Girl sitting at a table making a stay well checklist

Stay Well Check List: 6 Immune Health Hacks

With all the media buzz about staying healthy, we thought we'd suggest some of our simple lifestyle choices for year-round wellness.

The secret to staying healthy is supporting your natural defenses, aka, your immune system. Follow these six immune support tips to stay well.

1. Exercise your way to optimal immune health

Woman exercising to strengthens her immune system

We know working up a sweat is terrific for our health. Making time for moderate, regular physical activity has been shown to confer anti-aging benefits, help you manage a healthy weight, promote lean muscle mass, boost your mood and keep your brain sharp.

But there's another benefit not many people think about when running, at the gym, or doing yoga: a robust immune response. A large body of research indicates that regular exercise helps keep your lymphatic system healthy and flowing, which is important because it helps your body eliminate waste and keeps you and your immune system healthy.

Having a regular sweat routine also helps protect your immune system against age related decline over time, or immune senescence. In other words, exercise supports overall immune health, encouraging it to be more effective at fighting off any challenges.

The best part? You don't have to be a "gym rat" to get the immune-promoting benefits of regular exercise. Whether you choose long bike rides, Pilates, or dancing in your living room, moving your body three to four times a week for 30 minutes is all it takes!

2. To sleep, perchance to dream of immune health

Woman resting to supports a healthy immune response

We can't overstate how important it is to get enough uninterrupted sleep. We tend to prioritize answering work emails or binge-watching Netflix over getting at least seven hours of sleep.

Still, getting regular restful sleep is essential for various aspects of your health. And your immune response is no exception. How? It turns out that healthy sleep/wake patterns support overall immune health. What's more, healthy sleep influences immunological pathways responsible for developing long-lasting immune memory—so you can develop and maintain your built-in defenses to respond more rapidly and effectively to any immune challenges that come your way!

If tossing and turning are robbing you of your sleep, there are some tips you can follow to help your mind drift off to dreamland. You can also complement your bed-time habits with sleep support nutrients, like melatonin or valerian root. Remember, we all have unique physiologies, so speak with your healthcare provider to find the support that best works for you.

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3. Manage stress to support immune health

Man relaxing on a chair to support immune health

If you've ever felt under the weather and blamed it on stress—well, you probably weren't wrong. Our action-packed days demand a lot from us. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when we're constantly thinking about work, family, bills, schedules, social obligations, and even what's for dinner! Soon all that work (and no play) can cause us to feel run down.

Your stress response may seem like the bad guy, but it's not. It's a biological process that's designed to keep you alert and alive: aka, your "fight or flight" response. The problem comes when your stress response doesn't know when to stop—when it's so revved up that it struggles to differentiate between a predator coming to eat you and the considerably less immediate pressure of an approaching work deadline.

And when left unmanaged, your stress response can impact many aspects of your health, including your immune system. If you don't maintain healthy cortisol levels, it can affect your immune response, impacting its ability to fight off immune challenges.

Needless to say, it's important to find balance and maintain a healthy stress response. Not sure how? Here are a few tips to help you decompress from your go-go-go days.

  • Meditate

    —Here's another reason to add this ancient practice to your wellness routine. Meditation has been shown to support already-healthy cortisol levels and support the immune system.
  • Stay on top of your health

    —Empower yourself and own your health by taking a cortisol stress test. It will help you detect the levels of cortisol your adrenal gland produces.
  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods

    —Nourish your immune system with foods like leafy greens and vegetables, fruits, and shiitake mushrooms. These foods contain vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy immune response.

4. How hygiene impacts immune health

Your body works hard to keep you strong and healthy; you can do your part by following common-sense hygiene protocols:

  • Wash your hands using warm water and soap (patience pays: scrub for at least 20 seconds)
  • Use (and dispose of) tissues when you need them
  • Regularly clean and disinfect common areas
  • Wash clothes and bedding frequently

5. Stay at a healthy weight

Body weight can impact our health—so make the effort to stay within a healthy range. Studies have shown that carrying extra pounds can make it harder to support a healthy immune response; it can also disrupt your lymphatic system, cause alterations in while blood cells development and activity, and the coordination of different aspects of your immune response.

Another reason maintaining a healthy weight affects your immune response is that it affects the composition of your gut microbiome (which includes the trillions of microorganisms that reside in your intestinal tract), essential to a robust immune system.

6. Supplement to support immune health

Man taking a supplement to support immune health

Complementing your smart lifestyle choices with supplements for stress can take your immune health to another level.

Add more immune system-friendly vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in your diet. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas.

  • Zinc

    —Research shows this mineral has antioxidant properties, supports a healthy inflammatory response, and has been shown to help lessen the duration of immune challenges.
  • Vitamin C

    —Well-known for its immune support properties, vitamin C supports healthy white blood cell production and encourages the healthy function of immune cells.
  • Quercetin

    —This flavonoid has been shown to support a healthy inflammatory response; it also has antioxidant properties.
  • Reishi mushrooms

    —Loaded with vitamins and minerals, reishi mushrooms have been shown to promote a healthy immune response (and whole-body health).

About the Author: Jessica Monge has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences & neuroscience and a master's degree in comparative studies and related languages from Florida Atlantic University. She worked as a tutor, freelance writer and editor before joining Life Extension, where she is currently a Digital Content Writer.