10 Ways to Support Your Immune System So It Can Support YOU

JANUARY 9, 2024

Hi! I'm Lauren.

You're destined for greatness, and
my job is to help you look, feel,
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Does catching a cold each winter feel almost inevitable?

Have you ever wondered why some people breeze through cold and flu season unscathed while others seem to catch every sniffle and cough going around?

Caring for our immune system often seems complex, but it's beautifully intertwined with the basic principles of holistic health. 

The ability to stay well during cold and flu season, when around others who are sick, when traveling, as well as the intensity and duration of sickness if we do happen to fall ill — is largely a reflection of our existing habits and overall health.

By nurturing our bodies with what they inherently need — nourishing whole foods, adequate hydration, quality sleep, well-managed stress and regular exercise — we naturally “boost” our immune defense.

This approach to health isn't just about avoiding illness; it's about empowering your body with what it needs to operate at its best, every day.

In this post, we'll explore 10 simple yet effective ways to support your immune system, which in turn, supports every facet of your health & body.

These strategies are the answer to the annual question: “what can I do to avoid getting sick?”

Let’s dive in…

Detoxifying our bodies is crucial, especially considering the countless toxins we're exposed to daily - from the food we eat to the air we breathe, and even the products we use. Here’s the good news though – the body is already equipped with its own detoxifying organs & processes. Our skin, respiratory system, intestines, liver, and kidneys together do a fabulous job of eliminating harmful substances and disease-causing pathogens.

However, the challenge arises when our bodies are over inundated with toxins and there’s simply too much for it to clean up and contend with efficiently and adequately. A high toxic load can lead to various issues like nutrient malabsorption, mood disorders, brain fog, and of course, weakened immune system, leaving us more susceptible to illnesses.
The key is to consistently support our body’s natural detox processes. Simple daily actions like drinking plenty of quality filtered water, engaging in activities that induce sweating, practicing fasting, ensuring adequate sleep, and consuming foods that aid detoxification and digestion – such as cilantro, parsley, arugula, dandelion, lemon, and berries, for example – are crucial.
Remember, detoxification isn’t a trendy ‘thing’ to do a few times a year. The body detoxes constantly and as such we should be supporting its efforts regularly through our dietary and lifestyle choices. By maintaining these practices, we can significantly enhance our body’s ability to detoxify and, in turn, bolster our immune system.

Reducing our toxin exposure is just as important as supporting the body’s natural detox processes. While we can't always control every toxin we’re exposed to, what we CAN control, we definitely should. So “Don’tox” is simply my fun way of encouraging you to consciously avoid toxins where possible.

Many everyday items, from our food to home and personal care products, can contain harmful, toxic substances. These can have serious health implications, like contributing to anxiety, depression, weight gain, and hormone imbalances linked to various concerns including PCOS, intense PMS, challenging menopause symptoms, and even increased cancer risk.
The good news is that you have TONS of control and opportunity to “don’tox”.

Here are just a few steps to help you get started:
Eat organic as often as possible

When eating organic is not an option, avoid corn, soy, and any produce listed on the EWG’s latest “dirty dozen list”

Cleanse your produce – yes, even the organic produce! You can easily make your own nontoxic produce wash to keep on hand by combining white vinegar, water, baking soda and lemon juice.

Animal products consumed should always be from humanely raised and non-GMO fed animals

Store food (especially hot food) in glass containers

Drink high-quality filtered water

Buy nontoxic home (laundry detergent, surface cleaners, dish soap, etc.) and personal (shampoos/conditioners, face/body moisturizers, makeup, toothpaste, etc.) care products. There are several apps available that have done the heavy lifting for us such as the EWG app and the Yuka app. Both allow you to simply scan an item’s barcode and get a cleanliness rating before making a purchase.

Beware of fragrant personal care products and decor (unnaturally scented candles, synthetic oil diffusers, artificial potpourri, synthetic air “fresheners”, etc.)

Talk to your doctor about eliminating or reducing medications if and when appropriate
Speaking of toxins, many toxic substances that we are exposed to are lipophilic, meaning they like to hang out or accumulate in adipose tissue (fat). Those who are overweight tend to hold on to more toxins, generally speaking, and as mentioned this can interfere with the body’s ability to fight off chronic and acute disease. So losing weight won’t just contribute to body and confidence goals, but it will also aid in overall detoxification which contributes to optimal immune function.

But that’s not all – there’s another side to this coin.
Most people are aware of obesity’s effect on or link to various other diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and cancer, but did you know that unhealthy excess weight can also increase your risk for acute diseases such as the common cold, flu, strep throat, pneumonia and respiratory infections?
Obesity is a complex disease that affects several processes and pathways, and much is still being uncovered about the effects of it. However, several studies link obesity and metabolic syndrome to impaired immunity and pathogen defense.

Some specific findings include:
• Sustained decreased cytokine production
• Decreased response to antigen/mitogen stimulation
• Altered monocyte and lymphocyte function
• Reduced macrophage and dendritic cell function
• Natural killer cell dysfunction

All of which, again, means increased susceptibility to illnesses as well as duration and intensity. The bottom line is that losing weight and maintaining a healthy body composition can reduce your toxic load and improve the body’s overall immunity and ability to protect itself.

If you're looking for tailored support in achieving a healthier body composition, which in turn supports your immune system, I'm here to help. Schedule a discovery call where we can discuss a plan that's just right for you. → Learn more & get started here.

A talk about improving body composition would be incomplete without mentioning lean body mass. This is especially true in a conversation about immunity, as muscle is a critical part of a healthy immune system. When most people think about lean body mass or muscle, they often get visions of Schwarzenegger-esque physiques, but, again, the benefits of muscle go much deeper than aesthetics. Muscle is the “protein reservoir” that your body and immune system draw on to heal during illness and injury. When you’re sick, your body requires even more protein – more than diet can provide. So your immune system relies on your protein reserves or your lean body mass. In short, the more skeletal muscle you have for your body to use, the stronger your immune system generally.

The problem is that by the time we hit our twenties, we begin to lose our lean body mass. This coupled with the more sedentary lifestyle we tend towards as we get older makes way for an even more rapid reduction in this vital tissue and thus a reduction in immunity. The good news, however, is that with the right actions we can build muscle at any age.

The 2 ways to stimulate muscle growth are eating high-quality protein and resistance training. Many people don’t get enough high quality protein and the recommendations for daily intake are often conflicting or at best geared more towards maintaining lean mass than they are for optimizing it. As a general rule of thumb and starting point, shoot for consuming a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.

Fasting, with its various forms and benefits, is more than just a weight loss tactic; it's a centuries-old practice for enhancing both spiritual and physical wellness. The major types of fasting include prolonged or multi-day fasting, alternate-day fasting, and the increasingly popular time-restricted eating, also known as intermittent fasting.

One of the fascinating things that leading fasting researcher, Dr. Valter Longo, and his team found back in 2014 was that a prolonged 3-day fast was enough to reverse immunosuppression and promote hematopoietic stem cell renewal. This means a newer, more robust immune system fighting on your behalf!

Going 72 hours without food, however, is no easy feat for many of us, and that's okay. Studies are being conducted to more clearly identify the immune benefits of more feasible fasting protocols such as intermittent fasting.

Most of the science-backed benefits of intermittent fasting are not directly related to immunity, however, current research does describe intermittent fasting as a strong tool for priming the body to defend against disease. So if nothing else, regular intermittent fasting can simply be a proactive strategy for not getting sick.

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to support your immune system and health overall. There is not a single organ, system or process that is not impacted by sleep.

Most people are aware of the bidirectional relationship between sleep and the immune system – after all when you’re ill, what’s typically the only thing that sounds appealing? Sleep! And when you’ve been skimping out on sleep and someone in the office has a cold? Boom – now, you’ve got it too!
One of the primary reasons for this inter-relatedness is due to the fact that the immune system actually replenishes and bolsters its primary players during sleep.
Studies show that quality sleep can improve the effectiveness of the T cells in the body responsible for fighting off infection. Much is still unknown about the mechanisms behind this, but it is known that sleep helps enhance the ability of T cells to attach to and destroy cells infected by viruses and other pathogens. Quality sleep also supports cytokine production and release. Cytokines are cell signaling proteins responsible for communicating with immune cells and directing the overall immune response. So do your best to prioritize and optimize your sleep each night. The health benefits are endless and compounding; and if you're looking for a few tips to help with this, check out the article titled 10 Tips for Naturally Better Sleep & a Healthier You.

Starting with a clean, nutrient-rich diet is the cornerstone of supporting your immune system. When your diet is packed with a variety of whole foods - think fresh whole fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats - you're providing your body with the essential macronutrients and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) it needs to function optimally.
During cold and flu season or when your immune system needs a little extra support, increase your intake of powerful aromatics like garlic, ginger and red onion (a great source of quercetin!). This way of eating not only fuels your body but also supports the intricate workings of your immune system.

However, even with the best dietary intentions, there may be gaps in your nutrition or increased demand for specific nutrients when the body is exposed to certain pathogens. This is where wise supplementation comes into play. Supplements can help fill those nutritional gaps, ensuring your immune system gets all the support it needs. But remember, supplements are just that - a supplement to, not a replacement for, a healthy diet.

When considering supplements, it's important to choose wisely. Opt for high-quality products and those that are backed by scientific research. It's also crucial to tailor your supplement regimen to your specific health needs and goals. This personalized approach ensures that you're not just taking supplements, but taking the right ones for you.

Some supplemental nutrients you may want to consider including are:
Vitamins such as non-acidic vitamin C (with bioflavonoids such as quercetin, hesperidin and rutin) and vitamin D3

Minerals such as zinc picolinate, magnesium glycinate, selenium (selenomethionine)

Botanicals such as astragalus, echinacea, goldenseal, elecampane, elderberry, andrographis, etc.
When seeking immune support supplements, I recommend formulas in most cases as opposed to isolated ingredients.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. There are TONS of nutrients, herbs and plant remedies that can support the immune system, but this is a good place to start.

Incorporating a balanced diet and thoughtful supplementation into your daily routine is a powerful strategy for bolstering your immune health. It's about creating a foundation of wellness that your body can build on, keeping you resilient and ready to tackle whatever comes your way.

Over 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, making it a key player in your overall health and immunity. The relationship between the gut microbiome and the immune system is complex, with ongoing research continually uncovering new insights. We know that a healthy gut contributes to a well-regulated immune response, while an imbalanced gut can lead to dysregulation and increased susceptibility to illness.

Fostering a healthy gut is essential for a robust immune system. You can support the gut microbiome and its process by eating probiotic- & prebiotic-rich foods (fermented veggies check both of these boxes!), taking a high-quality probiotic supplement and eating a whole foods, plant-rich diet free of processed foods.

Speaking of processed foods, perhaps their biggest and most dangerous accomplice is added sugar. Not only is sugar empty calories with no essential micronutrients, a diet high in added sugar wreaks havoc all throughout the body being linked to things like obesity, diabetes, cancer, food addiction, depression and gut dysbiosis – to name a few – all of which are innately immunosuppressive. Aim for no more than 15g of added sugar daily. This might take some time to adjust to depending on your current eating habits, so do what you can to reduce your sugar intake gradually but definitely.

While some stress is a good thing, keeping us productive, engaged and on our toes, too much can tilt the scales toward chaos. Aside from the other negative consequences of chronic stress such as anxiety, low energy, poor sleep and belly fat accumulation, long-term stress also suppresses or dysregulates innate and adaptive immune responses, weakening the immune system overall and increasing our susceptibility to illness.

Managing stress effectively is key to good health and a strong immune system. Simple, daily mindfulness practices like meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and regular physical activity can help significantly lower stress levels. Having a support network of friends, family, or colleagues, engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation, learning to gracefully say ‘no’ and taking time for self-care are also essential for balancing life's demands and managing stress.

Effective stress management is a skill that there will always be a need for. So don't give up on finding workable solutions and techniques for yourself that support your physical and mental health.

Boosting your immune system is about more than just one or two quick fixes; it's about a holistic approach to your overall health. From optimizing your sleep and managing stress to nurturing your gut health and eating a nutrient-rich diet, each plays a crucial role.

Embrace these ten strategies as part of your daily routine to build a stronger, more resilient you, ready to face whatever comes your way with energy and confidence.

- Lauren

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