Immune function has been a very hot topic of conversation around the world lately. Everyone wants to know how to boost their immune system and which are the best immune boosting foods, drinks, and supplements to keep you healthy.
The immune system is already a pretty remarkable and effective system, warding off a host of attacks and fighting infection daily. Despite its impressive design, your immune system is not infallible and can get overwhelmed, leaving you sick, often at the most inopportune times.
Certain lifestyle factors can also interfere with optimal immune function. Stressful events or circumstances, lack of sleep, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and compounding health conditions can all impair your immune system’s ability to protect you the way it should. Thankfully, there are some effective strategies to improve your immune system and help it keep you healthy.
How can I boost my immune system quickly?
When you feel something coming on, you need to boost your immune system fast. So how to boost the immune system naturally and quickly?
Stop Eating the Wrong Foods
The first thing you can do is stop eating foods that weaken the immune system. The standard American diet is full of these immune-crushing foods. If you want to stop a cold in its tracks, you need foods to boost your immune system, not give it more to work against.
Some of the top foods to avoid include fast food, processed foods (especially those with MSG), alcohol, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and refined oils like “vegetable” oil or canola oil.
These foods promote inflammation in the body, making it harder for your immune system to battle true microbial invaders. They impair gut function, where 80+% of the body’s immune function is found. They can also deplete or compete with certain important nutrients your immune system needs to function well, especially vitamin C and zinc.
Sleep is crucial for immune function and maintaining health. Tissues heal best and fastest during sleep and there is a strong relationship between functions of the central nervous system (responsible for sleep) and the body’s immune response. Sleep regulates the immune system and lack of sleep can reduce the body’s ability to mount an effective defense against pathogenic invaders. So hit the hay if you feel something coming on for your best chance to nip it in the bud. (1)
Consider Key Nutrients
If your immune system is struggling to keep up to the current onslaught, consider supporting it with some key nutrients that have been proven to support and enhance immune function. Vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc are three of the top ones. Boosting your intake of these nutrients will provide your immune system with the tools it needs to get or keep you feeling your best, fast. Which leads to our next point:
Start Eating Foods that Boost the Immune System When Sick
Eating whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, that contain crucial immune-boosting nutrients is one of the best and fastest ways to boost your immune system. Consuming immune boosting foods when sick can provide not just needed nutrients, but also important nutritional cofactors that can improve your body’s ability to absorb and use those nutrients effectively and efficiently. These nutrients will also be in their most bioavailable forms coming from whole food sources. Stock up on leafy greens and bone broth next time you hit the grocery store for your immune boosting shopping trip.
What are immune boosting foods?
So, what foods boost your immune system when you’re getting sick? Immune boosting foods and herbs provide nutrients that build up the immune system and enhance or support its function, either directly or indirectly. Types of immune boosting foods typically fall into three categories: foods, beverages, and herbs. Many nutritious whole foods and herbs could qualify here, but there are some specific ingredients that are especially good at this job.
Here is our list of immune boosting foods to eat for a formidable immune system that will keep you healthy.
10 Amazing Immune Boosting Foods
An immune boosting foods list wouldn’t be much of a list if it didn’t start off with the king of immunity boosting foods. Garlic holds a special place in ethnic cuisines the world over. It has been prized for its antimicrobial and health-supporting effects for centuries, if not millennia. Now we have the medically reviewed proof to back up what traditional cultures have always known.
Research has found that garlic can both prevent viral infections as well as reduce recovery time for those who do fall ill. The key to garlic’s power lies with its high concentration of sulfur compounds. These compounds provide strong immune modulating effects and significantly reduce inflammation. Aged garlic extract has garnered attention for its ability to reduce symptom severity and shorten recovery time for those battling cold symptoms and flu by improving immune cell function.
Ginger is one of the most popular and most readily available medicinal foods. Often thought of for its digestive health benefits, ginger has been used as an immune boosting food in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Since we know digestive health and immune function are closely linked, it’s little wonder we instinctively reach for ginger when we start feeling under the weather.
In addition to its familiar flavor and heat, ginger increases immunity by decreasing inflammation and providing antimicrobial effects. Some even consider it comparable to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. This can help boost immune function and have positive effects on a variety of symptoms including sore throat and body aches often associated with seasonal illnesses.
Vitamin C is a showstopper when it comes to boosting the immune system. Not only does it boost the immune system, but it also has potent anti-viral properties and can help reduce symptoms of respiratory infections. Citrus fruits are particularly high in this important vitamin and are particularly delicious. Bell peppers are another good choice to increase your dietary intake of vitamin C.
When it comes to immune boosting foods, nuts are an often-overlooked line item. They are rich sources of necessary minerals needed to keep the immune system functioning at its best.
Brazil nuts are rich in selenium which has been shown to enhance immune response and acts as an impressive antioxidant. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in immune function. Walnuts have strong anti-inflammatory properties due to their high omega-3 essential fatty acid content. They have also been found to improve the body’s response to stress and reduce oxidative stress, the immune system’s kryptonite.
5. Tart Cherries
Tart cherries are very high in antioxidants which helps support a strong, healthy immune system. Research has shown that tart cherries can significantly reduce inflammatory markers and upper respiratory tract symptoms, both important effects when looking to avoid cold season. Additionally, they are an excellent source of natural melatonin. This helps improve quality and quantity of sleep, a crucial lifestyle factor that can bolster the immune system.
This exotic fruit has been prized for centuries for its numerous health benefits. These benefits include supporting strong immune function. Pomegranates are one of the best sources of some of the most powerful antioxidants which gives them impressive antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects and immune modulating properties. If fresh pomegranates are difficult to find, pomegranate juice is more readily available and offers the same benefits.
7. Green Tea
Green tea is brimming with antioxidant flavonoids, especially epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Since green tea is not fermented like black tea, it contains much higher levels of EGCG, which research has shown to improve immune system function. It does this by modulating and normalizing T cell function while inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines from white blood cells.
Elderberry has been a buzz word in health circles for a while now, and with good reason. It is one of the most effective immune boosting foods in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and has been used by herbalists for centuries to help stimulate immune function and reduce the symptoms of upper respiratory infections. Elderberry has demonstrated potent antiviral properties, particularly against various strains of influenza virus. It has been found to shorten the duration of illness as well as increase antibody production due to its immune stimulating effects.
9. Licorice Root
While you might be familiar with licorice from candies and beverages, did you know it’s also used as a potent immune boosting herb since the time of the ancient Egyptians? It’s also one of the most frequently used herbs in TCM. Research shows that licorice root has potent immune-boosting properties that are believed to increase levels of interferon, a chemical that fights off attacking pathogens. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory, thanks in large part to its powerful antioxidant activity and glycyrrhizic acid.
Also known as purple coneflower, echinacea is a very popular herb for boosting the immune system, especially in its native North America. Its most popular use today is to support the immune system against the common cold. Research has found that taking echinacea may reduce the risk of developing a cold by 50% and reduce the duration of colds once they are contracted.
Echinacea is very high in antioxidants which can protect against oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. Chronic unmanaged inflammation can wreak havoc on the immune system and lead to chronic illness and disease as well as lowered resistance to infectious diseases as a result.
What is the best herb for the immune system?
As with so many other things when it comes to health and wellness, there really is no one-size-fits-all answer to the best herb for the immune system. It can really vary from person to person and their own unique health concerns.
That being said, there are several very good herbs to boost the immune system that will benefit most people. In addition to the herbs mentioned above that made our Top 10 list, others to consider include:
– Astragalus – Another gift from TCM, astragalus has been used for hundreds of years for its many health benefits, including boosting the immune system, reducing oxidative stress, and reducing inflammation. It’s combination of antimicrobial properties and ability to stimulate white blood cell production to enhance immune defenses make this a very beneficial herb to have in your arsenal.
– Olive Leaf – Olive leaf acts as a powerful immune response modulator that activates several pathways of the immune system and increases the production of chemicals and compounds in the body that support optimal health.
– Larch Tree Arabinogalactan – Used for millennia, larch tree arabinogalactan is a immune modulating herb that is particularly effective against the common cold. It increases the body’s ability to defend against invading pathogens and stimulate the production of natural killer cells and macrophages.
– Turmeric – Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory as well as a great balancing herb, helping to support a balanced and effective immune system.
– Oregano – Oregano is a powerful antiviral that can boost your immune system that can readily be found in a concentrated oil or enjoyed as a fresh or dried herb to provide immune boosting benefits.
What is the best immune booster supplement?
There are countless “immune boosting” supplements available in health stores and online, so how do you even begin to find the best one?
For starters, no supplement is going to take the place of healthy eating and immune-supporting lifestyle factors like sleep and reduced stress. Supplements are just that – supplemental. But smart, strategic supplementation can really enhance your immune function and help keep you safe and healthy.
Good dietary supplements should use quality ingredients like bioavailable vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables used in the supplement should be organic to reduce the risk of pesticide exposure. A good quality supplement will also incorporate several beneficial herbs and food extracts at truly therapeutic levels to provide maximum immune boosting benefit.
Since many of us struggle with gut health, and gut health is tied so closely to immune health, taking oral supplements may not be the most effective way to boost your immune system. Our Immune Defense Plus patch is designed to deliver our unique and powerful blend of immune boosting nutrients in the most bioavailable forms without any unnecessary ingredients topically for maximum absorption and benefit.