27 Ways to Keep Your Immune System Humming
Keep your immune system strong—now more than ever!
1. HUM. There’s evidence that humming reduces levels of stress-related hormones and increases levels of nitric oxide, which boosts healing. If you like, add intention to your humming practice, turning it into a type of meditation.
2. BREATHE. There is immense power in the breath and a wide variety of ways to harness it. Increasing the length of the exhale, especially through the nose, is one of the basic ways to shift into a para-sympathetic (resting) state.
3. BREATHE ... FIRE. Key to the practice of Kundalini yoga, Breath of Fire involves rapid, continuous pumping of the breath. It’s believed to boost the immune system, expand help the nervous system calm down. Breathing through the nostrils from the belly and with short, equal inhales and exhales, practice for no more than 30 seconds when first starting.
4. PRAY. Prayer is a form of meditation, which is proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mood. Connect with the divine in whatever way feels best for you.
5. CAST A SPELL. If you prefer, call it “enacting a ritual.” This is about you, your mind, and your spirit—not actual magic. Try putting all your worries on a piece of paper, taking it outside, and burning it, along with emblems of the troubles you’ve had the past week or month. While you’re outside ...
6. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY. Time spent in nature is beneficial on many levels, but especially so when you get your hands in the earth. You’ll benefit from creating a more robust microbiome in your body through exposure to bacteria from the soil.
7. OIL YOUR FEET. In Ayurvedic medicine, padabhyangam is a foot massage with herbal oil. To calm and rejuvenate the body, thoroughly massage feet with a small amount of sesame oil before bed, then cover the feet with socks.
8. BATHE IN THE OUTSIDE AIR. You may not be able to literally practice forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, but if you’re anywhere near some trees you can still benefit. Specific immune response cells come online and become more active in the woods. Be sure to include all of your senses to maximize the benefits.
9. INCLUDE ION SHOWERS. Anions, or negatively charged ions in the air, are created from water crashing into an object—think seashores, waterfalls, and streams. Surrounding yourself with these particles can boost your mood and relieve stress. (If you have a desktop fountain gathering dust in the attic, now is the time to plug it in.)
10. TAKE A SCENTED BATH. Adding eucalyptus essential oil, shown to have anti-inflammatory properties for the lungs, to a hot bath along with a generous pour of Epsom salts is a powerful act of self-care that will decrease stress and offer support for your respiratory system.
11. SELF-SOOTHE. Self-touch can be incredibly calming and relaxing for the body, which helps stimulate the nervous system. Self- massage with oils in the bath is great, but so is simply stroking the flat of your palm down your arms and down your body and running your fingers through your own hair.
12. SNUGGLE. The love hormone oxytocin is released when we cuddle. It lowers cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and helps you sleep. Cuddling may even help fight colds.
13. MOVE YOUR LYMPH. Your lymphatic system removes waste products and toxins from your body, but it requires your help to do so. You can support its work by moving your body, staying hydrated, and dry brushing (massaging your body with a stiff, dry brush).
14. INVERT. Allowing your head to drop below your heart or elevating your hips above your heart is soothing for your circulation and your nervous system and stimulates your lymph nodes. Try throwing your legs up the wall or over a couch for 10 minutes with a small pillow under your bum.
15. LEARN. It’s a good time to snuggle up with informative books, and An Elegant Defense by Matt Richtel is just the ticket. Learn about the delicate dance of supporting a refined and resourceful immune system.
16. EAT FERMENTED FOODS. Mix it up. Use kombucha, pickles, kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, if you can. A gut with a diverse microbiota is associated with better health overall, and good bacteria help your body synthesize vitamins B and K.
17. ADD GARLIC, TURMERIC, CINNAMON, AND SAGE. Garlic has been proven in many studies to directly stimulate immune cells. Aim for two to three cloves a day. Turmeric boosts the body’s antioxidant properties. Cinnamon is also an antioxidant powerhouse and helps fight inflammation and ward off infections. Sage has been used for centuries to ease congestion associated with colds and the flu, and may have anti-inflammatory properties.
18. THINK HEAT. Adding cayenne, chili peppers, or hot sauce to your food helps to warm up your system and wake up your immune system. Bonus points if it gets your nose running!
19. EMBRACE BONE BROTH. At the core of the common chicken soup cure is a nutrient-rich broth made from simmering bones. Bone broth is rich in minerals and the amino acids that our body needs to stay healthy and fight infections. Making bone broth at home is soothing, too, since it is an all-day project.
20. EAT LENTILS. High in magnesium, fiber, B vitamins, and protein, lentils keep well in the pantry, are versatile, and support heart health.
21. EAT MUSHROOMS. The full nutritional benefits of mushrooms are still being discovered, but there’s reason to believe they pack a punch when it comes to the body’s immune and recovery systems.
22. SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMIN D. People with a vitamin D deficiency are more susceptible to infection, not to mention lethargy and depression. Even in the best of times, many people simply don’t spend enough time outside to acquire enough vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D is directly involved in immune responses.
23. SNACK ON ALMONDS. They are high in vitamin E, which supports immunity.
24. DANCE. Put on some of your favorite music and move with it intuitively. Not only does this provide some exercise, but it can also be a really effective way of expressing emotions through the body, thus releasing them and helping the body to heal.
25. SHAKE. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, shake your body for a minute or two. It helps move the stress hormones through your body, completing the stress cycle. Shaking is a well-documented tool many non-human animals use after a stressful encounter to help their bodies rebalance toward calm and healing.
26. HEAT UP. Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your belly to warm up your system. Soothe and rebalance your adrenal glands by lying on your stomach and placing the heating pad over your kidneys, at the mid-back, around the bottom half of your ribs. This is deeply restorative for the adrenals, the nervous system, and the immune system.
27. NAP. Taking 15 to 20 minutes a day to rest, whether you sleep or not, communicates to the immune system that you are safe and calm. Doing this daily means creating a habit of slowing down and calming down, which is a powerful signal to the immune system that it can do its best work.