Your immune system protects your body from “invaders” such as germs, bacteria, viruses, and toxins. This complex system is made up of different organs, tissues, cells, and proteins that work together to fight infections and other diseases—and it helps you recover when you get sick.
Part of your immune system is active from birth, and part of it develops antibodies over time, which can recognize one of these “invaders” in the future, then quickly destroy it.
FIVE WAYS TO HELP YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM WORK BEST
- Choose a healthy diet. Your body absorbs vitamins most efficiently from what you eat and drink, so eat a well-balanced diet, instead of relying on vitamins and supplements.
- Exercise regularly. As little as 30 minutes of exercise every day improves circulation, making it easier for immune cells and other infection-fighting molecules to travel throughout your body.
- Stay hydrated. Your lymph system, which carries infection-fighting immune cells around your body, is largely made up of water. Being dehydrated can slow it down and make it less effective.
- Get enough sleep. Infection fighting molecules are created while you sleep. If you don’t get 7+ hours of shut eye every night, your immune system will not function at its best.
- Minimize stress. Stress releases steroid hormones (such as cortisol), which negatively affect the immune system. Conversely, laughter and joy release stimulants (such as dopamine), that reduce stress and stimulate the immune system.
VACCINES STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNITY
Your immune system is smart, but vaccines train it to be even smarter by helping it develop antibodies to fight off serious diseases before you are exposed to them.
Here are some of the vaccines recommended for adults, and when to get them:
- Influenza (seasonal flu)—all ages
- Covid-19—5 years and older
Your risk for some diseases increases as you age, and vaccines can protect against them:
- Shingles—50 years and older
- Pneumonia—65 years or older
- HPV (human papillomaviruses)—up to age 26
If you were vaccinated as a child, a booster improves diminishing immunity:
- TDP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis/whooping cough)
Based on your age, health conditions, job, lifestyle or travel habits, you may benefit from other vaccines, such as:
- Hepatitis B
- MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella)
- Typhoid fever
See recommended vaccination schedules at cdc.gov/vaccines. Ask your doctor which vaccines are right for you.