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Easy Steps to Boost Your Immune System

If there was ever a time to take proactive steps to stay healthy, it’s now. With this new normal of incessant hand washing, face mask wearing and social distancing, here's a little ray of hope—our very best defense against germs, viruses, and anything else that wants to take us down is our own bodies. It's our job to keep them at peak performance. If that sounds onerous, it's actually easier than you think. You just have to give your body what it wants— and needs.

What's an Immune System?

First, the basics. “This is how I explain it to my kids,” starts Certified Integrative Health Coach Sarah White. “Our bodies are an incredible army-- they innately have this immune defense. They can fight against anything. So our job is to ask, 'How can I be sure that army is always strong and on top of things? How do I fuel that army to keep it going?'”

Three Ways to Up Your Immune Response Game

Diet

This isn't about reacting, chugging orange juice when you start to feel sick. The key is sustaining a healthy diet all the time. Load up on vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Make sure your body is getting what it loves: lots of fruits, vegetables, and water. “Make sure it is a colorful plate, and it is from the Earth,” says White. “If you do that, you're fueling your body with what Mother Nature intended.” This allows your body's immune response to perform at its highest level.

This means avoiding the bad stuff, like excessive added sugars. Things your body doesn't need. Why? Two reasons: 1) they don't have the vitamins and minerals your body requires, and 2) your body will use its energy trying to figure out what to do with this un-helpful stuff, instead of fighting infection. Back to the army analogy— let's not distract the troops!

Where's the Beef?

All this talk about vegetables doesn't mean you need to become a vegetarian. Meat can, in fact, be part of a healthy diet. The key, says White, is to know where it is coming from, and to ensure it’s all natural and antibiotic-free.

Immune-Boosting Foods


Red Bell Peppers
These veggies have twice as much Vitamin C as oranges! Vitamin C repairs cells, and encourages the production of white blood cells-- the infection fighters within your body.

Citrus Fruits
Oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, grapefruits, these are all great sources of Vitamin C.

Turmeric
This golden root is packed with powerful anti-inflammatories. Anti-inflammatories do exactly what the name suggests: reduce swelling and inflammation, often caused by your body defending itself against germs or infection. Inflammation can weaken the body’s immune response too-- causing your immune system not to function at peak performance.

Spinach
It’s loaded with Vitamin C (notice a theme here?), and also antioxidants, which fight free-radicals-- that’s a fancy word for unstable molecules that want to harm your good cells.

Water
There are so many reasons to drink water, right? It helps your kidneys flush toxins out of your body, helps cells to take in nutrients, and helps your body expel waste.

Ginger
This root is great for gut health, which strengthens bodies' immunity.

Garlic
Recognized by ancient civilizations for its infection-fighting properties, it’s loaded with sulfur compounds, which boost immune response.

Sleep

The single biggest factor in strengthening your immune system is getting enough sleep. Our cells regenerate-- fix themselves-- at night when the body is at rest with no stress. “This is why women are obsessed with night creams!” says White. “Cells are repairing themselves, rebuilding at night.” You've probably seen proof of this yourself. When you get sick, your body is fatigued, and tells you that you need sleep. Once that happens, you probably feel better, because your body went to work fixing itself.

Exercise

When we get moving, it gets our blood flowing, and delivers oxygen more efficiently throughout the body. Oxygen is fuel for healthy cells. Studies have repeatedly shown that people whose lifestyle includes regular, moderate exercise are less likely to catch a cold or the flu, and when they do, it tends to be less severe. One reason for this is that exercise appears to increase your white blood cells-- the ones that fight off infection.

Finally, and perhaps the most sage advice to keep in mind: “The goal is not to be the skinniest person, or the fittest person,” says White. “It's to be the healthiest person, whatever that means to you.” Remember: your body's superpower is fighting infection. If you take care of it, it will take care of you.