The world is full of bugs. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other nasties are all potentially harmful organisms that can get into our bodies and cause damage in varying degrees.

Fortunately, we have immune systems – in-built defence mechanisms that both identify and attack unwanted invaders.

In these uncertain times, boosting the immune system is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Here are some of the best ways you can keep your immune system strong.

1. Exercise

Exercise is good for you for countless reasons, from keeping you fit to improving your mental health. It’s also one of the best ways to help keep your immune system fighting fit as well.

When we exercise, it immediately mobilises billions of immune cells. These cells travel throughout the body, energised and on the hunt for infection. Regular exercise means these cells are circulated throughout the body more, and therefore help make us more resistant to infection.

Note that if you’re new to exercising regularly, it’s best to start slowly with a short walk most days of the week and work up from there. Pushing yourself to run a marathon or undertake hugely strenuous activity from the outset can do more harm than good.

2. Eat well

Evidence suggests that a healthy immune system begins with the gut. The bacteria that live there – the gut microbiome – can strengthen your immune system, but only when healthy food sources are available to create good gut bacteria.

Essentially, a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables will offer a range of fibre, vitamins, and other key nutrients that will create good gut bacteria, which in turn support a strong immune system that’s more capable of fighting off disease.

Aside from fresh fruits and veggies, you can consider other great foods such as beans, lentils, unsweetened yoghurt, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut. All of these sources are part of a healthy, balanced diet that won’t just make you feel great, but will shore up your defences as well.

3. Sleep well

One night of poor sleep can leave you feeling tired, short-tempered, and even headachey the next day. Several nights of poor sleep, or weeks of it on end, doesn’t just wear you out overall, but it can wear down your immune system, too.

Research suggests that sleep-deprived people have suppressed immunity, so ensuring you catch your Zs every night can also help to keep your immune system in top shape.

This is sometimes easier said than done, especially with the stresses of life and endless to-do lists. You may be able to get more sleep simply by going to bed earlier and putting down the phone, but you may need to find ways to alleviate anxiety before you can get a good night’s sleep.

4. Get a flu shot

The annual flu shot is a safe and effective way to protect yourself and loved ones from influenza, which makes its rounds each year.

This shot essentially gives your immune system a head start on the annual flu virus. It injects dead flu cells into your body, so that your immune system starts creating antibodies to fight off the virus (as the cells are already dead, they cannot hurt you).

Should you catch the real thing at any point, your immune system has already created an army of antibodies to fight it off, so you should only have mild symptoms. This also means that should you catch the flu and another virus around the same time, your immune system can focus on the other virus, rather than battling both at once.

Here in Australia, the National Immunisation Program (NIP) offers the flu shot for free for certain groups, including over 65s, pregnant women, children aged 6 months to five years, Aboriginal people, and some with medical conditions. Costs for everyone else varies, but is not prohibitive, and should be weighed against the costs of catching the flu.

5. Choose the right vitamins

Vitamin C is famed for its ability to strengthen the immune system, even more so than other individual vitamins and nutrients.

As the body does not create or store its own vitamin C, it’s important to consume it regularly. You can find vitamin C in whole foods, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and capsicum, or in other foods where it has been added (such as fruit juices).

Disclamer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not substitute advice from your healthcare professional. If symptoms persist or you require specialist advice, please consult your healthcare professional.

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