Here are six easy steps to a healthy immune system
We are asked how to boost your immune system and your kids’ immune system NATURALLY. All. The. Time.
We all want to know how to strengthen the immune system and are the foods that boost your immune system.
BONUS: This has a spillover effect on every area of health, including your mood! And this can make a difference for everyone in your family.
✓ STEP 1: Foods that Boost your Immune System – Eat A Diet focusing on WHOLE, NATURAL FOODS, with a focus on vitamin C
There are tons of entire books written on this topic!
In a nutshell, try to:
Make WHOLE foods the center of your family’s diet. Especially foods such as fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, and seeds are micronutrient-packed and filled with fiber to help your body defend itself. In addition, healthful foods help keep your immune system happy, help your body fight the common cold, other viruses, and bacteria, prevent heart disease, fight inflammation, lower blood pressure, and there are numerous other health benefits as well.
The bacteria in your gut are essential for your immune system. Ensure you eat enough fiber, and even eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. Some kids love these sour foods, and some hate them. Don’t despair; offer when you can. You might be surprised that your child may begin to love them! I would love to enjoy fermented foods but still can’t stand them after years of trying. Too bad as I am missing the health benefits from them.
✓ STEP 2: Watch The Sugar, Sugar.
Too much sugar can weaken the immune system. This is just one reason we recommend limiting added sugar intake to less than 10% of daily calories. (NOTE: this does not include sugar found in fruit or dairy that is naturally occurring).
What that looks like, according to the American Heart Association:
→ For men: less than nine teaspoons (36 grams) a day.
→ For women, the number tops out at six teaspoons (25 grams).
→ For kids, even less!
This adds up fast!
For example, a 12-ounce (355 ml) can of soda has eight teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugar.
Aim to avoid processed foods that come in a bag, box, or can. Or food products with a long list of ingredients. Easier said than done, we know. But try.
✓ STEP 3: How to strengthen your immune cells – Get (and stay) Fit!
Every week, most of us should aim for 150 or more minutes of moderate exercise (like walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming).
Ideally, kids and adults should get 1 hour of ‘heart racing activity’ every day. This doesn’t need to be ‘exercise’ or organized sports. It can be from a 20 min dance party now, snowman making later, and a brisk walk with the dog after dinner. It all adds up.
This is important as it can help decrease inflammation and help promote the healthy recycling of immune cells. But, unfortunately, inflammation is linked to disease and illness vulnerability, which we want to avoid.
✓ STEP 4: Drink water for a healthy immune system
Need another reason to make sure you and your kids are getting enough water each day?! Dehydration can make you more susceptible to illness!
Exactly how much water you need is frequently debated, but a simple rule of thumb is at least 1 liter a day for kids and 2 liters for adults. It’s a lot! More research is looking into the optimal dose for a strong immune system.
Remember, a lot of the food we eat has high water content as well. So you don’t need to chug water all day, but do be mindful to drink a bit throughout the day.
✓ STEP 5: Get Enough Shut-Eye with an immune system boost
Sleeping for 6 hours or less is linked to a higher likelihood of coming down with a cold. Adults should aim for 8 hours or more, and our kids, depending on their age, should be aiming for 10-12 hours a night. Adequate sleep helps prevent other health conditions as well and can minimize stress. Getting enough sleep can even prevent weight loss, improve the function of your white blood cells, and reduce chronic stress while improving immune system functions.
(PLUS: you’ll have less stress and fewer food cravings if you get enough sleep too!)
✓ STEP 6: Find time to relax.
Stress can weaken the immune system and leave you vulnerable to illness and chronic disease. Make some time to take some YOU time. Read a good book, cuddle with your kids or partner, or take a relaxing bath. Your immune system will thank you. You will decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses as well.
If you are looking for some extra help in learning how to live your best parenting life, staying healthy, and thriving as a caregiver, we’re here to help you!
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are some ways I can improve my immune function?
A: Easy ways to ensure your immune system is functioning at its peak is to ensure you are getting enough sleep and exercise, eating and healthful diet without too much added sugars and taking time to relax.
Q: Are dietary supplements required to keep my immune system healthy?
A: Your body will have the most immune response if you ensure you have the proper essential nutrients, and that can often be accomplished with a healthy diet. Most people do not require supplements. Try to eat green vegetables, healthy fats (such as in peanut butter and sunflower seeds), citrus fruits, berries (a powerful antioxidant), and other vegetables. No single vitamin will replace your recommended daily intake of all you need, so ensure you have enough specific vitamins such as iron, folic acid, vitamin e, omega fats, and vitamin C. Most people can find these foods can easily in the grocery store. Consider a supplement if you think you have a vitamin deficiency or low nutrients.
Q: I am worried about my immune system and my immune response to illness. What should I do?
A: If you are worried about your immune system or do not have a healthy immune system, please review your concerns with your doctor. They can provide medical advice and instruct you if you need a supplement in addition to your healthy diet. Most adults do not require special supplements to improve immune function and prevent infections. Ensure you get enough vitamin c, vitamin e, and folic acid in your diet, or take supplements to replace those vitamins. Other medicines are rarely recommended. Ensure you receive your recommended vaccines, as this helps bolster our immune systems. A robust immune system can usually be achieved through a healthy lifestyle alone. Ensure you get enough regular exercise as this too will strengthen your immune system.
Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.