A strong immune system protects your body. With or without a pandemic, you need a good immune system to stay healthy.
You can find plenty of guides online that claim to strengthen your immune system. Certain nutritional supplements claim to support immunity, for example. Some people claim certain exercises can boost immunity.
We’re not going to tell you to drink detox tea to support immunity. Instead, we want to explain real, science-backed ways to support your immune system.
Keep reading to discover what the AARP, Harvard Health, and other experts say about supporting the immune system.
Stay Active with Moderate Exercise
It’s no secret that moderate exercise can support the immune system. According to the AARP, working out causes your body’s antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly. When these compounds circulate more rapidly, it increases their ability to target infections.
Being active also lowers stress hormones, which reduces your chances of getting sick.
One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who exercised at least five days a week were half as likely to develop a cold than those who were sedentary. Those who exercised regularly also experienced less severe symptoms. Researchers analyzed the lifestyle habits of 1,002 participants across the UK and found that people who exercised regularly were less likely to get sick or experience severe symptoms.
There are other benefits of exercise: some studies show that physically increasing the body’s temperature (which occurs with exercise) can increase your body’s ability to fight germs.
It’s important to exercise in moderation. Too much exercise can weaken the immune system. Experts recommend 30 to 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise most days of the week.
Eat a Balanced Diet
80 to 90% of your immune system is in your gut. Poor gut health is linked with poor immunity. Your gut fights infections, recognizes invaders, and protects your body against illness. People with poor gut health may experience indigestion, immune system issues, and other problems.
Studies show that a balanced diet can support good immune health. Eat your recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables, get lots of healthy fats, and eat whole foods instead of processed foods. Some experts recommend a Mediterranean diet for maximum immune health, although any balanced diet should have a positive impact on your immune system.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, certain foods can positively impact your immune system more than others, including:
Garlic: Garlic is rich with a compound called allicin. According to the Cleveland Clinic, eating one-half of a raw garlic clove per day can boost the immune system.
Prebiotics: Prebiotics feed your good gut bacteria (probiotic bacteria), keeping them healthy and active. If you’re already taking a probiotic, then consider eating more prebiotics. Asparagus, bananas, and artichokes are rich with prebiotics.
Vitamin C: Many people take vitamin C supplements to boost the immune system. Eating vitamin C-rich foods could support immunity. Kiwi, orange juice, broccoli, and cantaloupe are all rich with vitamin C.
Antioxidants: Many fruits and vegetables are rich with antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and neutralize oxidative stress throughout your body, strengthening your immune system.
Get More Vitamin D
Increasing research shows a connection between vitamin D and immunity. Studies have shown that people who get more vitamin D per day tend to have stronger immune systems than those who don’t get enough vitamin D.
Your body produces vitamin D naturally when exposed to sunlight. However, if you don’t spend much time outside, or if you live in a dark or wintry climate, then you may not be getting enough vitamin D.
Many people take vitamin D supplements. Health experts recommend that people who live in northern climates take vitamin D supplements, for example, to support immunity during winter.
You can find dozens of studies verifying the importance of diet on the immune system. This 2018 study, for example, found that a Mediterranean diet combined with vitamin D3 supplementation induced small but extensive changes within immune cells. Participants took 400 IU of a vitamin D supplement per day and increased the number of immune cells.
Stress can weaken the immune system. A stressed body is less effective at fighting disease – and research confirms that fact.
This study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, for example, exposed 300 healthy adults to the cold virus, then monitored them in quarantine for five days. Participants who were stressed had more inflammation than people who were not stressed.
Stress has a doubling effect on immunity: research shows that people who are stressed engage in other unhealthy habits. You might eat or drink more when stressed, for example, or struggle to get healthy sleep. All of these factors can weaken immunity further.
It’s no secret that reducing stress can improve your health. However, it’s not always easy to reduce stress.
This 2012 study found that adults 50 and older who exercised daily or performed a mindfulness routine were less likely to get a respiratory infection than subjects in a control group. When this group did get sick, they recovered more quickly than the control group.
Schedule Chiropractic Treatment
There’s some evidence that chiropractic treatment increases immune cell activity, helping your body fight disease and illness. Some small studies have shown that chiropractic care increases the activity of white blood cells and cytokines.
This 2013 study found that spinal manipulation therapy impacted the body’s production of interleukin-2, for example, a cytokine that plays a crucial role in the immune system.
However, chiropractic care can indirectly support your immune system in other ways. Chiropractic treatment could reduce stress, for example, which makes it easier for your immune system to function. Multiple studies show a connection between stress and reduced immune efficiency. One of the best ways to support an immune system is to lower your stress.
Get More Sleep
Sleep is crucial for health, and it’s also important for immune efficiency. Sleep helps your immune system rest and recuperate. When you’re sleep deprived, your body produces more stress hormones – like cortisol. When you have enough sleep, your body is in a more relaxed state.
Science has reinforced the idea that good sleep leads to a good immune system.
One study published in 2015 found that people who slept at least seven hours per night were four times less likely to get a cold than those who slept fewer than six hours per night.
A similar study found that people with eight hours of sleep per night had higher levels of T cells than those who slept fewer than eight hours.
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