Your immune system doesn’t run all by itself. It requires a concerted effort on your part to support it in whatever ways you can so that you can fight off the many pathogens you are exposed to each and every day.

Here are ten things you can do to enhance the function of your immune system so that it has the capabilities you need to fight off disease:

1 – Eat a healthy diet. This point cannot be underestimated. Diets that are high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains support the development of immune cells you need to fight off infection. Diets high in saturated fat do just the opposite. They trigger inflammation that puts you at risk for many different types of chronic diseases for which the immune system cannot help.

2 – Quit smoking. Smoking wreaks havoc on your immune system by flooding the body with scores of toxins that keep your immune system busy—too busy to fight off infections. Smoking affects the cilia in your bronchial tree that are important in sweeping out pathogens that can cause various types of lung infections.

3 – Maintain a healthy weight. People who are obese have a harder time fighting infection due to a weakened immune system. Maintaining a healthy weight means getting enough exercise and controlling calorie intake.

4 – Get regular exercise. Exercise helps you keep a healthy weight or achieve one if you are already overweight. Aerobic exercise is the best as it burns calories and is good for heart health. Start slowly if you haven’t exercised before but build up to about thirty minutes of moderate to strenuous exercise at least four times weekly.

5 – Lay off the alcohol. Alcohol can adversely affect your immune system. This is borne out by alcoholics who are at an increased risk of many different types of infections. Your immune system doesn’t run on alcohol and is only impeded by it. A couple of alcoholic beverages per day is considered acceptable but drink too much and your immune system suffers.

6 – Maintain a normal blood pressure. Blood pressure contributes to many chronic diseases, not the least of which is heart disease. In order to make sure you have a normal blood pressure, you need to have it checked on a regular basis. If you find you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about getting on blood pressure medication to bring the numbers into the normal range.

7 – Keep clean hands. You should be vigilant about washing your hands, especially when cooking or eating food, have an infection already, or after going to the bathroom. You can also use antiseptic wipes to keep surfaces free of germs that can be passed on by contact with contaminated surfaces.

8 – Cook your food well. Well-cooked food kills pathogens found in meat and even vegetables. Cooking your food completely will give your immune system a rest from having to fight off food borne bacteria that can be killed by the proper application of heat.

9 – Get adequate sleep. Sleep is strongly linked to your immune system. People who don’t get enough sleep have decreased levels of vital T cells in the body and are known to be more prone to catching colds and getting influenza. Sleep also affects your body’s ability to make antibodies against the antigens given to you when you are immunized.

10 – Get regular checkups. Find a doctor you trust who can help you when you get sick and can screen you for the various diseases that can affect your immune system. Your doctor can also make certain that you are properly immunized against pneumonia and influenza.