Everyday Habits for Your Immune System

group of people practicing yogaYour immune system is pretty important: it works day and night to keep you healthy and prevent all sorts of disease. Wouldn’t it be great if you could give your immune system a little boost? Well, you can—and it all starts with these seven everyday habits.

1. Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is our body’s way of regenerating and repairing all of its systems, including our immune system. Research has shown time and again that those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick.

2. Limit refined sugars.
Two 12-oz. cans of soda contain enough sugar to reduce your immune response by 40 percent - and this effect lasts for hours after drinking the soda (or eating those donuts). Instead, try sweet foods that are lower on the glycemic index, like fruits and veggies, or drinks sweetened with stevia.

3. Reduce stress.
Yes, we all have stress in our lives. But chronic stress causes the body to release hormones that suppress the immune system, leaving you open to more disease. Look for ways to reduce your stress levels, like listening to music, getting a massage, or taking a much-needed break once in a while.

4. Get social.
Those who spend time with friends and family have stronger immune systems than those who feel isolated. Science says so. It’s even better if you laugh with friends—laughing reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body, and actually increases the number of infection-fighting white blood cells!

5. Exercise regularly.
We all know that regular exercise is good for our bodies. Period. When it comes to the immune system, exercise may have extra benefits beyond the standard “good for you” component—by improving blood circulation, exercise helps our immune cells do their jobs more efficiently.

6. Wash your hands.
While it’s true that your immune system needs to be exposed to germs in order to “learn” how to protect you, handwashing remains one of the best ways to prevent contagious diseases.

7. Eat immune-boosting foods.
Certain foods (and drinks) have been shown to help boost your resistance to disease. Some of these fight inflammation, like ginger, green tea and omega-3-rich fish. Others help your body make more immune cells, like shitake and reishi mushrooms, citrus and other foods rich in vitamin C. You might even talk to your doctor about taking a good multivitamin to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet.