Supporting your immune system will never go out of style, and there’s so much we can do through our diet and lifestyle practices to improve our immune health. Here are six ways!
1. OPTIMIZE VITAMIN D LEVELS: Vitamin D is critical for immune function, and studies show it can greatly decrease your risk of contracting viruses, and decrease severity of viral illness. Sunlight exposure increases vitamin D levels, but supplementation is often necessary to achieve an optimum vitamin D level. Get tested regularly so you can supplement appropriately.
2. DECREASE SUGAR INTAKE: Sugar dampens our immune response, meaning we are more susceptible to contracting viruses, and sugar also contributes to chronic inflammation. Avoid soda, candy, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods (most of which have added sugar).
3. INCREASE VITAMIN C, VITAMIN A, AND ZINC INTAKE: All of these nutrients help support the immune system. Fresh fruits and vegetables (especially citrus fruits, red bell peppers, and broccoli) as well as seafood, and well-sourced meat are great ways to get more of these nutrients into your diet!
4. GET 8-10 HOURS OF SLEEP: Sleep is essential for immune health. Focus on sleep hygiene by avoiding blue light an hour before bed, wearing blue-blocking glasses throughout the day when using electronics, going to bed and waking at the same time every day, and keeping your bedroom cool and pitch black to enhance sleep quality.
5. EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES (F+V): F+V are loaded with beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that decrease inflammation and promote a healthy immune system and gastrointestinal tract. About 70% of our immune system resides in our gut, so ensure you’re keeping your gut microbiota happy by eating a large variety of fruits and vegetables.
6. REDUCE STRESS: Stress directly depresses the immune system. Some examples of ways to decrease stress are by deep breathing, taking a bath, practicing yoga and meditation, and focusing on self-care. Find what works for you!