Signs of a Strong Immune System (+ Tips to Help it Thrive)

| WRITTEN BY: Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN
woman with strong immune system outside

Learn the signs of a strong immune system, and how you can keep it in tip-top shape.

When was the last time you felt truly healthy? For me, it comes in waves. It can be easy to slip into a pattern of ignoring the minor things that trouble you throughout the day. Like the occasional stuffy nose, to morning (and afternoon, and evening) grogginess. Wake up exhausted and just power through… sound familiar? 

However, frequently looking past these minor troubles can eventually snowball into something more serious, like chronic health issues. So, sit down, take a deep breath, and learn how to understand and improve your immune system.

You’re likely wondering how you can boost your immune system, and fast. These signs of a strong immune system can help you stay on the lookout for when you’re on the up and up.

What is the Immune System?

The immune system is incredibly complex! It affects every other part of your body, and many people don’t understand just how important it is to keep your immune system strong. Constant stress, lack of sleep, or burnout can take a toll on your immune system, leaving you vulnerable. 

It’s important to understand your immune system before you can begin to make it strong! There are two categories within your general immune system, your innate immune system, and your adaptive immune system.

Innate vs. Adaptive Immune System

  • Your innate immune system is what you’re born with. It forms the first line of defense against pathogens and other germs that invade your body.
  • Your adaptive immune system, on the other hand, builds up over time as your body encounters new pathogens. If your body has seen that specific invader before, it can launch a tailored attack against it to keep you safe.

At What Age is Your Immune System the Strongest?

Although your immune system is often strongest at puberty and declines with age, it can improve and weaken over time. Just like anything else, it needs to be maintained. Constantly pulling all-nighters, eating an unbalanced diet, and ignoring the little signs of sickness can all weaken your immune system.

Top 4 Signs of A Strong Immune System

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There are many signs that your immune system is thriving, and these are four telltale signs you’re on the right track.

1. You feel alert.

It’s okay to feel tired every now and then. But it shouldn’t happen constantly. One of the signs that your immune system is strong is a sense of alertness and awareness throughout the day.

For example, there’s a strong connection between the gut and the brain known as the gut-brain axis. A healthy gut microbiome, which is influenced by the immune system, contributes to overall well-being, including mental alertness.

2. You sleep well.

Not only should you be sleeping through the night, but you should also wake up feeling well-rested, rather than feeling like you could sleep for another few hours. This is an indicator that you are receiving good quality sleep. 

If you have a wearable device that tracks your sleep, even if the metrics aren’t fully accurate, it’s valuable to be aware of patterns as they are likely tied to immune health.

3. You don’t get sick all the time.

Once you get over one illness, another doesn’t follow in its place, followed by another, and another…When the immune system is functioning optimally, it can effectively fight off infections and illnesses. People with strong immune systems tend to experience fewer infections and recover more quickly.

4. You regulate your emotions well.

When you don’t feel well, even subconsciously, it can affect how you treat yourself and others. Emotional regulation plays a significant role in immune health. And being healthy means having more than just good physical health.

Chronic stress and negative emotions can weaken the immune system, impairing its ability to fight off infections. On the other hand, positive emotions and effective stress management can enhance immune responses, promoting overall well-being and resilience against illnesses. 

5 Signs of a Weak Immune System

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Part of knowing the strength of your immune system is also knowing its weakness. Here are five key things to keep an eye out for.

1. Elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

This might be a sign that something is off with your immune system. If you notice your pulse rising unnecessarily or feel lightheaded or dizzy, take notice—don’t just brush it off.

There is a complex interplay between the immune system, blood pressure, and heart rate. Acute stressors or infections can cause temporary increases in heart rate and blood pressure as part of the body’s natural response. Additionally, chronic issues with the immune system can lead to persistent problems in these areas.

2. Digestive problems.

Finding yourself constantly bloated or ill after a meal, regardless of what you eat, isn’t normal. The digestive system and the immune system are closely intertwined in the human body. In fact, a significant portion of the body’s immune cells are located in the gastrointestinal tract.

This connection is crucial for overall health and well-being. Decreased immune function can affect your microbiota, which in turn mess with your digestive capabilities.

3. Worse health-related habits.

Skipping sleep, eating junk food, drinking, or smoking can all be related to and interfere with your immune system’s strength. Certain lifestyle choices can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

For example, eating patterns high in processed foods, sugary snacks, and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains lack essential nutrients that support immune function. A lack of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, can impair the immune response, making it harder for the body to fight off infections.

5. Constant sickness.

Constant sickness can be a sign of a weakened immune system. The immune system is your body’s defense against infections and diseases. When the immune system is compromised, the body becomes more susceptible to various illnesses, leading to frequent or constant bouts of sickness.

If you frequently wake up with a sore throat, or a runny nose, or a headache, this could be a sign that your immune system has weakened and can’t fight off pathogens as efficiently as it once did.

6. Inflammation.

This is yet another sign that your immune system might not be as strong as it should be. Chronic inflammation disrupts immune balance, weakening the body’s ability to fight infections and leading to an increased susceptibility to illnesses. Managing inflammation through lifestyle changes is crucial to maintaining a strong and effective immune system.

Tips to Boost Your Immune System

tips to boost your immune system graphicWhether you feel your immune system is at peak strength, or that it needs a helping hand, here are some tools to help you strengthen your immune system. Focus on these 6 key areas for a happy and strong immune system any time of year.

1. Keep active.

Exercise is beneficial for not only your entire body, but also your immune system! It also helps with inflammation and stress and can help you sleep better at night.

2. Prioritize sleep.

It’s easy to discount sleep’s role in keeping you healthy, but the difference between getting a full night’s rest and continually waking up or cutting your sleep short can have a tremendously negative impact on your immune system. If you can’t meet the seven-to-nine-hour recommendation, try moving back your bedtime a bit.

3. Manage your stress.

Chronic stress and burnout take a serious toll on the immune system. Make sure to take some time each day to find the calm—meditate, be in nature, call a friend, stretch, read—whatever works for you!

4. Stay hydrated.

Drinking water is so important for your bodily health. If you struggle with getting enough water in, try adding some watery fruits and vegetables into your diet, such as cucumbers, watermelon, or celery.

5. Breathe.

Although it can feel good to get angry sometimes, constantly getting annoyed over the small things can have a serious impact on your immune system. If you find yourself getting angry over something inconsequential, take a second and breathe through the emotions instead.

6. Pile on the produce.

Fruit and veggies are great for your immune system, especially these six foods. Shifting to a plant-powered diet can have amazing benefits for your health.

Now that you’ve learned about what a strong immune system looks like—and how to strengthen your own immune system—make sure you’re staying mindful. It can be easy to slip back into that routine of ignoring your health. Just remember what you’ve learned and stay focused on the path forward to your best self. 

Looking for more tips? Here are 8 other ways to help maintain a healthy immune system.

This post has been updated since its original publish date in November 2022.

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