Your Body’s Defense System

Simple ways to support your immune system

A Veteran and his family shop for foods rich in vitamins and nutrients.Your immune system is your natural defense against infectious disease. Your body’s response to viruses and bacteria is more important than ever during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Immune systems know how to do their job but can still use support. Vaccines strengthen your immune system against viruses. Daily choices, from eating to sleeping, can also affect your immune response. Take small but impactful steps to keep your body’s defenses strong.

Less stress, more rest

Not getting enough sleep or being stressed can increase your risk of getting sick. Your body needs downtime to build up your immune system. Take time to de-stress with VA’s Mindfulness Coach app or other tools to manage stress.

Getting enough sleep is important for a strong immune system. Our bodies release hormones that support our immune system when we sleep. Make sure you’re getting enough rest by practicing good sleep hygiene. Avoid eating or being on your phone before bed to help your body prepare for a night of rest.

Power your body with food and exercise

Eating foods rich in vitamins and nutrients helps power your immune system. Consider adding foods with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc to your diet. Foods with nutrients that help your immune system include:

  • Dark green, leafy vegetables

  • Citrus fruits, like grapefruit or oranges

  • Salmon or tuna

Powering your body with healthy food gives you more energy to exercise. Staying fit has many health benefits, including strengthening your immune system. You don’t have to start by running a marathon. Pace yourself. Add movement into your day by going for walks or trying the MOVE! Coach app.

Talk to your doctor

Check your records to make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Getting your vaccines on schedule is one of the best ways to prevent illness. Send your doctor a Secure Message for more guidance. Certain health conditions can impact your immune system, so it is important to get advice from your health care team.


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Read More

Reduce Your Health Risks with Vaccines (Veterans Health Library)

Learning Healthy Eating Guidelines (Veterans Health Library)

Tips to Sleep Better

Three Exercises to Get Moving


Created August 3, 2022