You already know most of the things you should be doing for a strong immune system (and good health in general): Get a full night’s sleep, eat your veggies, exercise regularly, etc.
This is not that list.
In this article you’ll find five ways to build up your immune system that are probably not on your radar. These are plans and additions that are focused and effective for immune system health.
Some of them are even pretty easy.
1. Don’t Forget PRE-Biotics
The next time you feel a cold coming on, try swapping out Emergen-C for...kombucha?
The strength of your immunity is inextricably linked to the health of your gut. That’s because your gut wall houses at least 70 percent of the cells that make up your immune system.
Everywhere you look, you can see probiotics being promoted to support a healthy gut, and that makes sense; these good bacteria are responsible for balancing out the bad bacteria in your gut microbiome.
But prebiotics are just as important. Prebiotics are compounds that ferment in the colon and feed your healthy gut bacteria.
This means probiotics don’t function as well without prebiotics to feed them! These two work together to keep your gut healthy and in balance, which is one of the most important things you can do for the overall functioning of your immune system.
And if you hate kombucha, don’t worry. Prebiotic fiber can be found in foods like onions, asparagus, oats, apples, and flaxseeds, just to name a few.
2. Take Beta Glucan
Beta Glucans are a unique class of carbohydrate compound found naturally in whole grains, yeast, and some types of fungi and algae. They act as prebiotics, which you already know are important for gut health.
But Beta Glucans take immunity support to another level.
They work by enhancing virtually every part of your immune system, especially your body’s natural “killer cell” function. The structure of Beta Glucan molecules enables them to bind to and activate a host of immune-critical cellular targets including: white blood cells, B cells, T cells, and more.
Studies show that Beta Glucan supplements taken orally can help prevent sickness and recover faster from influenza, H1N1, and other viruses.
The combination of yeast Beta Glucans 1,3 & 1,6 in particular can also reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infections.
A 2018 study showed that subjects who took 900mg of 1,3-1,6 Beta Glucan all winter experienced significantly milder symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections than the subjects who did not.
Some healthcare professionals even use Beta Glucans intravenously to improve immune function in patients with autoimmune disorders and prevent infections after surgery.
If you’re looking for a supplement that can provide serious support for your immune system before and during a sickness, you should consider Beta Glucan.
3. Sweeten the Smart Way
“Fixing your diet” can mean a thousand different things these days. While getting all the right nutrients from your food is the ideal way to support a healthy body, it can take a long time to figure out what changes work best for you.
The #1 dietary change you can make today that can help your immunity is to work on reducing sugar intake, and pay attention to the artificial sweeteners you consume in lieu of it.
Sugar consumption has been shown to curb the function of immunity cells whose job it is to attack bacteria. Your cells’ ability to fight off infections can be impaired for as much as five hours after consuming sugary drinks! So it’s no wonder that people who regularly consume too much sugar struggle with poor immune systems.
It may seem like an easy fix to replace sugar with zero-calorie substitutes, but here’s the catch: some studies suggest that chemical sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame may disrupt gut health and elevate inflammation in the body -- a combination that can take a toll on your immunity.
Instead, try opting for naturally derived low or no-calorie sweeteners like:
- Yacon syrup
4. Try Cutting Out Bread and Milk for Awhile
If you don’t have celiac disease or lactose intolerance, you might be rolling your eyes right now, but hear us out.
Gluten and dairy sensitivities are hard to diagnose, and if you have one, it’s probably causing you to suffer from chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is supposed to happen when your immune system works to repair a wound or heal a sickness. That’s why you notice redness and swelling at the site of an injury, or why you’re so tired as you recover from a virus. It’s your body’s way of putting you back together from time to time.
But chronic inflammation is not good for your overall health or your immune system. Chronic inflammation happens when your body recognizes something internal as a threat, and stays in a constant state of alertness, making the inflammatory response linger and cause damage to all of your body’s systems over time.
One of the most common causes of chronic inflammation is sensitivity to food, and there seems to be more of that going on in our modern world. Two of the biggest culprits are gluten and dairy.
Research estimates that as many as 18 million Americans have a gluten sensitivity. That’s about 6 times the amount of Americans with celiac disease.
While people with gluten sensitivities can technically tolerate gluten (unlike those with celiac disease), it can still cause them to have inflammatory symptoms like:
- Digestive issues
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
Fewer people have similar responses to dairy without necessarily being lactose intolerant, but it’s difficult to say exactly why.
Some studies suggest that the casein proteins and fatty acids found in dairy products don’t play well with everyone’s immune systems.
In any case, if you’re trying to give your immune system a boost, and you’re not ready to jump into a full-blown elimination diet, try cutting out gluten or dairy for a few weeks and see how the difference makes you feel.
5. Skip a Few Meals
If you’ve done much research on fasting, you may have learned that it can have some pretty impressive effects on immune health.
Leaving your digestive tract empty for a while gives your immune system a break and decreases inflammation. Plus, when you go without food, your system tries to save energy. One of the ways it does this is by recycling old or damaged immune cells.
If you’re the kind of person who has a hard time sticking to long-term diets, but can muster a lot of willpower for a few days, you may want to try prolonged fasting to boost your immunity. Some studies have shown that fasting for 1-3 days can completely reset the immune system by decreasing inflammation and promoting white blood cell turnover.
Would you find it impossible to go empty for that long? That’s okay! Research suggests that intermittent fasting may have similar benefits for the immune system in the long run, too.
Narrowing your eating window to 6-8 hours each day and allowing your digestive system to rest for longer periods of time can still reduce inflammation and give your immunity a boost.
Call It a Gut Feeling
The overall best way to support your immune system at its core is by maintaining a healthy gut environment and reducing inflammation.
As always, consult your healthcare provider before taking on any new kind of diet or supplement regimen.