How to Use Your Immune System to Stay Healthy
Building Healthy Immunity continued...
A diet rich in antioxidant vitamins, on the other hand, can boost resistance
to infection. Think about eating in color: dark green, red, yellow, and orange
fruits and veggies are packed with antioxidants. Try berries, citrus fruits,
kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and
Other immune-boosting foods include fresh garlic, which may have antiviral
and antibiotic properties, and old-fashioned chicken soup. Studies show that,
if you do come down with a cold or the flu, a bowl of steaming chicken soup can
ease inflammation and help you get well faster.
And mushrooms such as reichi, maitake, and shiitake may have a strong
influence on immune function as well as enhance the production of chemicals
that help your body respond to infection.
Get enough sleep: Regular bouts with insomnia may not only leave you
feeling fatigued during the day, but also leave you vulnerable to illnesses,
including colds, flu, and other infections. Long term, poor sleep also has been
shown to increase the risk of other health problems, including obesity and
The body uses sleep as a means of healing itself, says Scott Berliner,
president and supervising pharmacist at Life Science Pharmacy in New York. When
we don’t get enough sleep – or reach the deeper stages of sleep – healing is
It’s hard to measure exactly sleep’s protective effect on the immune system,
and researchers don’t know precisely how sleep improves immunity. Like
antioxidants, sleep may help reduce oxidative stress, which then stops cells
from being weakened and harmed. But “clearly, sleep – at least seven hours a
night – is associated with increased resistance to infectious diseases,” says
Practice stress management: When your body is under constant stress,
you’re more vulnerable to everything from the common cold to major
“Stress from time to time is not necessarily a bad thing. But to not have
relief from the stress -- to be under constant stress -- is deleterious to
health,” says Polsky. That’s because a steady cascade of stress hormones, such
as cortisol and adrenaline, weaken the immune system.