Strengthening our immune system has become one of our top health concerns, especially as we head into fall and winter and face seasonal allergies and viruses. There are several things that you can do to help improve both your overall health and immune function:

Stress management. Long term exposure to stress has been shown to decrease immune function by causing inflammation and imbalances in immune cell function. Learning to handle stress and how to remove it from your life will help improve health, wellness, and even weight control.

Exercise. Exercise and daily movement is important for overall strength, endurance and wellness, which in turn helps the body resist illness. Moderate exercise can reduce inflammation and promote the healthy turnover of immune cells. Other healthy habits like not smoking, not drinking alcohol in excess, making good nutritional choices, and allowing at least eight hours of sleep nightly help build a healthy immune system.

Sleep. Poor sleep patterns result in the same physical effects as chronic stress. Your body heals itself as you sleep, so allowing it the time to repair can yield a robust immune system.

Nutrition and supplements. Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and fight free-radicals. Consuming foods high in Vitamin C has been shown to decrease the duration of the common cold. Foods high in vitamins B6 and D, zinc, elderberry, echinacea and garlic have also shown promise in improving general immune response. Eating fermented foods or taking probiotics helps keep your digestive system healthy. A flourishing system of gut bacteria helps immune cells differentiate and target harmful pathogens.

Hydration. Dehydration can cause headaches and interfere with focus, mood, digestion, heart and kidney function, and thereby increase susceptibility to illness.

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