Feeling sluggish, run-down, or just “blah?” Your immune system may need a reboot.
The immune system is made up of a vast network of specialized cells, structures, organs, antibodies, proteins, and messaging systems that help protect our bodies against harm. But like any other system in the body, it requires holistic care and support to function optimally and effectively fight disease.
Whether you’re feeling run-down and in need of a total reboot or you’re hoping to stay healthy through the year, nature has your back. Boost your immune health with these simple natural tips to stay on top of your game.
6 Natural Ways to Keep Your Immune System Strong
1. Eat the Rainbow
No, we’re not talking about rainbow-colored candies here! We’re talking about the real, wholesome, delicious rainbow that comes straight from the earth.
One of the best ways to support your immune system all year long is by eating a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. The Standard American Diet is full of white and tan processed foods that don’t do much for our immunity (or health in general).
Trade in the beige for the vibrant and nutrient-dense purples, reds, oranges, yellows, blues, and greens of the produce section. Vibrant and colorful whole foods are often more nutritious and higher in immune-supporting antioxidants and vitamins.
2. Get Moving
If you thought exercise was only good for staying fit, think again. Having an active lifestyle is an essential natural way to keep your immune system strong.
Studies show that exercise may help to boost the immune system by increasing the concentration of immune cells circulating in the blood. These cells (such as natural killer cells and T-lymphocytes) are key elements of a fighting immune system. Exercise also increases the body’s temperature which may help to fight bacteria, while also encouraging old mucus, debris, and bacteria to leave the lungs. Researchers are currently learning more about how exercise regulates and modulates these important immune functions.
In addition to supporting the immune cells, exercise also fights stress. Stress, as we’ll learn below, is a major contributing factor to a weakened immune response. With regular exercise, we can reduce our stress and keep cortisol levels low to protect the immune system.
3. Stress Less
In our modern age, stress feels like a normal part of daily life. Unfortunately, humans were not meant to endure stress (or the constant dose of cortisol it releases) in the chronic, ongoing way we have become accustomed to.
As a result, our bodies suffer. Some of these effects are easily identifiable (like the throbbing headache you feel half-way through the workday or the nausea you notice while stuck in traffic). But it also causes some not so noticeable issues, like poor immune health. Cortisol has been shown to suppress the immune response and even damage immune cells.
To strengthen our immunity naturally, we must address stress and reduce cortisol levels. In addition to exercising and eating a healthy diet, add a few stress-relieving habits into your daily routine. It can be as simple as listening to a favorite song with a cup of tea or as indulgent as a 2-hour long nighttime wind-down ritual.
4. Establish Healthy BoundariesThis tip may seem unrelated to immune health, but it’s an important one to consider for mind-body balance. Establishing healthy boundaries not only improves our quality of life and relieves stress, but helps us maintain an effective defense system.
In Chinese medicine, the immune system is likened to a protective boundary. This boundary defends our bodies against harm from the outside world, while also allowing in helpful resources, like air. When our boundary (or immunity) becomes weak, we are more vulnerable to stress and illness.
Chinese medicine practitioners note that these weak internal boundaries can also allow for weak physical boundaries. Many of us are overwhelmed, exhausted, and irritable simply because we commit to too much and struggle to say “no.” By protecting our healthy boundaries, both mentally and physically, we also support our immune system.
5. Catch Some Zzz’s
Forget beauty sleep – it’s all about immunity sleep! There are a million different reasons why sleep is crucial for your health and wellbeing, but its ability to refresh and restore your immune system is one of the most important.
A high-performing immune system requires time, energy, and rest to function properly. It is during sleep that our immune system learns, restores, and balances. Studies show that restorative sleep allows the body to create a “memory” for certain invaders (like viruses and bacteria) and create the antibodies to fight them in the future. Helpful immune proteins called cytokines are also produced during sleep to later fight infection and inflammation. Finally, sleep helps regulate high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, to continue the fight against stress – and lack-luster immunity.
To get your best immunity sleep, aim for seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night and stick to a regular schedule. Those who have trouble with insomnia may benefit from the relaxing effects of reishi to help them slip into sleep.
6. Supplement with Chinese HerbsChinese medicine has long used the power of nature to help the body stay strong in the face of illness. In fact, Chinese medicine is deeply rooted in prevention and places great attention on a person’s vitality and immune strength when considering their overall picture of health.
At Plum Dragon Herbs, we offer several different all-natural herbal blends to help you best support your immune health. Our Wen Bing Microbiota Defense Formula and Huang Qin Extract are designed to help support your immune system when fighting hot-type symptoms such as sore throat, dry cough, and inflammation.
For those prone to more cold or damp-type symptoms (such as chills, congestion, running nose, and aches), the Shang Han Lun Defense Formula supports the immune system and optimal lung health. Similarly, the Shang Han Lun Defender Tea is a gentle, enjoyable way to support the immune system and benefit the lungs, as is our Osha Root Extract.
Protect and Prevent with Natural Immune Health
A strong immune system is sign of a strong body – how does yours stack up?
When it comes to immune health, prevention is the best medicine. Thankfully, these are just a few of the many ways we can support our immune systems proactively – and naturally. Use these tips year-round to stay healthy and give your immune system the extra care it deserves!