The Immune Health Checklist You Should Never Go a Day Without
by Amy Schlinger
Your immune system plays a key role in keeping you healthy and safe. When you come into contact with potentially harmful germs, viruses, bacteria, and other substances, your immune system steps in to fight for your body and protect your health.
While you may not have control over your immune system in the same way a general commands an army, there are certainly things you can do to support it.
To that end, we’ve assembled an immune health checklist. Read on for your step-by-step guide to supporting a healthy immune system.
Get a decent amount of shut-eye
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep supports more bodily functions than we could list here, impacting everything from energy levels to mental acuity, and, of course, immunity.
Sleep is a large factor in maintaining your immunity,” says Rachelle Ramiro, MSN, NP-C, nurse practitioner for Concierge MD LA in Los Angeles, CA. “While you sleep, hormones like insulin, cortisol, and growth hormone are released and help support your immunity. When you consistently don’t get enough sleep, your immune system pays the price.
To get better sleep, Ramiro suggests a couple of tactics. “Decrease screen time in the evening, especially the last hour before bed; consider taking supplemental melatonin, a natural sleep aid; try exercising earlier in the day; cut down your caffeine intake in the afternoon; and avoid consuming alcohol before bed,” she says.
Eat nutrient-dense meals
Everything you put in your mouth is your fuel,” says George N. Fallieras, M.D., a board-certified internist and medical director at BioCorRx.
Instead of relying on takeout, make an effort to prepare your own meals as often as possible, making sure to get sufficient fruits and vegetables, along with a balanced intake of proteins, fats, and carbs.
Eating a balanced diet can provide key nutrients to help your body function,” says Ramiro.
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating within the following macronutrient ranges:
- Carbohydrates: 45-64% of total calories
- Fat: 25-35% of total calories
- Protein: 10-30% of total calories
Pump up your protein
Speaking of protein, this macronutrient is critical for building and supporting muscle and other tissues. But that isn’t where its benefits end. “
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (which is roughly your weight in pounds multiplied by .36). But depending on your health and fitness goals, you may benefit from exceeding that figure. “I would say, on average, to try to get about two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight,” says Ramiro. “That’s a decent goal to aim for, especially if you’re looking to support your muscle."
If your schedule makes it difficult to squeeze in that extra nutrition, Ramiro recommends supplements like protein shakes to feed your muscles on the go or after a workout. (No idea where to start? Try one of Isopure’s protein powders!)
Drink water, drink water, drink water! It can’t be stressed enough. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that males consume around 15.5 cups of water daily, and adult females consume around 11.5 cups of water daily.
“Water is essential for the body to function properly, down to the cellular level,” says Ramiro, who explains that dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, decreased concentration, and more. Staying hydrated helps support a healthy immune system.
Ramiro suggests keeping a large water bottle or jug of water with you throughout the day to help you keep track of your intake.
Take down stress
There is an entire field of medicine, called psychoneuroimmunology, devoted to the study of how our state of mind can affect our health. And, according to the American Psychological Association, stress can have a negative impact on immune function.
Dr. Fallieras suggests trying things like yoga, meditation, and walking outdoors to help clear your mind and keep stress levels in check, but the means aren’t as important as the end. Whichever activities help you keep your cool, build those into your schedule in a meaningful and consistent manner.
There are so many free apps that you can use now for meditating and yoga,” Dr. Fallieras says. If you’ve never tried meditation, a quick daily practice could be the game changer you’ve been searching for.
Keep your workout streak going
Keeping up with a regular fitness routine is another way to support your immune system. Better yet, exercise can help reduce stress, supporting your natural defenses.
Per week, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends two or more days of muscle strengthening activities, paired with either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (like a brisk walk) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (like jogging or running).
"I recommend trying to get 40-50 minutes in daily,” says Dr. Fallieras. “Just be sure not to overdo it.”
Take your vitamins
Vitamins and minerals, whether consumed in whole foods or supplement form, can help support your muscles, bones, and your immune system.
“Vitamins are best when derived from your daily diet,” says Ramiro, whose list of foods rich in vitamins and minerals includes meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, cheese, yogurt, milk, fruits, potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, eggs, avocado, vegetable oils, nuts, legumes, and leafy green veggies.
However, getting sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals through your diet alone can be a tall order. That’s why Ramiro says it’s okay to turn to supplements to help you fill those gaps. Just be sure to consult with your doctor or medical professional beforehand to find out if supplementing is a good option for you.