How To Strengthen Your Immune System

By EAT SMARTER
Updated on 06. May. 2020
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch.
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Amidst the coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy immune system. Read up below to learn more about how your immune system works and to find our top tips on all the things you can do to keep your defenses working diligently to protect you.

1. Support the intestinal flora 

Trillions of microorganisms live in the human intestine, which form the microbiome, also known as intestinal flora. The intestinal flora is extremely useful, influencing our digestion, our well-being and our health. But how can a healthy intestinal flora be supported?

Introducing more probiotics into your diet is a great start. These are living microorganisms such as lactobacilli or bifidobacteria. The useful microbes can strengthen the barrier function of the intestine and thus keep pathogens at bay. These little helpers are naturally found in lactic acid-heavy products such as yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk or sauerkraut. 

Besides probiotics, prebiotics also support the intestinal flora. These are not microorganisms, but indigestible dietary fibers. These include, for example, inulin, which is found in chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, artichokes, garlic and onions. The prebiotics are broken down or fermented by the bacteria in the colon. This produces vitamins and short-chain fatty acids which have a positive effect on the intestinal environment and thus strengthen the body's defenses.

2. Eat berries

Berries contain a large number of vital substances that strengthen our immune system. For example, blackcurrants provide three times the amount of vitamin C as lemons do. This water-soluble vitamin stimulates the multiplication of immune cells (T-lymphocytes), which fend off bacteria and viruses. Vitamin C also helps to detect pathogens (chemotaxis) and eliminates free radicals that damage the membranes of the defense cells.

Berries also provide a wealth of secondary plant substances, including flavonoids. These plant dyes are responsible for the red, blue and violet color of berries, but also strengthen the immune system and eliminate pathogens. The rule is: the richer the colour, the higher the content of flavonoids. 

Some Of Our Favorite Berry Recipes

 

3. Rely on vegetable power

The complex tasks of the immune system are dependent on a sufficient supply of vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances. The latter are classified as flavonoids, carotenoids, sulphides, glucosinolates, monoterpenes, polyphenols, phytoestrogens, phytosterols, saponins. These colourings and flavourings protect the plant against pests and diseases while keeping us healthy.

Probably the best known of the carotenoids is beta-carotene. The yellow-orange natural dye stimulates our immune system and is found in abundance in colorful vegetables like kale, carrots and red peppers. 

Garlic and cabbage are also great ingredients for helping keep the immune system healthy. 

4. Mix up your shower routine

Here’s a little-known tip for boosting your immune system: alternate between hot and cold water when showering. Four repetitions switching from warm to cold are all you need to help boost the immune system. The changes in temperature teaches the body to adapt quicker to hot and cold temperatures, which in turn makes immune cells reach the body’s mucous membranes faster and can fight pathogens earlier.

5. Get some fresh air

While it can be hard to carve out time during the day for outside time during the coronavirus, it’s important to get outside for a little bit each day if you can. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, stimulates circulation and moistens the mucus membranes, making it more difficult for pathogens to enter our bodies. 

The vitamin D from direct sun contact is also indispensable in keeping your immune system healthy.
 

6. Stay hydrated

Moisture strengthens the natural protective barrier in our body, so it’s important to keep hydrated, especially now. At least two liters a day is preferred. 

You can also mix it up with some iced tea, or hot tea with a pungent ginger shot. Substances in ginger stimulate blood circulation and help to transport germs out of the body, while the essential oils in ginger have a gentle antibacterial effect. 
 

7. Get enough sleep

During the day, the immune system is in continuous operation. It must constantly check everything that enters the body and fend off pathogens and foreign substances. At night, most substances are released for immune defenses and the immune system recharges for the next day. When we are ill, we feel tired and weak for this reason too. This is because the body needs sleep to build up defenses against bacteria and viruses. Therefore if you get a good night’s sleep, you decrease your chances of becoming ill. Make sure you’re getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep, if not an hour or two more.

8. Keep moving

Regular exercise not only ensures fit muscles, but can also strengthen our immune system. One factor here is that sport triggers short-term stress, which is a kind of training for the immune system. However remember that excessive training can do the opposite, offering pathogens a so-called open window to enter the body. 

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