Everyone wants to stay healthy and avoid getting sick. While there is no magic pill or supplement to boost your immune system, there are ways to maintain or reach a healthy immune system. Overall, the best way to maintain a healthy immune system is by following a healthy lifestyle.  

Follow these general wellness tips to help reach and maintain a strong immune system to stay as healthy as possible:

  • Focus on a nutritious diet. Eat a diet including whole grains, lean protein and dairy and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid heavily processed foods and foods with added sugar.
  • Consume adequate amounts of foods containing immune-boosting vitamins, such as:
    • Vitamin C: found in oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli.
    • Vitamin D: found in milk, orange juice, cereals and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. Getting outside every day for at least 15 minutes can also provide you with vitamin D.
    • Vitamin B6: found in chicken, cold water fish such as salmon and tuna, green vegetables and chickpeas.
    • Vitamin E: found in nuts, seeds and spinach.
  • Get adequate sleep. It is recommended that adults sleep at least seven to nine hours each night. Avoid electronics one hour before going to sleep and avoid consuming caffeine within four hours before bed.
  • Be Active. Get some physical activity regularly. If you aren’t currently active, start small with just 10 minutes at a time until you reach the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines. AHA recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic/cardiovascular activity (walking, biking, running, etc.), five days per week and muscle-strengthening activity (resistance training), two days per week.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink mostly water and limit coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks. Also, limit or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol intake. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests limiting drinks to no more than one per day for women and no more than two drinks for men.
  • Get your recommended vaccines. The CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated every flu season to help prevent contracting and spreading the flu virus, and to keep your immune system strong. The CDC also recommends adults get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine if they didn’t receive it as an adolescent and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. Pregnant women, adults 50 years and older and individuals with specific health conditions also have specific recommended vaccines. Speak with your primary care physician to find out which vaccines are recommended for you.
  • Avoid smoking. If you use tobacco or nicotine products, seek out resources such as tobacco and nicotine cessation programs to assist you in cutting back or quitting.
  • Reduce your stress. Take steps to reduce your stress through mindfulness exercises, meditation, contemplation, prayer or taking short quiet breaks throughout your day. Avoid unnecessary activities or situations that cause unneeded stress. If you are affected by excess stress, anxiety or depression, consult your doctor for help and guidance or call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if you have access to one, for guidance or short-term counseling.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds often, particularly before and after handling food, after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose and after using the bathroom.

In regard to boosting your immune system, according to the CDC, “there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.” However, by following these recommendations you can achieve a healthy lifestyle which is the best line of defense in maintaining a healthy immune system.

This advice is not meant to replace the advice of your primary care physician. If you have any known conditions or sensitivities to food, first consult with your doctor. Your primary care physician is your most trusted health advisor. This information was last updated on March 25,2020. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset! ®

Source: “How to Boost Your Immune System.” health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system, accessed March 25, 2020.