​​Signs of a Strong Immune System: 7 Healthy Habits to Prepare for Fall

Aug 30, 2021 12:22:57 PM

Written By:
DaVinci Healthcare Expert

fall immune health

As we approach fall this year, concerns about immune support are weighing heavier than usual on most of us.

With in-person work and school becoming part of people’s daily routines again , it’s essential to know the signs of a strong immune system. It’s also important to know how to support a robust immune system by implementing a few simple strategies.

To get a sense of how well your immune system might hold up as we transition to colder weather, consider the following habits and practices. Do you:

  1. Eat a healthy diet that includes foods with specific immune-boosting nutrients?
  2. Avoid immune-suppressing foods?
  3. Get regular exercise?
  4. Have good gut health?
  5. Get adequate sleep?
  6. Eliminate toxins whenever possible?
  7. Implement stress management strategies?

By fostering these seven habits, you can support a strong immune response, optimal health, and vitality in the cold weather months.

We asked three reputable physicians for the fundmental steps to a stronger  immune system. Get their answers in our guide. 

signs of compromised immunity: frequent illness and slow recovery

It’s inevitable that you’ll encounter pathogens that can make you sick, —but the way your body reacts to illness can be a good indicator of how strong your immune system is.

When you do feel under the weather, what does your recovery process look like?

If you are seldom sick and bounce back quickly from illness, you likely have a robust immune system. Wounds that are quick to scab up and heal fast are also indications that your immune system is functioning well.

In contrast, if you seem to fall ill frequently throughout the year and require several visits to the doctor, the following seven strategies to boost immune function might be especially useful.

seven key considerations for a healthy immune system

Whether you suspect compromised immune health or simply want to boost immunity from the inside out as you approach seasonal changes, the following habits will help.

eat immune-boosting foods

Eating a variety of foods rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants—like colorful plant foods—can help your body fight excessive damage from free radicals.*

A good rule of thumb is to eat the colors of the rainbow. Berries, kiwi, squash, oranges, mushrooms, and dark leafy greens are all excellent examples. Strive for as much variety as possible to provide your body with a myriad of immune-supporting nutrients.

Healthy fats are also lesser-known immune boosters, such as fatty fish, nuts, and olives. Fat—particularly omega 3 fatty acids—plays a major role in immune regulation and a normal inflammatory response.*[1] 

avoid immune-suppressing foods

While eating immune-boosting foods is critical, the same goes for avoiding foods that suppress the immune system.

Excessive consumption of sugar and simple carbohydrates can throw off the body’s nutrient balance and disrupt normal inflammation pathways.[2]

Limit fruit juices and anything containing white sugar, and opt for natural sugars from fruits along with whole carbohydrate sources from whole grains and starchy vegetables.

get regular exercise

Regular physical activity offers a long list of health benefits, including immune support. Recent studies link regular moderate activity to an increased ability to ward off potentially harmful germs, particularly ones that attack the respiratory system.

Another study shows that engaging in regular, moderate-intensity exercise may reduce inflammation, enhance immune cell regeneration, and improve psychological stress.[3]

According to the CDC, a minimum of 150 minutes per week (22 minutes per day) is required to reap this and several other exercise-related benefits.[4] Moderate-intensity exercise is defined as biking, jogging, or walking for 30 minutes most days of the week.

focus on gut health

Gut health continues to be an ongoing topic of research, and increasing evidence links a healthy gut microbiome to overall improved health. We need a wide variety of good bacteria to support a healthy gut, which directly translates to a well-functioning immune system.[5]

Focus on a diet rich in fiber, including fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha tea, plain yogurt, and miso. If gut issues persist, speak with your integrative doctor about probiotics for immune health and other supplementation, along with possible lab testing to uncover any underlying problems.

strive for plenty of sleep

Not only is poor sleep linked to metabolic and hormonal imbalances, but too little shut-eye also plays a role in decreased immune function. Adopting sleep hygiene practices—like disconnecting devices two hours before bed, keeping consistent schedules, and relaxation techniques before bed—can help. If sleep problems are getting in the way of your daily functioning, discuss supplementation and other personalized strategies with your practitioner.

manage stress

While short-term stress on the body may be considered immunoprotective, long-term stress results in a suppressed immune response and can worsen your pathological immune response.[6]

To better manage stress, consider yoga, meditation, or a relaxing bath when you start to feel tension for an extended period of time.

exposure to toxins

While we can’t avoid all toxic exposure, we can take steps to limit our contact with known toxins.

Strive to buy natural household cleaning and personal hygiene products as often as possible. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database for a comprehensive list of less toxic options, and screen your current products for potentially toxic ingredients.

top six immune-boosting foods for fall

  • Grass-fed and organic meats. Red meat and other lean meat sources are rich in zinc. Grass-fed beef has higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins when compared to grain-fed beef.
  • Citrus fruits. Fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes contain vitamin C. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant our bodies need to help maintain immune system health.
  • Almonds. Rich in vitamin E, almonds are another antioxidant that helps protect healthy cells in the body.*
  • Spinach. Leafy greens like spinach contain vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, magnesium, and iron. All of these nutrients may help your body ward off infection.
  • Yogurt. Yogurt contains probiotics to support a healthy gut. Some yogurts contain added vitamin D for an extra immune boost.*
  • Garlic. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, may help boost the immune system by stimulating immune cells.* It is also used as a potent regimen for immune health.

Related content: back to school immune boosters for kids


Avoiding sickness altogether is nearly impossible, but strengthening your immune system as a first line of defense is crucial to staying healthy—especially in the winter months.

By making positive lifestyle and diet changes, you can support your immune system and help ensure that it is fully prepared to fight off illness as colder weather approaches.

Immune System Support

[1] Gutiérrez, S., Svahn, S. L., & Johansson, M. E. (2019). Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Immune Cells. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(20), 5028. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20205028

[2] Albert Sanchez, J. L. Reeser, H. S. Lau, P. Y. Yahiku, R. E. Willard, P. J. McMillan, S. Y. Cho, A. R. Magie, U. D. Register, Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 26, Issue 11, November 1973, Pages 1180–1184, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/26.11.1180

[3] Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-80. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Sep 5. PMID: 26477922.

[4] da Silveira, M. P., da Silva Fagundes, K. K., Bizuti, M. R., Starck, É., Rossi, R. C., & de Resende E Silva, D. T. (2021). Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system...an integrative review of the current literature. Clinical and experimental medicine, 21(1), 15–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10238-020-00650-3

[5] Quigley E. M. (2013). Gut bacteria in health....Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(9), 560–569.

[6] Dhabhar FS. Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunol Res. 2014 May;58(2-3):193-210. doi: 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0. PMID: 24798553.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.