Ask the Expert: Supporting Immune Health

Your immune system consists of white blood cells, a lymphatic system, several different organs and tissues that work together to fight germs or foreign organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.

Without a well-functioning immune system, people can often get sick. Maintaining your immune health means keeping your immune system as healthy as possible to fight off foreign organisms that cause infection and disease.

There are several different ways you can support your immune health, including:

  • eating a well-balanced diet
  • exercise regularly
  • enough sleep
  • maintaining good hygiene
  • quitting smoking (if you smoke)
  • limiting alcohol intake
  • finding ways to manage or avoid stress

You can also support your immune health by getting all the routine vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How often you get sick can give you an idea of ​​whether your immune system is in good shape. If you get sick often, you may have a weakened immune system. It is typical to contract common viruses from time to time, such as viruses that cause the common cold.

You should still talk to a doctor if you get sick often or get infected with unusual foreign organisms.

Yes, maintaining a well-balanced and nutritious diet is key to maintaining good immune health.

A healthy diet should include many of:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • pulses
  • whole grains

Fruits high in antioxidants, such as berries, are especially helpful for boosting the immune system. Probiotics such as yogurt are also valuable for supporting immune health and can help promote healthy gut flora. A diet that consists of red meat and processed sugars can weaken immune health.

Swanson Health offers a wide variety of chews, including options to support immune health. Immune Health Elderberry Zinc & Vitamin C Supplement is vegetarian and formulated to help strengthen the immune system.

Stress can have many negative physical effects, including suppressing or weakening the immune system.

Finding ways to control or reduce your stress levels can help maintain your immune health. Some strategies you can try include:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • deep breathing exercises

Maintaining a well-balanced diet and regular exercise can also help. Since large amounts of caffeine can affect stress and anxiety levels, reducing your caffeine intake can help reduce stress.

Your immune system needs energy to function properly. If you have a weakened immune system, your body will try to conserve energy to help your immune system fight infections, which can cause fatigue.

There are many reasons why some people get sick more often than others.

For example, an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, poor sleep habits and poor hygiene can weaken the immune system, leading to increased incidence of infections and illnesses.

Smoking, high alcohol consumption, and high levels of stress and anxiety can also weaken the immune system. Avoiding these things and maintaining a healthier lifestyle can help maintain a strong immune system.

When you’re sick, it’s best to continue eating healthy foods and taking immune-boosting nutrients, including zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics.

It’s also important to stay hydrated and conserve energy by getting plenty of rest.

It’s important to maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and choose other healthy lifestyle habits to maintain your immune health.

Quitting smoking and avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption can improve your immune health. It can also help to get plenty of rest and avoid or find ways to relieve stress. Be sure to talk to your doctor about additional ways you can support your immune health.


Dr. Avi Varma is an ABMS-certified family medicine physician and public health advocate working for a nonprofit organization fighting the HIV epidemic in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Varma is an HIV Specialist™ (AAHIVS) certified by the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

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