick more easily because your body cannot fight off disease.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Immune System
Melissa McAllister

Keep reading to learn more about how to boost your immune system and stay healthy this winter.

Eat more nutritious foods

Eating nutrient-dense foods is key to kick start your day. Stick with foods that will provide you long-lasting energy such as protein, fruits, and vegetables. Vegetables and fruits naturally boost your immune system by providing it with phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, healthy oils, and acids. Your body uses these bioactive compounds to fight inflammation and harmful bacteria.

Eliminating, or at least reducing, sugar intake in your diet will have a serious impact on the effectiveness of your immune system. Consuming as little as 3.5 ounces of sugar can suppress your immune system by up to 50%. Most types of sugar are void of any nutritional value, and your body even requires nutrients to metabolize sugar, which means it depletes minerals from your body. So think twice next time you’re reaching for that chocolate chip cookie.

Drink more water

Your body’s hydration plays a huge role in your immune system because fluids help your body function properly. Drinking enough water throughout the day flushes out toxins, preventing their buildup in your immune system, which could otherwise harm your health. The water you drink helps your kidneys flush away toxins and helps your digestive tract remove waste from your body. Staying hydrated is even more important in the wintertime when sickness is more prevalent.

Establish good sleep habits

Your body cannot function on any level without adequate sleep. Unhealthy sleeping habits take a toll on your body and weaken your immune system. When your body does not get enough sleep, your immune system jumps into action with the same kind of immediate response that it has to stress. Sleep is vital in maintaining a healthy immune system because it keeps your white blood cell count within the normal range.

Learn to manage your stress

When your body is carrying too much stress it can weaken your immune system. The longer you are stressed, the weaker your immune system becomes. Your body interprets stress as an emergency and produces adrenaline and cortisol. While this response is helpful in an actual emergency, cortisol suppresses your immune system.

Good hygiene matters

This probably goes without saying, but keeping yourself clean and well-groomed goes a long way in keeping your body healthy. If there has been one takeaway from the COVID virus it’s that washing your hands frequently with soap and water throughout the day is vital to stop the spreading of germs. Washing your hands should be automatic, especially before preparing food, after using the restroom, and touching commonly used surfaces.

Work out regularly

People who exercise have a stronger immune system that is better equipped to fight off infections and bacteria that could lead to illness. Doctors have found that exercise gives your disease-fighting cells a boost, thereby strengthening your immune system. Cells that fight bacteria are less efficient in people who don't exercise than in those who do. When you exercise, your heart gets stronger and pumps more blood throughout your entire body. This improves lung function so your entire body gets more oxygen.

Get more Vitamin D

Sun exposure of at least 10 minutes per day strengthens your immune system by encouraging your body’s production of Vitamin D, which many people are deficient in. Vitamin D is used by many different areas of your body, such as your intestines, brain, and immune cells, which all have Vitamin D receptors that bind with this important vitamin to turn Vitamin D-responsive genes on.