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Boosting Your Immune System: 5 Ways to Stay Healthy All Year Long

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

boosting your immune system

Boosting your immune system is a hot topic during the winter months, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made us all focus a lot more on it, either through lifestyle or dietary changes.

The combination of COVID-19 and cold and flu season means building a strong immune system is more important now than ever.

Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can go about boosting your immune system.

This can be done by choosing foods and supplements with antioxidants and immunity-enhancing ingredients.

Keeping reading for our top tips on boosting your immune system — now and all year long.

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Boosting Your Immune System: 5 Ways to Stay Healthy All Year Long

1. Make Healthy Food Choices

Nutritious eating habits are essential in boosting your immune system.

A healthy diet should include lean protein such as chicken, lean beef, or fish.

In addition to this, you also need to limit processed foods.

This includes foods high in sugars and simple starches as this can have a negative impact on your health and enhance inflammation.

Fruits and vegetables with antioxidant properties should also be included in your diet.

For example, try including foods like blueberries, grapes, leafy greens, dark chocolate, olive oil, tea, and some spices like turmeric and garlic.

Quercetin, which is found in several vegetables, including red onions, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, has been shown to have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

For example, a recent study found that quercetin can inhibit the entry of an influenza virus in the early stage of infection.

In addition, quercetin has anti-inflammatory actions that can reduce lung inflammation produced by viruses that cause the common cold.

So not only will these veggies add flavor and fiber to your soup, but they can also help you stave off those nasty winter viruses!

When it comes to fats in the diet, try to stay away from high amounts of saturated fats and stick to foods that contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and α-linolenic acid (ALA).

These omega 3 fatty acids have important immune-regulatory functions that keep inflammation at bay.

You can find EPA and DHA in fish like salmon and tuna, while ALA can be found in nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.

These 7 principles of nutrition are always true, no matter what your diet consists of. Find out what you should (and SHOULDN’T) be eating!

2. Use Immune Enhancing Herbs and Spices

When you flavor your foods, pick ingredients that also can enhance your immune system.

For example, turmeric is a great spice that you can add to soups and stews.

Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric, has been shown to have numerous benefits, including antiviral and anti‐inflammatory actions.

In addition to this, a recent study also found that it could be effective to manage the symptoms of people with COVID‐19.

Garlic is another great way to spice up your lunches and dinners.

This ingredient has great health benefits. Plus, research shows that garlic can help prevent viral infections by enhancing the immune response.

3. Take a Multivitamin

There are so many vitamins and supplements on the market today, it’s hard to keep track of what actually helps, and what is just a placebo effect.

Large amounts of clinical data show that vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate and the elements zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper help support the immune system.

This is in addition to the fatty acids mentioned above.

Together, these all play a complementary role in supporting the immune system.

Learn how to get healthier and STAY healthy!

4. Add Immunity Boosting Supplements

In addition to vitamins and minerals, there are also other nutrients and phytochemicals that play a role in enhancing our immunity. These include:

Elderberry

Research has found that elderberry can reduce cold duration and severity of symptoms.

Another study found that flu symptoms were relieved on average four days earlier in people taking elderberry supplements.

This makes elderberries a safe and effective supplement for boosting immunity.

Beta-Glucans

Beta-Glucans are found in the cell wall of certain bacteria and fungi.

These substances increase host immune defense by activating the complement system and enhancing macrophages and natural killer cell function.

One study in 100 healthy participants found that those taking beta-glucan had significantly fewer incidences of the common cold compared to those receiving a placebo.

During the most intense infection season from November through March, the beta-glucan group had significantly fewer infections and also experienced fewer cold symptoms.

Echinacea

Echinacea has long been used as an immune supplement.

Similar to elderberry, studies have found that this supplement can decrease the duration and severity of cold symptoms.

In addition to enhancing innate immunity, echinacea also produces anti-inflammatory cytokines.

This is a great quality since it can also help prevent damage caused by proinflammatory cytokines that can occur with COVID-19.

Mushroom Extract

Mushrooms have been used for years to improve immune function.

Different mushroom extracts, such as Shiitake, can increase immune-enhancing T cells and immunoglobulins in the body.

For this reason, mushroom extracts are often found in immunity-boosting supplements.

When thinking about taking any new medication, including supplements, it is always important to first discuss this with your own doctor.

While the ones mentioned above are safe in their recommended amounts, there is always the potential for interactions with other medications or the dosage may be different based on your own personal medical issues.

But when taken correctly, the right supplements can give your immune system an extra boost and can help decrease inflammation throughout the body.

5. Experiment With Essential Oils

Essential oils, especially those containing cinnamon, eucalyptus, clove, tea tree oil, and rosemary have been found to decrease the viral and bacterial spread of certain respiratory pathogens.

Plus, they smell great and can aid in relaxation!

Essential oils can be used in a diffuser as aromatherapy, and some can be applied to the skin.

If being used on the skin (even if you're just adding the essential oils to a bath), you'll need a carrier oil — a neutral, plant-based oil that can act as a base.

Common carrier oils include sweet almond, jojoba, olive, sunflower seed, avocado, and grapeseed.

This really serves two purposes. Mainly it protects against skin irritation and skin reactions. But dilution also extends how long your essential oils will last as well.

Boost Immunity and Improve Your Health

Having a healthy immune system is the best defense in preventing colds, flu, and other viruses like COVID-19 this winter.

By incorporating these measures on a daily basis you can boost your immunity throughout the cold and flu season.

Plus, when you are healthy you can stay active and spend more time working towards your fitness goals!

Holly Smith

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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