Welcome to the new year! As we embark on another journey filled with possibilities, it’s crucial to prioritize our health, with a focus on boosting our immune system. In this blog post, we’ll explore effective ways to fortify your body’s defense mechanisms against illnesses. Follow these general health tips to ensure you understand how to keep your immune system strong.

Understanding the Immune System

Your immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend your body against infections and diseases. It maintains a delicate balance of fighting against invading pathogens without injuring our cells and tissues in the process.  Paradoxically, many of the diseases people suffer from are the result of overactivity of the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, etc.  Therefore, our immune systems can be problematic if they are either overly active or impaired.  To keep our immune systems functioning optimally, it’s essential to adopt a holistic approach to our health. Let’s delve into some actionable tips to keep our immune system functioning optimally.

Get Vaccinated

The most effective way to increase our immune system’s effectiveness is to receive all recommended vaccinations.  Once our immune system has encountered a given infection, it retains it in its memory, allowing it to respond more quickly and effectively to that infection if encountered in the future.  Without vaccination, when we encounter a pathogen, it attacks our bodies for some time before our immune system can recognize it and begin to fight it.

Vaccines contain parts of pathogens without the ability to cause disease.  They have been rigorously tested to ensure that the benefit of the vaccine greatly outweighs any risk.  This allows the immune system to be primed and ready to fight the real pathogen should it be encountered.  In this way, vaccines are one of the most natural “medicines” against infection.  It’s like giving your immune system a cheat sheet before a test!

Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet for Immune Health

A well-balanced diet plays a pivotal role in supporting your immune system. Ensure your plate is filled with a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Key nutrients such as vitamin A, the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and antioxidants are particularly important for immune function.  Fortunately, a balanced diet, rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, provides all the vitamins and minerals we need for immune health and otherwise.  

On the other hand, diets high in fats and simple sugars (table sugar, soft drinks, juices, etc.) activate our immune system in harmful ways, leading to inflammation that can be harmful to our vascular system and other tissues.  Therefore, avoiding junk foods and overly processed foods is important.

There is currently no strong evidence for the use of vitamin supplements to improve immune function, assuming you are eating a healthy diet.  Therefore, it’s not clear if taking supplements are beneficial or harmful to our immune systems.

Prioritize Quality Sleep

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of good health in general and has been demonstrated to affect the immune system specifically. During sleep, your body repairs and regenerates, and your immune system is no exception. Furthermore, inadequate sleep increases our stress hormones which impairs our immune responses.  It is important to note that both too little and too much sleep have been shown to harm our health.  Therefore, aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted, restful sleep each night to allow your body to recharge and strengthen its defenses against pathogens.

Exercise Regularly to Boost Immunity

Engaging in regular physical activity is not only a great way to prevent high blood pressure and other metabolic disorders such as diabetes, but it’s also a powerful way to enhance your immune system. Furthermore, it helps to maintain a healthy body weight, and obesity is associated with poor immune response.  Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to reap the immune-boosting benefits.

Manage Stress for a Resilient Immune System

Chronic, emotional stress can have detrimental effects on your immune system. It weakens the immune response, making you more susceptible to infections.  Practice stress-reducing activities such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to keep stress levels in check.  If you remain anxious or stressed despite lifestyle changes, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Avoid Smoking and Polluted Air

Among the many damaging effects of smoking is the impairment of our immune systems, particularly within our lungs.  Smoking makes us more prone to colds and influenza, bronchitis, and pneumonia, not to mention cancer.  This is fairly common knowledge.

What is not as commonly understood is the negative effects of air pollution on our immune systems and other measures of health.  In fact, increased visits to ERs can be measured within a few hours of a spike in air pollution from power plants, cars, and factories.  And those who live close to major roads have worse health.  These effects can be reduced by monitoring the air quality and remaining indoors on days with high pollution levels.  Using HEPA filters in our homes and offices is also beneficial.  


As you embark on a new year, commit to prioritizing your health and well-being. By adopting these tips into your everyday life, you now know how to keep your immune system strong to defend against a range of illnesses. Remember, small lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on your overall health. Here’s to a healthy and immune-strong year ahead!