The immune system does a remarkable job of defending against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. The immune system is a system, not a single entity. For its proper functionality, it requires balance and harmony. Research shows the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and in humans. General healthy-living is a good way to start giving your immune system the boost it needs.

Healthy ways to strengthen your immunity

I. Like always, the first line of defense for the body is the food we eat.

  • Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants and help the body fight against viruses and other disease-causing micro-organisms. Antioxidants help to fight inflammation by fighting against the formation of free radicals. Chronic inflammation occurs in numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, bone diseases, joint conditions, and certain cancers.
  • Fibers in plant foods increase the community of healthy bacteria in the gut which improves immunity and keep harmful pathogens from entering the body via gut.
  • Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C, which reduces the duration of the common cold.
  • Healthy fats, like Olive oil and Omega-3, also reduces inflammation.
  • Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics and are present in foods including yogurt, curd, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc. Research says that a flourishing gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms.
  • Limit the quantity of sugar and carbs in your diet since it leads to obesity which is one of the leading causes of almost all the lifestyle disorders. Type 2 diabetes and heart disease weaken the immune system. Sugar intake should be less than 5% of the daily requirement of 2000 calories, which is about 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of sugar.

II. Studies indicate that a single session of moderate exercise reduces inflammation and helps your immune cells to regenerate regularly. This includes brisk walking, steady bicycling, jogging, swimming, and skipping.

III. Dehydration causes headaches and decreases physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These increase your susceptibility to illness. Water is free of calories, additives, and sugar so highly recommended.

IV. Relieving stress and anxiety is the main key for good immune health. Long-term stress promotes inflammation and imbalances in immunity. Prolonged psychological stress can suppress the immune response in children. Keep your body engaged in activities to manage your stress which includes meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga, and other mindfulness practices. 

V. Some studies indicate that taking supplements can help strengthen your body’s general immune response which includes Vit C, Vit D, Vit B12, Zinc, Calcium, Vit E, etc. But dosage and how to take should be recommended by your treating physician.

VI. Most important is a good night's sleepResearch shows how closely immunity and sleep are tied up that lack of sleep has been considered a leading cause of so many diseases. Getting adequate rest to strengthen natural immunity. Also, it is advisable to sleep more when sick to allow your immune system to better fight the illness. Adults should aim for 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.

Immune system and age

As the body ages, immune response capability becomes reduced, which can contribute to more infections and more diseases. As life expectancy has increased, it has also increased the incidence of age-related conditions. While some people age healthily, some do not.

Respiratory infections, influenza, the COVID-19 virus, and particularly pneumonia have become leading causes of death in people over 65 worldwide. It may be linked to the increased risk with a decrease in T cells which fight off infection.