How to supercharge your immune system
Your immune system is what keeps your body healthy. It’s your personal line of defense against sickness, infections, and disease.
And while your immune system can do a good job of fighting illness on its own, there are certain steps you can take to give it a boost. Here are ways to supercharge your immune system so you can stay healthy this holiday season.
One of the best ways to strengthen your immune system is by staying up to date on your vaccinations — especially during flu season. Vaccines expose your body to a weakened or dead virus or bacteria. Once your body is exposed to a vaccine, your immune system will develop a resistance to that disease. For example, if you get a flu vaccine, your body will build immunity to that strain of flu virus, which can prevent you from getting sick.
Pro tip: Plan on traveling? Exploring new places and sitting in crowded spaces — like buses, trains, or planes — can expose you to lots of new germs. About a month before your trip, ask your doctor if there are certain vaccines you should get based on where you’re going.
And as a Kaiser Permanente member, you can get the care you need when traveling — wherever you plan to go.
Studies have shown that malnutrition — or a poor diet — can weaken our immune systems.1 To be sure your immune system is in top shape, give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. This means eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and lean proteins — while limiting saturated fat, added sugar, and salt.
Maintaining a consistent workout routine can help you build strength and endurance. And when your body is strong and healthy, your immune system can run at peak performance. Just make sure not to push yourself too hard. Excessive exercise can have the opposite effect by wearing down your body, so you have less strength to fight infections.
Stress can put a strain on your immune system and your body’s ability to effectively fight disease. You can help your immune system by taking steps to control your stress levels. Activities like journaling, deep breathing, and yoga can reduce stress. Research even suggests that meditating may help improve your immune system.2 Give one of our guided meditations a try to keep your immune system strong.
Smoking or using tobacco products damages your body. Tobacco use — like smoking cigarettes — may cause inflammation which can impact your immune system’s ability to do its job.3
Quitting tobacco can be tough, but there are many resources and programs available to help you. Kaiser Permanente members can even choose to work with a personal wellness coach to kick the habit for good.
Get enough sleep
Good sleep is an important part of the immune system process.4 Allowing your body the time it needs to rest helps your immune system perform important functions.
How much sleep should you get? The standard recommendation is 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night. But how long you sleep is less important than how you feel when you wake up. You should wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start your day. If you don’t, then you most likely need to get better sleep.
The best way to give your immune system a boost is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Take our Total Health Assessment to find out where you are and what you may need to do to feel your best.
1Claire D. Bourke et al., “Immune Dysfunction as a Cause and Consequence of Malnutrition,” ScienceDirect, June 2016.
2Davd S. Black et al., “Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, January 21, 2016.
3Feifei Qiu et al., “Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down?” Oncotarget, November 2016.
4Luciana Besedovsky et al., “Sleep and immune function,” Pflügers Archiv European Journal of Physiology, November 2011.