Ah, fall. Leaves changing color all around us, pumpkins on stoops, and the crisp promise of the holiday season in the air. But while the creeping cold front is a welcoming start to sweater weather, it also begs the question of how to boost your immune system.
The changing seasons and the shorter days of autumn and winter are shown to have significant effects on how our immune system supports wellness and fends off illnesses that cause hair thinning. So now is the perfect time to load up on vitamins, herbs, and supplements to boost your immune system and promote healthy hair. You can also up your fall wellness with foods that boost your immune system and simple self-care practices that pack big benefits for well-being.
Here are seven easy ways to boost your immune system and feel your best from the inside-out.
1. Boost your immune system quickly by supporting a healthy gut
Did you know that nearly 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut? It’s no secret that our gut flora (aka microbiome) helps keep our immune system functioning at its best, along with influencing not-so-tiny tasks like nutrient absorption (crucial to hair growth!), resistance to infection, and supporting a healthy inflammatory response. Gut flora is a pretty big deal. You can ensure you’ve got the best microbiome team on your side this season by taking a quality probiotic supplement and eating probiotic-rich fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut.
2. Get better sleep
While bears may take sleep to the extreme, we could learn a thing or two about their dedication to rest. Sleep is an incredibly productive activity when you consider the many benefits it offers to support a healthy inflammatory balance, reduce infection risks, and improve how well we bounce back from illness. Skimping on oh-so-important sleep can weaken immunity and cause unfavorable changes to infection-fighting white blood cells. Something as simple as inefficient beauty sleep is shown to lead to a higher risk of catching the common cold. So when your body tells you it’s tired, it’s a good idea to listen to it so you can stay healthy. Experts believe the sweet spot for optimal rest for most adults is between seven and nine hours per night. Even better for your hair is to make sure your sleep-wake cycle — aka the time you get up and the time you go to bed — stays the same every day.
3. Load up on foods that boost your immune system
“Eat your vegetables” has been haunting us since childhood for a reason. The daily recommended amount of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables restocks your body with the vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrients it needs to power immune function, calm oxidative stress, and balance inflammation.
Does vitamin C boost immune system function? Like a jet pack. Foods high in vitamin C should be at the top of your fall grocery list for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. As an extra perk, vitamin C aids collagen production, helping to support the resilience of our skin and the hair follicles that rely on it. The best foods for vitamin C include guava, kiwi, bell peppers, tomato, papaya, strawberries, broccoli, kale, and oranges. In addition to dropping more produce in your grocery cart, you can supplement with vitamins to boost immune system function. We recommend vitamins A, C, D, and zinc especially. Bonus: All four can be had in your daily dose of Nutrafol hair wellness supplements.
4. Get regular exercise
The urge to hibernate on the couch gets stronger as temperatures continue to drop, but moving your body regularly can make a big difference in immune health. Consistent, moderate exercise has been found to enhance the immune system, thanks to a slew of positive effects like reducing inflammation, helping to replenish immune cells, and enhancing immune surveillance. With the leaves changing and beautiful weather, fall is the perfect time to add more daily walks and outdoor time to your routine. Exercise is also a great stress-reliever, which brings us to…
5. Use stress support supplements to boost your immune system
As if feeling stressed out wasn’t bad enough, chronic (or long-term) stress can impair our ability to mount a decent immune response against pathogens. Thankfully, stress support doesn’t have to be complicated. Carving out 15 minutes per day for meditation is a simple way to decrease daily stress and combat its immune-lowering effects. Studies show utilizing a meditation app for just 10 minutes a few times per week can remarkably improve feelings of stress and overall well-being. If meditation isn’t your thing, timing small breaks throughout the day is a helpful way to avoid “accidental burnout.”
While some stressors, like waking up earlier to avoid the stress of being late, can be worked on or even eliminated, others might be more long-lasting and unavoidable, like a demanding job or the loss of a loved one. For extra stress help, leaning on the internal support of adaptogenic herbs like the ashwagandha in Nutrafol can help decrease the negative impact of an unchecked stress response on our immune system and hair health
6. Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid smoking
If you drink alcohol, keep in mind that long-term heavy drinking or short-term binge drinking can hamper your immune system. Studies show that high alcohol intake can lead to an increased risk of catching respiratory illnesses, due to alcohol’s ability to let pathogens slip through our lungs’ first line of defense. High amounts of alcohol can also wreak havoc on gut health, causing intestinal inflammation, disrupting intestinal immune health, and changing gut flora. This is big news, since the microbiome has a huge influence on overall immune system function. Smoking, too, has been shown to impair immune system health, messing with both our innate and adaptive immunity and particularly impacting our ability to combat upper respiratory invasions.
7. Wash your hands
Before you eat, before touching your face, and after touching someone else or a shared surface, wash your hands. The simple act of handwashing goes a long way at stopping the spread of germs. The Center for Disease Control‘s COVID-19 safety guide recommends handwashing, following mask-wearing recommendations, maintaining social distancing, and diligently disinfecting surfaces this season to help protect yourself from illness.
Finally and most importantly, think of these fall immune-boosting habits and wellness practices as self-care rather than a list of to-dos. Spoil yourself with a gorgeous smoothie bowl chock-full of vitamin C. Keep your supplements in a spot where you’ll remember to take them. Schedule time every day to meditate or move your body in whatever fashion you feel comfortable with. Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary and get the best sleep of your life! Your body (and your hair) will thank you.