Why do some people keep on getting sick week after week all throughout the winter while others can go years without experiencing so much as a common cold? The answer lies in the strength of their immune system. The better it works, the better our bodies can fight off infections and viruses. And although some people are born with a naturally better immune system, you do have the power to strengthen yours, no matter its state. Here are five of our best tips on improving your immune system—and some exclusive advice on how CBD can help.
What is the immune system?
The immune system is a biological system that guards your body against bacteria, viruses and toxins. In our everyday life, we’re surrounded by thousands of germs and other potential pathogens that could make us sick. Our immune system is what stops these elements from affecting us, and what gets rid of them once we’ve been infected.
It does so through white blood cells (leukocytes), which help fight invaders by destroying them. When they recognize a dangerous substance, they create antibodies to get rid of them. The stronger your immune system, the faster and more efficient your white blood cells will be in fighting infections.
Why is it important to keep your immune system healthy?
A healthy immune system is not only important to protect you from any viruses going around. It also helps to keep the balance in the body in many other ways.
For example, your immune system has a major role to play in your digestive system. A weak immune system could make you more prone to digestive issues like constipation or gas.
The immune system also helps your wounds to heal. Having a weak immune system could mean that getting a simple scratch or a burn may take weeks to heal rather than days.
Our top five tips for strengthening your immune system
How do you keep your immune system going strong so it can protect you from disease and infection? Unfortunately, there are no miracle ingredients that can help you, nor herbal teas that will make all the difference. There’s nothing you can do that will completely change the state of your immune system.
Instead, you must focus on making lifestyle changes that will improve your holistic health: eat better, exercise more and relax. Here are some helpful things you can do to improve your immune system:
- Get good-quality, restorative sleep
Getting good sleep is one of the best ways to improve your immune system. While you sleep, your body restores and repairs itself. Getting only a few hours of broken sleep every night can cause some lasting damage to all biological systems, including your immune system.
At the very least, you should aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night.
To get good-quality sleep, it’s not enough to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. You also have to make sure that your body is relaxed and ready. Taking a hot bath before bed or drinking some chamomile tea might help. Right before going to bed, focus on activities like reading a book or stretching, rather than looking at screens or watching fast-paced films.
CBD could also help you to get better sleep by relaxing you and improving your sleep quality. This 2019 study showed that people with sleeping disorders who took daily doses of CBD for over a month significantly improved their quality of sleep. On average, they reported that falling asleep became easier and that they felt more rested in the mornings. So, taking a few drops of CBD oil daily or eating a CBD gummy before bed could be a good way to improve your sleep quality—and improve your immune system along the way.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Most of us eat a diet that is too rich in inflammatory foods. Foods that create inflammation in the body include animal products, processed sweets, oils and alcohol. When we consume too much of these, our bodies suffer from chronic low-level inflammation that threatens our immune system.
The answer is to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet that contains a lot of whole plant foods. Some of the healthiest foods you can eat (fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes) are naturally anti-inflammatory. And as an added bonus, they are usually nutrient-dense and contain a lot of vitamins and minerals that support the working of your immune system.
As a general rule, these foods also contain a lot more fiber than more conventional and inflammatory foods. That means they help you maintain a healthy gut biome, which is crucial for strengthening your immune system.
Changing your diet to exclude all inflammation-causing food can be very difficult. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right straight away. Instead, focus on including more and more anti-inflammatory whole plant foods into your diet. This could make a world of difference toward the function of your immune system.
As a natural anti-inflammatory, CBD could also help you make a positive difference on your inflammation levels. Studies have shown that cannabinoids like CBD can reduce inflammation naturally through their action on endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.
Of course, CBD is no substitute for a healthy diet. But supplementing an anti-inflammatory diet with CBD could make it even more effective in improving your immune function
- Exercise more
There are three pillars of a healthy lifestyle: diet, exercise and rest. Even if you get plenty of good sleep and eat nutritious, anti-inflammatory food, you still have to exercise to be considered healthy.
Exercise reduces inflammation in your body, which helps to maintain your immune system.
Exercising for a few hours every week is also a great way to improve your sleeping patterns, which is another important component of immunity.
Finally, exercise improves your immune system directly by helping immune cells regenerate more quickly.
To exercise more, it’s a good idea to find a sport you like and make a commitment to it. It could be running, playing football, or attending a Pilates class. The most important thing is that it gets you motivated to work out every day. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day, combined with another hour of low-intensity exercise such as walking or leisurely riding a bike.
- Fight stress in your everyday life
Studies show that battling constant stress increases inflammation in the body and lowers your immune response. It could slow down the production of white blood cells and get in the way of their normal functioning. While it’s normal to get stressed on occasion, you have to make sure it doesn’t become a long-term issue!
Most of us suffer from stress as a result of a fast-paced life, work and family duties, and a lack of downtime. Luckily, there are many ways to combat stress. For example, practices like meditation and yoga can naturally lower our stress levels and increase our resistance to stress. Exercising regularly also makes us more resistant to stress. Whatever obligations you have, it’s important to make sure you have a few hours set aeach day when you can truly relax. This will improve your immune function and could save you a lot of trouble in the long term!
Supplementing with CBD may also be a good way to lower stress levels in your everyday life. For example, this 2019 study showed that a single dose of CBD drastically lowered stress levels in volunteers who had to take a public speaking test. Taken daily, CBD also has the potential to reduce anxiety in the long-term, which means it can help people with chronic stress or anxiety disorders. So whether you want to use it before stressful situations or on a more regular basis, CBD can help your immune system by lowering your stress levels.
- Include probiotics in your diet
We’ve already touched on the importance of maintaining a healthy gut biome to improve your immune function. Alongside a more balanced, anti-inflammatory and fiber-rich diet, you can also supplement it with probiotics.
Probiotics are “good bacteria” that naturally live in some fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha or sauerkraut. You can also find them in pill form, in probiotics supplement.
We know from a few different studies that taking probiotics can give a boost to the immune system. For example, this 2017 study found that volunteers who were given a probiotics supplement resisted the rhinovirus better than those who were given a placebo.
Although probiotics supplements are easy to find and take, we recommend you give fermented foods a try. They make it easy to include probiotics in every meal and they often contain a range of vitamins and minerals as well. So why not find some unpasteurized sauerkraut at your local farmer’s market, or even make your own fermentations from fresh fruit and vegetables?
Contrary to what a lot of sources claim, improving your immune system isn’t as simple as drinking ginger tea or lemon water every morning. You have to think of your immune system as something that is impacted by every other aspect of your health. Therefore, the best way to improve it is to become healthier overall: sleep better, relax more, eat better and exercise regularly. CBD can help with some of these aspects by giving you better sleep, fighting stress and reducing your levels of inflammation. This makes it a great supplement to complement positive lifestyle changes.
Can I legally buy CBD?
CBD is legal on a federal level in the United States, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. However, it is still prohibited by certain state laws and doesn’t have FDA approval. We encourage you to consult a physician before you start taking CBD.
Immune system facts and figures
2012 review of the role of the gut for the immune system
2015 review of the role of exercise for the immune system
2014 review of the role of stress for the immune system
2017 study on the benefits of probiotics for the immune system
CBD for sleep
2019 review of the role of sleep in immune function
2019 study on CBD for anxiety and sleep
Anti-inflammatory effects of CBD
2010 review of studies on cannabinoids for inflammation
CBD for stress and anxiety
2019 study on CBD for anxiety and sleep
2019 study on the effects of CBD for stress reduction