Your immune system is the quiet hero, operating in the background to deal with threats of all magnitude, from cuts and scrapes to increased toxin exposure and chronic stress. Building and maintaining a strong immune system is critical to its optimal function. Try using the following lifestyle and diet tips to increase your immunity.

Stress Less
The stress hormone cortisol decreases the production of white blood cells, thereby weakening the ability of the immune system to fight off antigens. Maintain a strong immune system by keeping stress in check. Daily practices such as meditation, yoga, moderate exercise, journaling, and time outdoors can all help with this.

Get Enough Sleep
Research suggests that normal sleep cycles and circadian rhythm exhibit a strong regulatory effect on immune function, including the redistribution of helper T-cells to lymph nodes. To enhance sleep, create an evening routine. Avoid stimulants after noon and stop eating a couple hours before bedtime. Stay off screens (computer, phone, TV) at least an hour before you want to be asleep. Avoid bright lighting. Engage in relaxing activities, such as light reading or taking a bath.

Take Adaptogen Herbs
This class of herbs is a key tool in supporting optimum immune health.  Research indicates that adaptogens exhibit an immune-modulating effect by supporting the endocrine system and healthy homeostasis. They act on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, supporting key regulators of the stress response. Reishi mushroom, Ashwagandha, and Asian Ginseng are particularly helpful for immunity. Astragalus also supports optimum immune function.

Play Outside
Scheduling time to play in nature each day increases immunity by reducing stress and triggering the endorphins and beneficial hormones associated with exercise. Time spent in the sun will also enhance immune-boosting Vitamin D production. Finally, exposure to the wide variety of microbes in the natural environment creates a balanced, resilient immune system.

Eat a Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods Diet
Your diet can enhance or suppress immunity. Food is our primary source for the vitamins and minerals needed for our immune system to function optimally. Focusing on whole foods, especially organically grown fruits and vegetables, helps build a healthy immune system. Additionally, eating a whole food diet rich in fiber will support a healthy gut microbiome. It’s believed that 70-80% of our immune tissue resides in the gut, so good gut health is key to a strong immune system!

Supplement with Vitamin D, Vitamin C, & Zinc
Striving to get the most of your nutrition from your diet is ideal, but sometimes we need an extra boost. This is particularly true during times of increased stress when our bodies are more susceptible to illness. During this time, consider supplementing your diet with key immune-boosting vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Zinc are essential to optimal immune function.

By using these strategies to build healthy habits, you’ll keep your immune system strong all year long. You’ll avoid that nasty bug when everyone at your office comes down with it, and if any serious threats come up, your body will be better equipped to keep you strong and healthy!

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Writer Katie Gerber is a holistic health and nutrition coach serving clients locally in the front range as well as online. In 2014, she completed Aviva Romm’s Herbal Medicine for Women certification. After thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 and the Colorado Trail in 2016, Katie decided to use her botanical medicine and nutrition knowledge to help fellow wilderness lovers seeking more energy and better health. She transitioned from her career as a pastry chef, and enrolled in the Institute for Transformational Nutrition. She now uses her lifelong passion for holistic health with her background in the culinary arts to help people live healthier lives, in alignment with nature. Katie writes for several publications and speaks at local events. When she’s not writing and working with clients, you’ll most likely find her in the mountains, in the garden, or in the kitchen testing recipes. Find out more about Katie, her articles, and her adventures at her website.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.