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Wondering what the best things to boost immune system health are, scientifically speaking?
From mushrooms, to ginger, to meditation, and forest bathing I’ll show you how to boost your immune system naturally and based on science.
The best way to build immune system strength and resilience is by living a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and reduce stress.
In this article, I look at the scientific literature to share the best things to boost your immune system in easy, actionable ways.
Ten of the Best Things to Boost Immune System Health
- Don’t smoke
- Infrared sauna use
- Forest Bathing
- Vitamin C
- Ginger and turmeric
How To Strengthen Your Immune System — Lifestyle
Wondering how to help your immune system? The most obvious way to do that is to not smoke. Among the myriad of dangers associated with smoking is that it depresses your immune system.
We all know this, so I won’t go on about it. You can read up on it at the CDC website if you want to know more.
A consistently active lifestyle may be the best thing for immune system resilience.
According to Harvard Health, “Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.”
Go take a walk.
The answer to “how can I strengthen my immune system?” starts with good sleep. Easier said than done for most people.
If you are doing the other things in this article – eating well, exercising, meditating etc, you may get better sleep, in addition to building your immune system.
If possible, avoid all blue light after sunset — that’s the stuff that comes from screens, oven clocks, and so many other places — or at least wear blue light-blocking glasses.
I like a cup of reishi mushroom cacao (read more about the benefits of mushrooms below) in the evening to unwind and promote restful sleep.
Consistent Use of an Infrared Sauna
I wrote a bunch about the benefits of infrared sauna use, but in this case the most applicable is that it can boost the immune system.
The best way to boost your immune system with infrared sauna use is to be consistent about it.
The sauna raises your body temperature creating an artificial fever. A fever is your body’s natural mechanism to strengthen and accelerate the immune system.
Infrared saunas can also help with the other strategies mentioned here like reducing stress and helping you get more restful sleep. It’s all a big circle of healthy behaviors.
According to a study in Translational Psychiatry, it’s not just the relaxation that comes from meditation that’s beneficial, there is something intrinsic about meditation itself that can shift gene expression and improve mood over the long term.
When looking at how to help immune system improvement, scientists found shifts in the expression of genes related to stress, inflammation, wound healing, and fighting viral infections that come from meditation.
This may be my favorite way to build up your immune system — walking through the forest and breathing in the phytoncides the trees “exhale.”
Trees release phytoncides, the main component of which are terpenes. These terpenes have been shown to be immune system help by increasing the natural killer (NK) cells in our bodies. NK cells are a type of white blood cell that contains viral infections while the adaptive immune response is generating T cells that can clear an infection. Read more about how it all works in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
If you don’t live near a forest or don’t have the time for forest bathing, try breathing in phytoncides from essential oils in a non-plastic essential oil diffuser.
The best essential oils for immune system benefits that come from forest bathing include:
Be sure to look at the Latin name when choosing an oil, because common names can be occasionally confusing and misleading.
Read more about forest bathing in Forest Bathing: How trees can help you find health and happiness by Dr. Qing Li. This is one of the books that convinced me that forest bathing is more than just a walk in the woods. There is scientific evidence to back up its health benefits.
How To Boost Immune System Strength — Food and Supplements
When we think about foods good for immunity, one of the first categories to come up is citrus fruits. Citrus fruits can enhance immune system strength thanks to their high vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, content.
Bell peppers have an even higher amount of vitamin C than oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and other citrus fruits. Vitamin C is found in tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kiwifruit.
These vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables are among the best foods for immune system boosting because vitamin C can increase the production of white blood cells, which are important for fighting infections in your body.
White blood cells help heal wounds and repair and maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin, and cartilage. An antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radicals in the body which may help prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease and promote healthy aging.
Our bodies cannot store vitamin C, so be sure to eat it daily. While foods are by far the best source of vitamin C, in a pinch you can use a good supplement from a reputable company.
I like Garden of Life Vitamin C as a supplement to boost my immune system response when I feel a cold coming on or feel like I need a little more than I am getting from food.
Read more about vitamin C and immune function in this paper from nutrients.
It sounds strange that a mushroom can be one of the best things for your immune system, but it’s true.
Mushrooms can slow aging, fight inflammation, lower cholesterol, improve heart and brain health, aid in concentration, and be one of the best immune booster supplements.
Those are a lot of benefits for a little fungus.
According to an article in Integrative Medicine, “Extensive research over the last 40 years has demonstrated that mushrooms have potent antineoplastic properties that slow growth of tumors, regulate tumor genes, decrease tumoral angioneogenesis, and increase malignant-cell phagocytosis.”
That’s a very academic way of saying mushrooms can help fight cancer.
My favorite ways to get mushroom benefits is through mushroom tea or coffee, or mixed into a smoothie. For immune boosting shrooms, I love the Chaga Elixir and 10 Mushroom Blend Mix from Four Sigmatic (you’ll get a 10% discount by using my link or entering TRAVELINGMEL in the discount code section).
Ginger and Turmeric
Two more of the best foods to boost immune system function are often thought of as spices for making food tastier, but they are also good for you.
While more studies need to be done, according to Herbal Medicine: Bimolecular and Clinical Aspects, “The majority of scientific evidence does seem to suggest that ginger and its various components have anti-inflammatory effects.”
Ginger is a strong antioxidant that has been shown to naturally boost the immune system and decrease inflammation.
Turmeric is the bright yellow spice that’s a key ingredient in many curries. It is known to be an anti-inflammatory. Curcumin, the main component in turmeric, may be able to modulate the immune system, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Immunology.
After eating a good curry, my favorite way to ingest ginger and turmeric is in Golden Milk. Just mix the powder into your favorite milk (cow, soy, almond, oat), heat, and you have a toasty beverage that benefits your immune system.
If you are wondering how to have a healthy immune system, adding ginger and turmeric to your diet can be tasty way to do it.
An herb as an immunity enhancer is hard to prove. Scientists don’t know, for example, whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.
I know many people take Echinacea and goldenseal at the onset of a cold. Herbs including Echinacea, elderberry, Andrographis, and Astragalus may help reduce the duration and severity of illness.
These herbs have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. They can boost resistance to an infection and regulate the body’s immune response. Angelica root has been shown to modulate the immune system and treat respiratory ailments and cold symptoms.
Herbs may be the best way to boost immune system strength, but we just don’t know.
The best medicine for immune system recipes can be found in Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar. She has all kind of recipes for elderberry syrup, herbal bitters, and other concoctions to build up immune systems.
Tell me, what do you think is the best thing to boost your immune system?