As we begin to move into flu season during a year marked by the spread of a pandemic, more people than ever before are looking for ways to get healthier and stay that way. More specifically, many people are looking for ways to naturally build up their immune systems or pursue healthier options through integrative medicine.

While greater immunity can be accomplished in some small measure by changing one or two habits (such as taking supplements), your best bet at truly building up a healthy immune system is through a combination of actions. The following list represents significant changes you can make to your lifestyle to help your overall immunity.

1. Keep a Healthy Lifestyle

The important factor in a robust immune system is leading a healthy lifestyle, including eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, getting sufficient exercise, and sleeping well. It’s also a good idea to refrain from smoking or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.

And during a pandemic and flu season, keeping a healthy lifestyle also includes following CDC and local recommendations to limit the spread of the virus. It would be best if you refrained from going anywhere with a high risk of exposure. When that is not possible, wearing a mask and following appropriate sanitization procedures is crucial.

2. Minimize Stress

The current year has been one in which many people reported feeling record levels of stress and anxiety. Isolation and quarantine orders in many areas make it difficult to connect with others and engage in activities that can often boost our mood and reduce stress levels. And fear for our family’s safety can make stress levels unbearable.

But stress can cause many health problems, such as digestive issues, heart disease, and reduced immune function. It’s important to find strategies to manage your stress levels, such as meditation, Qi Gong, or other types of exercise.

3. Consider Acupuncture

As a traditional Eastern form of treatment, acupuncture has a long track record of helping individuals achieve well-being. And one of the benefits is that it can provide a benefit for the immune system. Regular monthly sessions can help to regulate and balance your immune system, even if you don’t feel ill. Research has shown that it can increases the level of white blood cells in the body, aiding your immune system react quickly to infections.

Individuals who have compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, may benefit from receiving acupuncture treatment more frequently, such as weekly.

4. Review Your Supplements

If you are deficient in any nutrients, your immune system is unlikely to perform at its best. If you are aware of any deficiencies that you cannot overcome through your regular diet, it’s essential to take supplements until the deficiency is addressed.

Additionally, some vitamins, such as Zinc, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D, have been proven to strengthen your body’s general immune response. It may be a good idea to get a bit more than the recommended daily dose of these supplements through the cold season to ensure your immune system performs optimally. Your practitioner can advise you on the appropriate amount.

5. Stay Hydrated

Up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration causes fatigue, impairs physical performance, limits your ability to focus, and can even cause heart and kidney problems.

Our bodies are mostly water, so we must drink enough every day. Staying hydrated will decrease your susceptibility to illness.

6. Exercise

While we all understand that exercise is crucial in maintaining a healthy weight and contributing to our overall wellness, moderate exercise can also benefit your immune system. Some forms of exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, and bicycling, can reduce inflammation in the body and help your immune cells regenerate. These actions all result in a healthier and more responsive immune system.

7. Maintain a Nutritious Diet

Our diet has a profound effect on nearly all aspects of our lives. It provides us with the fuel we need to accomplish everything we do. And healthy immune systems rely on regular nutrient-packed nourishment. A balanced diet will prevent you from any vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Adding certain foods, such as garlic or fermented foods, can also strengthen your overall immunity. Children who take even a small amount of fermented food reported 20% fewer childhood infectious diseases than a control group.

Regulating your immunity can take some time, and the path to a truly healthy immune system may look different for each individual. If you are looking for strategies that will work for you, it may be a good idea to consult a naturopathic doctor or physician who practices integrative medicine. They can review options to benefit immunity that will work for your lifestyle and address your unique strengths and weaknesses.