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How to Build Up Your Immune System

Updated on March 2, 2012

Vitamin C can boost immunity, but there are many other nutrients your body needs to fight off illnesses


Nothing is worse than an illness. Winter is usually the season for the flu, but a cold can be an unwanted surprise any time of the year. Here are some easy ways to build your immune system naturally and effectively.

1. Exercise - Moderate, consistent exercise has been shown to help immune cells circulate more efficiently through the body fighting off viruses, infections and other more serious illnesses. The more regularly you exercise, the better your immune system will get meaning you can build your immunity for hours after your workout is over. Fast walking, running, swimming, biking and aerobics for about 40 minutes per day can mean less sickness than those who don't exercise at all. It can also shorten the length of your cold. Remember to rest when you have a fever - exercising with fever can damage your heart muscle.

2. Reduce Refined Carbs - Refined carbs are in any food containing table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, as well as white flour products like white bread, cakes, cookies and cereal. White flour is actually processed by the body like sugar. Overeating refined carbs can reduce the amount of vitamin C being absorbed by the immune cells. Sugar can also cause the release of the hormone cortisol in an effort to normalize blood sugar levels. Cortisol suppresses the immune system as well.

3. Stress and Sleep - Reduce your stress, increase your sleep. This is easier said than done, but it's important to prioritize and put yourself at the top of the list. Cortisol is the stress hormone. When you are stressed and sleep deprived, your levels of cortisol are elevated causing suppression of the immune system and the good prostaglandins that support immune function. Elevated cortisol levels can even be attributed to weight gain. Increasing your sleep time as much as 20 minutes per day can reduce cortisol levels. And, if you are getting more sleep, you are probably, naturally, less stressed throughout your day.

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids - These fats are found in fish like salmon and tuna, as well as nuts, seeds and oils. Not only does it contain Omega-3's, fish oil contains the good prostaglandins your body needs for immune function. Studies have shown Omega-3's can improve the immune system in adults as well as children. Instead of a supplement, which can provide too much or too little nutrients, try eating about 3 ounces of coldwater fish per day. If your kids hate fish, try slipping half a teaspoon of flax oil in their milkshake or oatmeal. Studies show kids that took this small dosage of flax oil had fewer respiratory infections.

5. Vitamin D - You've heard that vitamin C can boost your immunity, but did you know that vitamin D is just as important? Apparently there is a link between a vitamin D deficiency and illnesses. This would make sense since most people get more sun (sunlight triggers vitamin D synthesis) in warmer months, and most people get colds and flu in colder months. A recent study showed that those with a vitamin D deficiency had a 40 percent greater probability of getting a respiratory infection than those with vitamin D levels of 30 nanograms per milliliter or higher. Get your daily dose by spending about 20 minutes per day outside, as well as eating foods like mushrooms, salmon, tuna, eggs and milk every day. Check with your doctor for information on proper supplementation as well.

6. Eat Your Vegetables! - Remember your mom saying that? Well, she was right. Vegetables have the antioxidants you need to fight off illnesses. Tomatoes have lycopene which can help your white blood cells fight off infection. Canned tomatoes have been shown to be just as, if not more, effective as fresh. Broccoli contains sulforaphane which has been shown to restore the immune system and fight infections. Garlic contains a chemical called allicin that has antiviral properties.

7. Limit Alcohol - Alcohol suppresses the immune system. It dehydrates the body, and also, like sugar, suppresses the white blood cells' ability to multiply. The only exception to this rule is red wine. Studies have shown a couple glasses of red wine per day don't have the same effect on the immune system as liquor and beer. Still, you can get the same antioxidant benefits, resveratrol, from eating red grapes or drinking grape juice.


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    • writerscentro profile image

      Aditya Soni 5 years ago from India

      I think its a good and healthy topic to discus about. I just want to add some more tips to build up the immune system .

      1-Try to improve the eating habits .

      2-Drink water and plenty of it.

      3-choose filtered chemical free water.

    • STEVEW13 profile image

      Steve Wright 5 years ago from Norwich, England

      This is a very well written and informative hub, one thing you forgot to mention was the importance of fluids, more notably water. We need at least 10 cups of water a day just for the body to carry out it's standard functions. Less than that can have a negative effect on the immune system. Voted up and useful :)

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 6 years ago from New Jersey

      I started taking 3,000 iu of Vitamin D daily this winter on top of the 600 iu of Vitamin D I get from my daily Centrum. I can't make a direct cause and effect connection due to there being so many variable that affect one's health, but I was far healthier this winter than last, so the Vitamin D results are encouraging.

      This Hub provides excellent and concise advice regarding how to boost your immune system. People should not overlook getting enough sleep and excercise when they are looking to build their immune system.

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 6 years ago from Northern California

      I too have not yet purchased vitamin D. This is a very important vitamin. Your hub is helpful and a healthy reminder. Thanks much!

    • shesacraftymom profile image

      shesacraftymom 6 years ago

      Lol...yes I forgot that! I may have to break down and get some!

    • albertsj profile image

      jacy albertson 6 years ago from Lake Mary, Fl

      This is very useful, and informative. I've known about vitamin D, and take D3 daily. Most people assume vitamin C. Yet they have no knowlege of other vitamins. And so glad you mentioned that you could get the same benefits you do with wine, from grapes, or grape juice. So there's no excuse. And yes, eat your veggies, and you forgot: Drink, your Chocolate coconut water.. Lol ; )