It’s easy to take your immune system for granted when you’re feeling well.

However, your body’s intricate network of organs, cells, and tissues is always working hard behind the scenes to protect you from foreign invaders — like bacteria, viruses, and toxins — that can make you sick.

While this defensive lineup is incredibly good at its job, you may be able to give it an assist and improve your immunity with certain lifestyle choices.

This wellness guide is designed to offer you a place to start.

Eat plenty of whole foods — like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. This ensures you’re getting a variety of vitamins and minerals.

These micronutrients help your immune system, and your whole body, operate optimally.

That’s why it’s no surprise that, according to a 2019 research review, studies have shown a nutrient-dense, diverse diet plays a key role in supporting your immune function. This is especially true when your body is fighting off an infection.

On the other hand, a diet that’s low in beneficial nutrients is associated with an impaired immune system, according to 2019 research.

Eating for immunity also means reducing or eliminating certain foods and additives from your diet. Many processed foods lack important micronutrients that ward off illness.

For example, processed meats and other highly processed foods often contain additives and other components that studies have found may increase inflammation, according to 2018 research.

This could impair your body’s immune response, according to a 2020 research review.

Consuming more whole foods could help you avoid these potentially harmful effects and improve your immunity.

Find out more about disease-fighting foods that may boost your immunity.

Baked goods, candies, and sugary beverages like sodas tend to be low in vitamins and minerals. If you regularly consume a lot of sweet foods and drinks, you may be missing out on these important immunity-boosting micronutrients.

High-carbohydrate and sugary foods can cause sharp increases in blood glucose. These spikes can happen after you eat a sugary treat or snack.

According to the 2020 research review mentioned earlier, higher blood sugar levels may weaken your immune response by increasing inflammation. This impairs your body’s ability to fight off infection.

According to a 2017 review, a growing body of research also shows that a high sugar diet may decrease the healthy bacteria in your gut. These bacteria are essential for a strong immune system.

If you want to lower your intake of added sugar, learn about simple strategies to manage your sugar intake.

Exercise can make you feel good in the short term. And, according to 2019 research, studies show it may also influence your body’s immune response.

It does this by lowering inflammation and reducing both the frequency and duration of infections like the flu or common cold.

These immunity benefits are linked with regular physical activity. So, choose a form of movement you enjoy. That way, you’re more likely to stick with your routine and reap the many potential health benefits of consistent exercise — including a stronger immune system.

Just be sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard. Research from 2019 suggests that prolonged intense exercise can actually increase your chances of getting sick.

Examples of aerobic exercise to consider include:

  • dancing
  • walking briskly with a friend
  • trail running
  • a team sport you enjoy
  • pool exercises

There are many more exercise options, of course. Consider choosing a type that you’ll have fun doing. This may help you develop an enjoyable routine over the long term.

Read more about the benefits of aerobic exercise.

It’s easier said than done, but staying calm can support both your mental and physical health.

Research from 2020 has shown that psychological stress, especially when it’s chronic, may increase your susceptibility to illness and that it may even decrease your immune response to vaccinations, like the flu shot.

Studies have also suggested that stress can lead to inflammation in the body, according to a 2017 research review. Inflammation has been linked to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease.

What’s more, you’ve probably noticed that feeling stressed out can disrupt your sleep. This may also weaken your immune system.

Here are some research-backed ways to lessen stress:

  • meditation
  • mindfulness practices
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • yoga

Read more about stress and how it affects your body.

A balanced diet will ensure you get plenty of disease-fighting vitamins and minerals. Still, some evidence suggests that certain herbs and supplements could give you an immunity edge, according to a 2020 research review.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the safety or efficacy of supplements, though. So, look for options tested independently by third-party organizations.

Major third-party independent testing organizations to look for on the label include:

  • United States Pharmacopeia (USP)
  • NSF International
  • ConsumerLab

Learn more here about how to read supplement labels.

You should also check with your doctor to ensure a particular supplement is right — and safe — for you.

Read more about herbs and other ingredients that may boost your immune system.

If you’ve noticed that you tend to get sick at the most hectic times, you won’t be surprised to hear that poor sleep can result in a weakened immune system.

While you rest overnight, your body works to repair and restore its systems — including the immune system — through a variety of biological processes.

Research shows that not getting enough sleep can lower your ability to fight disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Not only can too little sleep increase your chances of getting sick, but it may also affect how quickly you recover from an illness.

What’s more, getting plenty of rest will give you more energy for physical activity.

Here are some key sleep tips that experts recommend:

  • Avoid caffeine later in the day.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Sleep in a dark room.

Read more about why a good night’s sleep is important for your health and well-being.

Immunity-boosting activities tend to be ones that also increase your overall health and well-being.

Practicing self-care and building enjoyable, healthy everyday routines will help you stay resilient.