8 easy ways to improve your immunity

Immunity refers to the ability of the body to protect itself from pathogens. Immunity is usually divided into innate, i.e., native immunity and adaptive, i.e., acquired immunity. You can improve and maintain good immunity with these 8 easy ways:

1. Eat healthy and versatile

Make sure you have a healthy, varied and fiber-rich diet. Choose a lot of vegetables, berries, fruits and root vegetables, as well as fish and whole grain products on your plate. They contain nutrients important for immunity, such as:

  • Vitamin D
  • Iron
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folate
  • Copper

Vitamin D you get from fish, zinc from whole grain products and vitamin C from berries and fruits, for example. You can support your diet with food supplements.


2. Take care of your Vitamin D intake

Vitamin D plays an important role in the development of immunity. Especially people living in the Nordic countries do not get enough Vitamin D, and its deficiency is common. You can get Vitamin D from sunlight, fish and vitaminized dairy products, for example. However, sufficient Vitamin D levels are difficult to maintain only through sunlight and diet.

Vitamin D is recommended to be taken as a food supplement, especially during the dark season. The recommended intake of Vitamin D is at least 10 micrograms (μg) per day for both adults and children. 

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3. Support normal immunity with Vitamin C and Zinc

Vitamin C and Zinc contribute to normal function of the immune system. Vitamin C can be obtained from berries and fruits, for example. Good sources of Zinc include whole grain and dairy products, and meat.

An adult should get at least 75 to 100 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin C per day. For children, the recommendation for intake of Vitamin C is 40 to 50 milligrams per day.

Vitamin C may be helpful in preventing flu, especially among athletes. If the flu strikes, you can temporarily take higher doses of Vitamin C and Zinc to potentially reduce the duration of the flu and to relieve symptoms.

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4. Spend time outdoors and exercise regularly - but don't overdo

Keeping in shape helps improve immunity. Exercise is a good way to blow off steam and to increase your stress tolerance. Exercise also increases the production of happy hormones, while reducing the production of stress hormones.

It's good to exercise and spend time outdoors regularly. Remember to be active daily by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, for example. Do a cardio exercise 2-3 times per week. Take also time for recovery to maintain balance.

Remember not to overdo it though, because too hard exercises increase infections. Overtrained body goes into a stressful state, which weakens the immunity. Hard exercise during the outbreak of an infection slows down the healing process and can make the flu worse than usual.

If you are sick, you should take a break from sports and rest. When having a flu, it's important to remember that “all good things come to those who wait”, and get back to normal activities only after having a few feverless days.


5. Sleep enough

Sleep does not have a straightforward effect on immunity. Lack of sleep, however, alters the function of the hormone and immune systems like a stress reaction, which in turn makes you vulnerable to infections. When you sleep, your body recovers from the stresses and damages of the day.

The majority of adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep. The quality of sleep matters, because non-continuous sleep is not refreshing. A healthy diet, an appropriate amount of exercise, avoiding alcohol, as well as calming down before bedtime are good ways of improving sleep quality. It is also good to keep the bedroom temperature cool.


6. Avoid stress

This is often easier said than done, but avoiding excessive stress is important for immunity. Physical and mental stress weakens immunity by altering the function of the body's immune system, and this way makes it easier for pathogens to access the body.

Then why is that a dutiful employee does not get the flu in the middle of an important work project, but gets sick afterwards, during the weekend or vacation? Can stress protect from being sick? Some studies found that short-term and low stress may even have improved immunity due to the secretion of adrenaline and other hormones in the body, but there is no certainty.


7. Invest in relationships

Taking care of one's own health also includes nurturing social relationships. Social relationships contribute to the health of the brain and mind, which in turn affects the holistic well-being of a person and, consequentially, immunity. That is why it is worth investing in the well-being of the mind and relationships.

A relaxing walk with a good friend while getting vitamin D from the sunlight and picking berries from the forest – now that's an effective and simple way of improving your own and your friend's immunity!


8. Take care of good hygiene

Be sure to take care of good hand hygiene! Wash your hands thoroughly with soap whenever you come home, when you use the toilet and before eating. Disinfection of the phone and other frequently used items can be useful. It is also important to wash hands and maintain good hygiene while travelling.

Sneeze into arm or a handkerchief instead of your own hands. Throw the used handkerchief directly into the bin. An effective way to protect yourself from infection is to avoid crowdy places and close contact with sick people.


When the flu eventually strikes, rest and do not blame yourself

No matter how much you exercise and how healthy you eat, most probably you will not avoid infections forever. Some flu will eventually strike. A healthy adult can have approximately 2 to 4 flus per year, a child approximately 6 to 10 every year.

When a flu strikes, remember to rest, to eat healthy and forget about self-blame. Everyone gets sick sometimes. Flu also has its upsides; you can watch your favorite series, read a good book or sleep the whole day, if you feel like it!