Time to think beyond basics: 3 next-level ways to keep your immune system healthy
“Your body’s immune system is under attack now more than at any time in evolutionary history.”—Dr. Howard Murad, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare
With a crazy amount of attention being paid to your immune system these days, most people now know these more obvious measures for keeping their immunity in check:
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Sleep adequately
- Don’t smoke
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Take additional steps to avoid infection, like washing your hands
But there must be more, right? We turned to Dr. Murad for some advice on new, supplemental ways to think about protecting your immune system—which also have the added benefit of looking out for your skin.
Taking care of your mental well-being may in fact be the key way to help with immunity, since it can be a gateway to so much else, Dr. Murad says: “We all have days when we’re up, and days when we’re not-so-up. On those down days, we don’t feel like exercising. We sit on the couch and binge-watch. And while we’re doing that, we’re eating chips. We don’t feel like connecting with friends, so we’re socially isolated. All of this is going to hurt your immune system—and your skin health. So if you can try focusing on one thing, your mental well-being, you’ll likely feel less overwhelmed with everything you think you should be doing, and chances are it’ll lead to more goodness.”
Since your skin barrier is part of your immune system, it’s important to not overlook taking care of it, especially if it gets excessively dry and splits, allowing another way for unwanted organisms to get in. “One of the best protections is to lock in moisture,” Dr. Murad says, “which plumps the skin and makes it more flexible. Moisturize right after bathing or washing. Try a skin cream with ceramides, a type of fat, which are a main component of the skin’s stratum corneum, one of the five layers of the skin. You might also consider a humidifier. Not only do viruses live longer in dry air, but as the humidity drops, you’ll prevent dry air from sucking moisture out of your skin.”
Yes, we get it by now—be sure to incorporate lots of raw fruits and vegetables in your diet to protect immunity. But Dr. Murad says, why stop there? Why not pick double-duty foods, or go for foods that are actually healthier when cooked properly: “For example, watermelon hydrates, but it’s also been shown to improve the SPF offered from sunscreen because it’s one of the few foods that has a significant amount of lycopene. Pink grapefruits and tomatoes do, too. Additionally, some foods are better for you when cooked. Tomatoes, spinach, carrots and asparagus all have higher nutrient amounts when not eaten raw.”
For a crash course from Dr. Murad on the hot topic of how immunity impacts skin, click here.