Cold and flu season happens every year — it’s nothing new. Yet, millions of Americans continually get sick. Between the ease of transmission from person to person, to environmental, seasonal, and lifestyle factors, catching something can be all too easy. However, to avoid getting sick, one of the best things you can do is bolster your immune system. When it comes to our health, our immune system is one of the most vital aspects of our body. It acts as our first line of defense and works around the clock to keep us strong and healthy. Not only does it help to protect our body from foreign invaders, infections, and disease, but it also helps to ensure a strong and speedy recovery.
And while our body is smart and well-equipped to protect our body on its own, lifestyle factors and chronic stressors can weaken our immune system and leave us vulnerable to infection. Luckily, there are simple daily lifestyle practices we can implement to help strengthen our immunity and help our body function optimally. From boosting our intake of immune-boosting foods, to prioritizing sleep, managing stress, increasing our physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight, we’re sharing how to support your immune system with ease.
So, if you’re trying to get ahead of the cold and flu season, you’re in the right place. Learn how to build an immune-boosting routine with simple daily hacks to enhance your health and support your body!
9 Daily Hacks to Keep Your Immune System Healthy
#1 Prioritize Prebiotics & Probiotics
Considering 70% of our immune system resides in our gut, prioritizing probiotics is pretty important for enhanced immunity! The mucosal lining of our gut is one of our first sources of protection against pathogens and foreign invaders. The more diverse and robust this ecosystem (i.e., our gut microbiome), the stronger our defense system (immunity) will be! The best way to strengthen our gut microbiota? Fuel them with the nutrients they need to thrive by loading up on gut-healthy foods.
This includes foods such as probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kimchi and prebiotic-rich foods such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, and garlic.
#2 Go Heavy on Hydration
Your body is made up of about 60% water! Water is a vital nutrient of every cell, so as you’d imagine, staying adequately hydrated is key to keeping our immune system running optimally! It’s an important part of our lymphatic system and detoxification pathways, it helps regulate respiration and perspiration, it’s needed to transport, metabolize, and discard nutrients and waste, and it’s vital for just about every bodily process.
With this in mind, sipping water throughout the day is a simple way to support your immune system on the daily. Keep a sustainable water bottle on hand, load up your diet with water-rich foods (like citrus and bone broth), and if you’re sweating (whether in a sauna, outdoors, or during a workout), sip on electrolyte-rich water to enhance hydration and replace any minerals lost!
#3 Avoid Foods & Drinks That Compromise Your Immune Health
Smoking, eating processed foods, and consuming excessive amounts of sugar or alcohol are lifestyle factors that can compromise your immune health. Smoking and consumption of highly processed foods (like refined oils, breads, and sweets) have been shown to promote inflammation, reduce the good bacteria in our gut, and suppress our immune system. And while some alcohol and sugar can be enjoyed in moderation — not all types are created equal. Plus, the amount you consume matters! Limiting alcohol intake and making the swap to natural sugar sources (like fruits or honey) are simple ways to support your immune system.
Next time you’re craving a cocktail, try an immune-supportive alternatives instead. Replace your cocktail with a low-sugar mocktail, or opt for a sparkling functional beverage like Olipop or Sunwink!
As for sweet treats, there are so many healthy homemade and store-bought alternatives that are nutritious, delicious, and made with natural sweeteners.
Looking for a quick-and-easy homemade option? Made with probiotic-rich Greek yogurt and naturally sweetened with just a teaspoon of maple syrup, this Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Froyo is just the thing!
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tbsp cacao nibs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp slivered almonds, for topping
- almond butter, to drizzle
- cacao nibs, to serve
- banana, sliced, to serve
Step #1: Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl minus the toppings and stir to combine.
Step #2: Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Step #3: Remove from the freezer and serve with desired toppings. Enjoy!
#4 Load Up On Immune-Supportive Herbs & Spices
Want to boost your immune system the natural way? Fill your diet with herbs and spices like ginger, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, oregano, and rosemary! These herbs and spices contain immune-supporting properties (such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties) that have been shown to support immunity.
The best part? It’s easy to incorporate them into your daily diet.
- Add a dash of cinnamon or ginger to your morning latte
- Sprinkle fresh or dried ginger in your stir fry
- Add fresh or dried herbs like rosemary or oregano to sauces, dressings, marinades, and dips
- Give your smoothie or juice an immune boost with herbs like ginger, garlic, or turmeric
#5 Make Movement a Mandatory Part of Your Day
Whether it’s a sweaty workout, jog around the block, evening yoga flow, or walking work meeting, be sure to prioritize daily physical activity. Making movement a mandatory part of your day not only helps boost your immune system, but it also comes with many benefits, such as increasing energy, supporting weight loss, reducing stress, and improving brain health.
When it comes to the best workouts for immune health, the most important thing is to stay consistent! It could be joining a gym, starting a FitOn challenge, doing a studio pilates class, or taking your pup for a walk. If you want to keep at it daily, find an activity or exercise that you look forward to!
#6 Manage Stress & Focus on Mental Health
As you’re likely aware, chronic stress is a sneaky culprit that, when unaddressed, wreaks havoc on our health. And when it comes to prolonged stress, our immune system can become taxed. While acute stressors can actually boost our immune health, chronic stress has the opposite effect. Too much cortisol can increase inflammation, and decrease immune function.
The good news? Adding mindfulness practices into your daily routine can help boost your immune support and enhance your mental and physical health. Practicing mindfulness meditation, using aromatherapy, grounding down with yoga, and utilizing breathwork are all simple daily wellness hacks that have been shown to lower stress and boost immune health.
Need help getting started? Try this 21-Day Mental Wellness Challenge!
#7 Boost Your Diet With Whole Foods
Emphasizing whole foods such as colorful fruits and veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs will ensure you’re getting a variety of immune-supporting nutrients in your diet.
According to research, micronutrient deficiencies such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, and vitamins A, B6, C, D, and E can impact immune health. Luckily, loading up your plate with a wide variety of whole foods is a simple way to get all your micronutrient needs.
Here are some yummy immune-supporting suggestions:
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes
- Enzyme-rich fruits like papaya and pineapple
- Dark leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, and spinach
- Vitamin A-rich veggies like sweet potatoes and winter squash
- Wild-caught salmon or pasture-raised eggs
- Antioxidant-rich berries like blueberries and raspberries
- Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts
#8 Soak Up the Sunshine
Did you know vitamin D, the sunshine hormone, plays a vital role in regulating immunity? Vitamin D triggers an immune response that helps protect the body against pathogens and foreign invaders. In fact, Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased susceptibility to illness and infection. Plus, it’s important for mood and mental health!
Because it’s both a nutrient we eat and a hormone we make, you can boost your vitamin D levels by soaking up the sunshine or boosting your intake of vitamin D-rich foods. If you don’t have access to the sunshine, try increasing vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, mushrooms, and salmon.
#9 Get Plenty of Sleep
Last but not least, sleep!! The immune-boosting MVP. According to research, skimping on sleep can negatively impact the immune system. But, is this really a surprise?! Sleep is crucial for all the things — stress, recovery, cognitive and mental health, energy, and mood. So, of course, it supports our immune health! While we’re snoozing away, our body produces vital proteins and white blood cells needed for immune health, such as cytokines and T-cells. Skimping on sleep not only diminishes the production of important immune cells, but it also increases inflammation and leaves our body susceptible to foreign pathogens.
At the very least, aim for 7-8 hours of quality shut-eye. To get high-quality sleep, try creating a sleep-supporting evening ritual that you’ll follow daily. This could include things like taking an Epsom salt bath, reading a book, powering down your electronics a few hours before bed, brewing a cup of herbal tea, or pressing play on a calming meditation like yoga Nidra.
While immune-boosting supplements and products are all the talk, there are so many easy-to-implement health hacks you can do daily to support your immune system. By prioritizing sleep and stress management, loading up your diet with gut-healthy whole foods, reducing your intake of sugar and alcohol, and making daily movement a must, you can boost your immune system with little effort! Your body works hard to support you, so why not show it a little love with these simple and easy health hacks? Beyond a healthy immune system, you’ll benefit your overall health!