How to Improve Your Immune System

By Nicole Charky

If you’ve ever felt like your body and immune system are out of whack, then this article is dedicated to you. So, sit back. Let me serenade you with information.  

Your immune system can take a beating. Germs invade. But there are simple ways to stop a germ invasion and boost your immune system.

We all have immune systems, so that means it requires balance to function properly. It’s our health choices that help us avoid breakdowns and keep our bodies in harmony. As we age, our systems have a reduced response capability — things don’t work like they used to. Diet, stress, exercise, and rest all play key roles in how your immunity stands and revamps.

There are several ways to help improve your gut health and lymphatic system, along with holistic habits that might improve your immunity overall.

Here are some common sense, healthy lifestyle recommendations from Harvard Medical School. (I’m putting this on the record so we can get to the sexy stuff next.)

Don’t smoke. 

I know how you feel. Sometimes I have to just say “no,” too.

Exercise regularly. 

I promise this works, speaking from real life experience.

Make fruits and vegetables a huge part of your diet.

This also works. I recommend cutting bright fruits and veggies up, putting pieces to snack on later in bowls visible to you when you open your refrigerator.

Sleep. 

You can do this. I have natural sleep tips for all the insomniacs out there. Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Booze.

You can drink it, just do it moderately.

Drink water.

You get it.

Avoid infections.

Wash your hands frequently throughout the day, and when cooking meats clean thoroughly.

Minimize stress

If you can.

Your Immunity Is—Sometimes—What You Eat

Superfoods can be the punch your germs need to set your immunity back on track. Veggies, fruits, a recommended 8-10 glasses of water per day, tea, yogurt (if you can have dairy—there are also non-dairy alternatives), oats, barley, garlic, sweet potatoes, beef, chicken soup, and mushrooms are all considered positive food choices to help boost immunity.

Oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams contain selenium, which is plentiful in shellfish and helps blood cells produce cytokines—proteins that keep flu viruses away from your body. Fish such as salmon, herring, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fats, which also reduce inflammation in your body, increase airflow, and help protect your lungs from colds or harmful respiratory infections. This is something to eat twice a week, unless you are pregnant or planning to be pregnant.  

Now let’s talk about bacteria. We have more bacteria cells that we have human cells in our body. Yes, process that. Your gut is full of microbes and the largest population of bacteria. About 100 trillion live in your body, so it’s important to make your body, and their home, a happy place to live. One way to do that is to avoid overusing antibiotics, according to Harvard Medical School.

Good gut health can prevent and help treat several diseases, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.

YOUR GUT, BECAUSE YOU HAVE GUTS

You can take a live probiotic or supplement. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before doing so in case you have a health-related reason to avoid the method. The product might also need to be refrigerated and researched before you include it in your diet. Or, you can do the working girl version and start implementing fermented foods.

Try adding these fermented foods to your life each day:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Naturally fermented pickles
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Natto
  • Miso
  • Kombucha

Get some fungi in your life. Mushrooms such as reishi (in a tea or tincture form — it’s non-edible) have antiviral and anti-cancer properties. Shiitake (delicious and available in grocery stores) help strengthen your white blood cells. Maitake are tasty and known as the “Hen of the woods.” They increase immune cells’ ability to destroy bacteria.  

Sprouted vegetables, which contain increased amounts of enzymes compared to unsprouted vegetables, radishes, artichokes, chicory, and dandelion — along with other bitter greens — stimulate the liver to create bile. Demulcents — almonds, barley, coconut oil, parsley, sage, figs, and prunes — help soothe irritated or inflamed tissues.

LYMPHATIC SYSTEM — WE EXPLAIN IT

Your lymphatic system is like the highway of your body and keeps your circulation strong. This is the system that helps you prevent disease and cleanses your body of pollutants, toxins, additives, and chemicals. That’s why it’s important to keep your circulation strong. There are two types of circulation: cardiovascular circulatory and lymphatic circulatory systems.

The lymphatic system’s immunity is critical to our entire system. This protects us from infection and disease and includes your spleen, thymus, tonsils, adenoids, lymph nodes, and lymph channels. Our lymph nodes can often indicate things happening with our body.

Key ways to boost your lymphatic system include:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Exercising 
  • Getting a massage
  • Eating healthy, quality food
  • Vibration therapy for increased blood flow
  • Lymph drainage therapy from a specialist

Each of these represents a method recommended to increase blood flow in your body, which benefits your immunity overall.

GET HOLISTIC WITH IT

Immunity health can start right in your kitchen or local grocery store. It’s not a big deal, and with these simple tips, you can avoid sickness. Yes, you can finally avoid that terrible cold.

  • Larch - larch, or larch supplements, can help increase your body’s potential to fight the common cold.  
  • Cruciferous vegetables - your body needs to detox. Kale, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage all support your liver and immune function by improving your liver’s ability to push toxins out.
  • Avocados - To support and improve adrenal function, try adding an avocado a day. Avocados have essential amino acids, antioxidants, and healthy fats to help balance hormone production. Your adrenal glands keep your immune system happy and are located at the top of each kidney. They produce hormones to regulate blood sugar, burn fat and protein, react to stressors like injury or major illness, and regulate blood pressure.
  • Ginger - Cut down on the toxins that increase infection by opening up your airways (and sinuses) with ginger.
  • Oatmeal - This superfood cuts down on LDL, bad cholesterol.
  • Pomegranates - You can improve your skin health with the juice in pomegranate seeds, which contains ellagic acid and punic alagin. These fight damage from free radicals and help to preserve your skin’s collagen.
  • Black currants - These are said to improve night vision, and they contain the compound anthocyanosides. They are also rich in vitamin C and contain five times the amount found in an orange.
  • Pumpkin seeds - This snack is full of magnesium, which can help lower blood pressure and can reduce your risk for heart attacks or stroke.
  • Sage - If you’re having a mucus moment, then instead of immediately turning to an expectorant, try using sage. Sage acts as an expectorant and can help calm your cough and move mucus out of your respiratory system. A few drops of sage extract in tea can help this process.
  • Lemon, honey, turmeric, ginger, and warm water - This is the Holy Grail of holistic cold remedies. This holistic mixture can turn a cold around and acts as a natural immunity boost. Lemon is high in vitamin C and can be used to prevent the common cold. It also has antioxidant properties. Honey is another antioxidant and immunity booster. Ginger has antiviral properties and can aid in digestive problems. Turmeric contains curcumin, a component that can regulate the immune system.

Nicole Charky is a 30-year-old journalist and producer living and working in Los Angeles. She is a contributor to Do The Good Stuff. She writes, creates and manages video content and social media for author and journalist Maria Shriver. Nicole also produces and directs shows and music videos, including Snapchat’s “Phone Swap” and Grammy award-winning artist Bekon’s “Cold As Ice.” Her work has been featured in Snapchat Discover channel Brother, ATTN:, The Los Angeles Times, AOL and Glamour. Her health quest is new, and she's only getting started.