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by Kathleen M McCoy October 09, 2020 3 min read

Even when you're doing your best to live a healthy lifestyle, it's inevitable that you find yourself off balance from time to time. Dealing with extreme stress can start to impact other areas of your life, including food choices, sleep and more. These are common struggles that can make you feel run-down emotionally and physically and cause your immune system to retreat, rolling out the red carpet for germs to enter your body and make you sick. If you feel run-down, or like you constantly have a cold, you may need an immune system backup plan.

How the Immune System Works

When you come in contact with viruses and other germs, your immune system helps prevent and shorten illness. According to the National Institutes of Health, the immune system launches a counterattack when a germ enters your body, releasing white blood cells that kill and eat the germs causing disease.

However, the immune system doesn't always immediately eradicate threats. It might not function correctly all the time due to underlying conditions, stressful circumstances or lifestyle habits. To ensure you know when your system needs a helping hand, you first need to know the symptoms to watch out for.

Signs Your Immune System Might Need a Boost

Getting enough sleep and exercise while filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables isn't always easy. If you don't, you're not alone. If you experience digestive distress or are always tired, these may be indications that your immune system isn't functioning optimally.

These are common symptoms, but there are things you can do to help. Employing a few immune-boosting habits can help you take matters into your own hands.

Make an Immune System Backup Plan

When you're tired of being tired, put your immune system backup plan into action. Here are four ways to strengthen a weakened system.

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Having a fever or stomach issues can lead to dehydration, which can quickly cause your body to stop working optimally. When you're ill, aim to drink more than the 2.7 to 3.7 liters of water a day that's recommended by health professionals like those at the Mayo Clinic.

Woman holding glass of water

2. Rest and Rejuvenate

Sleep enhances your body's natural defenses. This is because your immune system releases proteins, antibodies and other cells that are essential to fighting infection and inflammation while you sleep. These are important when you're healthy; when you're already feeling run-down, they're vital. Normally, you need about seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but when you're feeling under the weather, listen to your body and sleep as much as you need to recover.

3. Manage Stress

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), your state of mind directly impacts your immune system. Chronic stress may impact your immune system's ability to function optimally.

The APA suggests a few ways to relieve stress: meditating or journaling, connecting with friends (even if it's over a video chat from your bed) and spending 20 minutes moving your body, like gentle stretching or doing yoga.

4. Stock Up on Nutrients

When you feel run-down, it's more important than ever to give your body the nutrients it needs for optimal immunity. Here are a few favorite foods and supplements to back up your normal diet:

  • Soup: Grandmas aren't wrong; chicken and other vegetable soups are all packed with nutrients that lower inflammation and fluids that keep you hydrated.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: A diet with at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day helps your body get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • Oregano Oil: According to the Journal of Medicinal Food, oregano oil has antifungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, helping to prevent microorganisms from growing and multiplying.
  • Echinacea: Clinical trials indicate echinacea is beneficial when fighting a respiratory illness.
  • Elderberry: Elderberry is rich in compounds that, according to the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, helps to regulate your immune responses.

Backing up your immune system when you're not feeling 100% is a coordinated effort. But if you rest and get the nutrients you need, you'll be back to your healthy self before you know it.

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