With COVID-19, the flu, and other illness swirling around us, it’s important to keep a healthy lifestyle. Every day we’re faced with choices that can affect our immune system, including what to eat and when to go to bed. Here are five things than can weaken your body’s defenses and ways to boost them back up:

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1. Alcohol

Drinking a lot of alcohol is known to suppress our immune system. It weakens our bodies and makes it harder to combat stress, viruses, and diseases. Dietitians recommend sticking to one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

See ways to cut back on drinking alcohol

2. Smoking

Smoking is terrible for your immune system and is damaging to your lungs. It’s so toxic to our bodies that dietitians often recommend that smokers increase their intake of vitamin C. This is because people who smoke require additional antioxidants to combat the negative consequences of smoking.

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3. Processed food

Highly processed foods include chips, cookies, refined grains, and deli meats. When you eat these foods every day, you do not have as much room for foods that are more nutritious, such as fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich grains. Eating less of these essential nutrients can decrease the chances that your immune system will defend against illness or recover quickly from it.

Learn 4 healthy eating tips to keep your immune system in top shape

Find healthy eating tips and recipes in our Good Food As Good Medicine blog

4. Stress

Stress causes inflammation, which has a negative impact on your immune system. Try to do what you can to minimize stress. That could mean taking a few deep breaths when things start to feel heated or get outside and go for a walk. Getting more exercise in general is good for our blood sugar levels, our stress, and our overall health.

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5. Not enough sleep

While sleep often tends to be a low priority in our busy lives, it has a huge impact on our health and ability to fight viruses and disease. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. When we’re sleeping, our biological forces reset. That’s when our body goes through a lot of repair and regeneration.

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Find out how much sleep you really need from the Sleep Foundation

Remember, it’s never too late to change your lifestyle choices. If you have poor eating habits or don’t get much sleep, you can start eating better or set a steady bedtime each night – no matter your age. Minor changes one day at a time can make a big difference in your health.

Check out 5 immune booster foods to help keep you healthy