Getting sick is unpleasant. There’s no way around it.
Personally, there’s always that feeling that it got me . It snuck past my defense of multivitamins, handwashing, and the general belief that oh I don’t get sick .
I’ve learned it takes a lot more than a good attitude to keep your immune system in fighting-shape. (although a good attitude always helps)
What it takes:
- good habits
- an understanding of how your body works
- the belief in these three words:
Everything Is Connected
Everything that’s important for your overall health is also important for strengthening your immune system.
As much as some parts of the health and fitness industry want you to believe…there is no magic pill…
There Is No Quick Fix.
It’s all about the fundamentals.
In this article, I’m going to show you the connection between the fundamentals of health and your immune system, along with a few lesser-known strategies for boosting your immune system.
Let’s dive in!
1. Get High-Quality Sleep
This cannot be overstated. Getting enough, high-quality sleep every night is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system. It’s almost impossible without it.
There are countless studies demonstrating the ill-effects of skipping out on sleep.
Some show that you can’t make as many cells to fight viruses and bacteria. Others show that the main cells of your immune system, white blood cells, are less effective at recognizing germs and sounding the alarm.
While enough sleep varies person to person, Dr. Nathaniel Watson, the co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center recommends getting 7+ hours of sleep every night.
The bottom line: Less sleep = Less ability to fight off viruses and bacteria.
Now, how can you get more sleep and make sure that it’s high-quality sleep?
- Stress management
- Consistent exercise
- Get sunlight first thing in the morning.
- Have a sleep schedule (And stick to it!)
If you are going to start with one of these, I would choose stress management.
Not only does going to bed still wired from a busy day make falling asleep difficult, but it’s also likely that you’re not sleeping as deeply as if you’d taken the time to let your mind and body relax first.
Short term and long term stress both suppress your immune system
This makes developing a routine designed to get you as relaxed as possible before bed a great way to help out your immune system and immediately improve the quality of your sleep.
To learn more about stress management and other sleep boosting techniques head over to the article How to Sleep Better at Night Naturally.
2. Eat Whole Foods Full of Vitamins and Minerals
I know you’ve heard this before. And regardless of whether you blew it off or totally bought into the idea, eating a diet of mostly whole foods is important.
Car production factories need metal and rubber to pump out cars. Your body’s immune system needs vitamins and minerals to pump out healthy white blood cells to go fight germs.
Immune system building blocks include : Zinc, Vitamin C, B-vitamins, Magnesium and many others
These are some, but not all, of the nutrients most commonly associated with immune system health.
Some of the best foods you can incorporate to get these nutrients in your diet are:
- Seafood (crab, lobster, shellfish), pastured chicken, grass-fed beef, kale, garlic, pumpkin seeds/chia seeds, full-fat organic dairy
- Fruits and veggies
- Green veggies, meat and fish, legumes, fruits, avocados, eggs/full-fat dairy
- Nuts, avocados, spinach, chicken, bananas, dark chocolate, salmon
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see a pattern.
- A variety of fruits and veggies, the more colorful the better
- High-quality meats (grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, wild-caught fish/seafood)
- Full-fat organic dairy
- A variety of nuts and seeds.
If you’d like additional information on foods that have been shown to boost your immune system, check out this article by Allison Jones.
Now you may be reading this and thinking, Great Matt, tell me something I don’t know.
If that’s you, head over to this article by Sal Di Stefano on 3 less common Immune system boosters.
3. Get Moving
Studies have shown that low to moderate levels of exercise are crucial for having a healthy immune system.
Too much exercise and your body produces high amounts of cortisol which can depress your immune system.
Too little exercise, and the same occurs.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE RIGHT AMOUNT?
Answer: Listen to Your Body.
You know that feeling you get when you really push through a workout and end up feeling beat up and tired for a day or two afterward….that’s the too much I am talking about.
You also probably know the feeling where you just get some movement in, get the blood flowing and feel even better afterward.
That’s the right amount I’m talking about.
Everyone’s version of those two workouts is going to be different.
The important thing is to move consistently throughout the day and focus on moving well.
4. Start Sweating!
Study after study show that sauna use, both infrared and traditional, boosts the effectiveness of your immune system.
This may be by increasing the amount of white blood cells your body makes or it may be that the improved circulation helps out your immune system.
Either way, sauna is IN.
Start slow and ease your way into a consistent practice of a few times a week, and start feeling the difference.
If you are interested in taking an even deeper dive into the benefits of sauna and the science behind it, head on over to Ben Greenfield’s comprehensive guide to all things sauna.
Before using a sauna, read this article listing the health conditions for which you should not use the sauna.
5. Get OK With Being Cold
Studies show that exposing your body to cold temperatures for a short period of time boosts your immune system by making it easier to produce and transport your white blood cells throughout your body.
Other studies say that cold therapy improves the effectiveness of your white blood cells by decreasing stress levels (cortisol levels).
Bottom line: the science is saying loud and clear, cryotherapy decreases your likelihood of getting sick.
For some, getting really cold for a short period of time sounds like torture.
But try thinking of it this way: getting cold for a few minutes a couple of times a week vs being sick for a week or two straight.
Again, if you want to dive deeper into the science and benefits of cold therapy, Ben Greenfield is your man. He has an awesome podcast , along with many other resources that you can check out.
Conclusion: What has been the most impactful for you?
And that’s it!
The 5 fundamentals of health that are crucial to maintaining a strong immune system.
Which step have you felt the most difference from? Is there something I left out that has worked for you?
Let me know in the comments below!
Already on top of your sleep, diet, and exercise?
Looking for the extra steps you can take to improve your immune system?
Premiere Recovery Lab offers access to cryotherapy and infrared sauna at extremely affordable rates.
Click here to book your first appointment.
Note: All surfaces are being sanitized before and after each use by our staff of health professionals.