7 Ways to Keep Your Immune System in Fighting Shape


With COVID-19 changing life as we know it, staying healthy is a concern for everyone. But there’s no quick and easy way to boost immunity. The body’s defense against invading pathogens is complex, so the best we can do to support it is to follow basic guidelines for healthy living.

Don’t go vitamin crazy. “No single food or supplement can defend against COVID-19,” says Martin Wesolowski, DO, Martin’s Point Health Plan Medical Director. For now, take only vitamins and supplements that have been recommended by your primary care provider. 

Eat well. “Many nutrients contribute to immune system support, so focus on fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils and more),” says Dr. Wesolowski. Use the rainbow strategy—including a variety of colorful produce on your plate—to get a range of nutrients. “Don’t worry about catching the virus from food. Just wash your produce as you normally would,” adds Wesolowski.

Sit less, move more. No surprise here. Exercise keeps your heart healthy, lowers blood pressure and helps you maintain a healthy weight—all things that play a role in overall good health. The Centers for Disease Control recommend at least 150 minutes a week plus muscle-strengthening twice a week. Chunk up the 150 minutes to put the goal in easy reach (like 21 minutes every day or 30 minutes five days a week).

Limit alcohol intake. With your weekly routine out the window, an extra beer or cocktail can be tempting. Still, recommended guidelines are up to one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men. More than that can put you on a path for short-term harm—like a traffic accident—and long-term harm in the form of heart disease, liver damage, cancer, memory problems, mental health problems, and more.

Get enough good sleep. Tempting as it is to binge watch your new favorite series late into the night, it’s important to get your daily seven to nine hours of sleep. Sleep quality matters, too. To sleep more soundly: Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Avoid big meals, alcohol, caffeine, and exercise near bedtime. Keep screens out of the bedroom.

Keep stress under control. There’s no shortage of evidence linking emotional stress to health issues that range from stomach issues to heart disease. You might need to experiment to find what works for you in this high-anxiety time. Take breaks from the news and social media. Make time to stretch, take deep breaths, or meditate. Talk to friends and family. Record your thoughts in a journal. Keep up with whatever you love, whether it’s drawing, woodworking, or working on a puzzle. If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to your doctor.

Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking is bad for every organ in your body at a time when you need every part in perfect working order. Smoking causes cancer, stroke, lung disease, type 2 diabetes, and more, and is behind 480,000 deaths per year. Need help quitting? Start here.

And here’s a final tip to give your immune system a break that we hope you’ve already taken to heart: Wash your hands well and often. As annoying as it may be, two minutes of the happy birthday song is your new best friend for deflecting infection.