Your immune system is constantly adapting and learning. Every day, it fights viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, serving as the body’s ultimate defense mechanism. But when it’s not working properly, your body is at risk of illness.
Thankfully, it’s possible to build a strong immune system naturally with small dietary and lifestyle changes. By taking care of yourself with rest, physical activity and an immunity-enhancing diet, you’re strengthening your defenses for the long run.
1. Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet
Bringing anti-inflammatory, nourishing foods into your diet increases your body’s ability to protect itself from invaders. Some foods you should consume regularly include bone broth, leafy greens, ginger, berries, citrus fruits, bell peppers, carrot juice and sweet potato.
As part of an immune-boosting diet, it’s also essential that you avoid ultraprocessed and sugary foods. Excessive alcohol consumption can also diminish immune function by negatively impacting your gut health and making you more susceptible to harmful pathogens. Limit your alcohol intake to one to two drinks per week or fewer.
2. Exercise Often
Research indicates that high levels of physical activity build a stronger immune system in older adults, compared with those who live a more sedentary lifestyle. Prioritize daily exercise—aim for 30 minutes a day—to build your immune system. This can be walking or jogging, doing yoga, lifting weights or bike riding, to name a few options.
3. Use Immunity-Friendly Herbs and Supplements
A handful of herbs and supplements can reduce inflammation, help your body manage stress, enhance your resistance to infection and support a healthy immune system. The most powerful herbs for immunity include echinacea, elderberry and astragalus root.
For supplements, probiotics are the most important for boosting gut health, which significantly influences immune function. Vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc also promote immunity.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleeping less than six hours a night can make you more vulnerable to infection. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. Aim for getting at least seven hours of sleep every night to rebuild and maintain a healthy immune system.
5. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress increases inflammation and weakens your body’s ability to fight infections. To promote health and healing, it’s important to reduce stress and encourage feelings of happiness, contentment and gratitude. Meditation is a great option.
Products to try:
Our bodies don’t manufacture zinc, but it’s involved in hundreds of enzymatic functions, which is exactly why we need to take in enough of the essential mineral. It strengthens immune system health and is necessary for overall wellness.
Elderberry + Probiotics
Elderberry is high in vitamin C and unique antioxidants that promote a healthy immune system. When it is fermented and paired with probiotics, this formula offers immune and gut support unlike any other.
Echinacea + Astragalus
Echinacea and astragalus are two powerful herbs that work together to build a strong immune system. These powerhouse ingredients have been used and valued for decades for their ability to strengthen immune defenses, healthy digestion and more.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.C., D.N.M., C.N.S., is the creator of the natural-health website draxe.com, cofounder of the health company Ancient Nutrition, and author of The Collagen Diet (Hachette, 2019) and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine (Destiny Image, 2018).