Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

6 Immune System Busters & Boosters

Font Size

Your lifestyle can affect how well your immune system can protect you from germs, viruses, and chronic illness.

Replacing bad health habits with good ones can help keep your immune system healthy. Check this list to see where you could use some improvement.

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

Prevent Flu: Cover Up When You Say Achoo!

It's every mother's mantra: Cover your mouth when you cough. During flu season, it's the best advice you can give any child -- or adult - who wants to avoid the flu. The flu virus is passed from one person to the other through fluids from mouth and nose secretions. When we cough and sneeze, those droplets go into the air. "It's our responsibility to cover mouth and nose so those droplets don't go into the air... so they don't spread to other people," says James Mamary, MD, a pulmonologist with...

Read the Prevent Flu: Cover Up When You Say Achoo! article > >

1. You're short on sleep.

You may have noticed you’re more likely to catch a cold or other infection when you’re not getting enough sleep. Studies help bear out that well-rested people who received the flu vaccine developed stronger protection against the illness. 

Not getting enough sleep can lead to higher levels of a stress hormone. It may also lead to more inflammation in your body.

Although researchers aren’t exactly sure how sleep boosts the immune system, it’s clear that getting enough – usually 7 to 9 hours for an adult – is key for good health.

2. You don't exercise.

Try to get regular, moderate exercise, like a daily 30-minute walk. It can help your immune system fight infection.

If you don't exercise regularly, you're more likely to get colds, for example, than someone who does. Exercise can also boost your body's feel-good chemicals and help you sleep better. Both of those are good for your immune system.

3. Your diet is off.

Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks.

Eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc. Go for a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, including berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Other foods particularly good for your immune system include fresh garlic, which may help fight viruses and bacteria, and old-fashioned chicken soup. If you do come down with a cold or the flu, a bowl of chicken soup can help you get well faster, one study shows.

Some mushroom varieties -- such as shiitake -- may also help your immune system.

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
 
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
 
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
Slideshow
cold weather
VIDEO
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Article
Boy holding ear
Slideshow
 

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
woman with fever
Article
 
Waking up from sleep
Article
woman with sore throat
Slideshow