30 Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

Get-Fit Guy has 30 tips to boost your immune system to avoid cold and flu viruses this season. Learn how to make your immune system stronger using stress, exercise, sleep, supplements, and even dirt!

Ben Greenfield
Episode #211

Tip #4: Boost Your Nutrients

If you’re doing lots of travel, are exposed to lots of people (especially sneezing kids), or are under a load of stress, you may need nutrient support that goes above and beyond chicken soup and fresh fruits and vegetables. While nothing should replace real, nutritious food and avoidance of junk, here are a few nutrients you can throw in for added immune system support:

  • Adaptogens: Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwaganda and ginseng, and nutrient-rich mushrooms such as shitake and portabello are fantastic for your immune system and for managing stress.

  • Essential oils: Essential oils, whether taken orally or diffused into the air, have powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some of my favorites are oil of oregano and a traditional blend called “Thieves,” which is a mix of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Here’s a podcast interview I recently did with an essential oils expert

  • Herbs and plants: Two items from the produce aisle that I always have around during cold and flu season are garlic, which has great antiviral properties, and also red onions, which are packed with immune-boosting quercetin and sulfur-based antioxidants.

  • Fish oil and cod liver oil: Fish oil or cod liver oil are chock full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which are wonderful for your immune system.

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C may help to reduce the duration of a cold or flu. While research isn’t conclusive, I personally take about 2 grams of Vitamin C 3 times a day if I start to come down with anything.

Finally, when it comes to nutrients, be careful with foods that can spike your blood sugar such as sweet, processed starches, which can weaken your immune system by creating a net acidic and inflammatory state in your body. Stick to moderate amounts of healthy proteins, good amounts of healthy fats, and limited doses of carbohydrates.

For even more tips, here’s one of my favorite articles on nutrients that can help to make your immune system stronger.

Tip #5: Get Dirty

Finally, as ironic as it may seem, exposure to dirt, germs, parasites, bacteria, and viruses can actually strengthen your immune system. I’m not proposing you rush out to find a sick person and ask them to sneeze on you, but you also shouldn’t shy away from getting dirty every once in a while either. Since they don't make sandboxes for adults, here are 5 ways to get dirty:

  • Probiotics and fermented foods: Eat plenty of fermented foods that are rich in gut-nourishing bacteria, including kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, miso, and natto. If you find it hard to locate or consume these foods, at least use a good probiotic supplement.

  • Prebiotics: Prebiotics are fibers that serve as food for probiotics. A diet rich in vegetables is going to provide you with plenty of prebiotics. I recommend you start with dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, fresh carrots, parsnips and beets, and even plant-based algae like spirulina and chlorella.

  • Nature: Get out into nature for some of your workouts. Get your hands dirty. Don't be afraid to go for a run in the rain or do push-ups in the park every once in a while. Dirt is full of soil-based organisms that help to strengthen your immune system and skin.

  • Animals: Research has shown that kids who grow up in large families and have pets tend to have stronger immune systems (incidentally, so do kids who take fewer antibiotics!). Hanging out with dogs, cats, or other pets exposes you to dirt, germs, and bacteria your immune system might otherwise never learn to deal with until it’s too late.

  • Soap and antibacterials: Both soap and the slightly more deleterious antibacterial sprays, lotions, and handwipes that have become so prevalent in the U.S. can wipe beneficial bacteria off your skin, or worse, create the potential for medicine-resistant super-bugs. So don’t be afraid to simply take a shower with water only every now and again. And if you have a choice between regular soap and antibacterial soap, choose the plain soap.

I plan on using as many of these natural immune-boosting technique as possible this holiday season to stay cold and flue free.

How do you plan on staying healthy this winter? Do you have other ideas for boosting your immune system? Post your comments and questions in Comments below or join the conversation at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy.>


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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