Your back-to-school, back-to-office guide for keeping your immune system in tip top shape.

It’s official: September is here, and summer is over. That means many of us are heading back to school, or finally starting to head back to the office after months of start-and-stop distancing measures. With the slow transition back to normal day-to-day life intersecting with COVID numbers spiking, taking care of our immune systems is more important than ever. Both for our individual health, and when it comes to protecting our loved ones. 

How to boost your immune system

  1. First, understand it. Your immune system is just that — a system. That means that there’s no singular quick-fix or silver bullet when it comes to boosting its function. Instead, your immune system is bolstered by a whole-body approach to your health. While supplementing with vitamins or herbal supplements can help make you healthier, be wary of any claims
  2. Balance exercise and rest. Exercise is a great way to boost your immune system, but be careful of overdoing it — strenuous exercise can create an immediate dip in immune function, leaving you more susceptible to getting sick, so swap out a few of your more intense sets for some low-impact workouts. And whether you’re hitting the gym or hitting the hay, be sure to breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Breathing through your nose triggers the production of nitric oxide, which acts as a powerful antimicrobial and helps eliminate airborne pathogens before they can enter your body.
  3. Eat a varied, nutrient-rich diet. Our bodies are incredibly resilient, but studies suggest that micronutrient deficiencies may impair immune function. If you’re unsure where to start, an easy rule-of-thumb is to make each meal colorful: different micronutrients are often responsible for coloring different fruits and vegetables (for instance, dark leafy greens, purple cabbage, carrots). A whole-food multivitamin is a safe way for most healthy adults to help fill in the gaps.
  4. Stick to science-based health-boosting supplements. The supplement industry is largely unregulated, which can make it difficult to tell the difference between marketing claims and scientifically-proven health benefits. Two herbal supplements that have been studied and proven to boost your immune system are olive leaf extract and echinacea. Olive leaf extract in particular has been shown to protect against upper respiratory infections, like COVID and the common cold, as well as ease their severity if you do get sick. Echinacea has been shown to increase the body’s number of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections.