Your immune system is made up of white blood cells, the lymphatic system, several different organs, and tissues that all work together to fight off germs or foreign organisms like viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
Without a well-functioning immune system, people can frequently get sick. Supporting your immune health means keeping your immune system as healthy as possible to fight off foreign organisms that cause infection and disease.
There are several different ways you can support your immune health, including:
- eating a well-balanced diet
- exercising regularly
- getting enough sleep
- maintaining good hygiene
- quitting smoking (if you smoke)
- limiting your alcohol intake
- finding ways to manage or avoid stress
You can also support your immune health by receiving all routine vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How often you get sick can give you a sense of whether your immune system is in good shape. If you get sick often, you may have a weakened immune system. It’s typical to catch common viruses, such as viruses that cause the common cold, from time to time.
However, you should talk with a doctor if you’re sick frequently or become infected with uncommon foreign organisms.
Yes, maintaining a well-balanced and nutritious diet is key to maintaining good immune health.
A healthy diet should include plenty of:
- whole grains
Fruits high in antioxidants, such as berries, are particularly helpful in boosting the immune system. Probiotics such as yogurt are also valuable for supporting immune health and can help promote healthy gut flora. A diet that consists of red meat and processed sugars may weaken immune health.
Stress can have many negative physical effects, including suppressing or weakening the immune system.
Finding ways to control or decrease stress levels can help support your immune health. Some strategies you can try include:
- deep breathing exercises
Maintaining a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly can also help. Because large amounts of caffeine can impact stress and anxiety levels, decreasing caffeine intake may help reduce stress.
Your immune system requires energy to function properly. If you have a weakened immune system, your body will try to conserve energy to help your immune system fight off infections, which can cause fatigue.
There are many reasons why some people get sick more often than others.
For example, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, poor sleep habits, and poor hygiene can weaken the immune system leading to increased instances of infection and disease.
Tobacco smoking, high alcohol consumption, and high stress and anxiety levels can also weaken the immune system. Avoiding these things and maintaining a healthier lifestyle can help support a strong immune system.
When you’re sick, it’s best to continue eating healthy foods and taking in immune-boosting nutrients, including zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics.
It’s also essential to stay hydrated and conserve energy by getting plenty of rest.
It’s important to maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and choose other healthy lifestyle habits to support your immune health.
Quitting smoking and avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption can improve your immune health. It can also help to get plenty of rest and avoid or find ways to ease stress. Be sure to talk with your doctor about additional ways that you can support your immune health.
Dr. Avi Varma is an ABMS board certified family medicine physician and public health advocate working for a nonprofit fighting the HIV epidemic in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Varma is an HIV Specialist™ (AAHIVS), certified through the American Academy of HIV Medicine.