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How To Boost Your Immune System: 12 Science-Backed Steps


The pandemic has made many of us think more about our immune system and how to support it. While we can’t control everything that happens, there are some things we can do to help

Covid has prompted many of us to take more responsibility for our health. Online searches for ‘how to boost your immune system’ have rocketed during the pandemic. So, what can we do to stay healthy as we head into autumn?

Well, all the experts that Positive News spoke to stressed one thing: the importance of getting jabbed. “The obvious thing we can do to improve immune response is to get vaccinated,” says Charles Bangham, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Imperial College London.

Aside from that, there are simple lifestyle changes that we can make to support our immune system. “They make a massive difference, no doubt about it,” says Lafina Diamandis, a GP and lifestyle doctor at Deia Health.

Eat A Balanced Diet
Simple as it is, eating a healthy and balanced diet is one of the best things you can do. Foods rich in fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, along with fermented foods, like kombucha and kimchi, are great for your gut and your immune system, says Sophie Trotman, a registered nutritional therapist.

Eat Foods Rich In Vitamin C And Zinc
Some vitamins are especially helpful. Vitamin C is one of them. “Many people just think of oranges, but actually you can find vitamin C in peppers, parsley, spinach, kale, broccoli, and citrus fruits,” says Trotman. Zinc is also important, she adds, and can be found in beans, shellfish and oysters. As are spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, and oregano.

Take Care Of Your Gut
It’s thought that 70 per cent of the immune system is located in the gut. “So [watch out for] anything that impacts gut health,” says Harriet Holme, a registered nutritionist and former NHS doctor. “Things like sweeteners and refined sugars are not good for it,” she says. And watch out for probiotics. “We don’t know enough about [them],” Holme says, adding that in some cases they could even delay recovery.

Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is another major player in fighting off infection. “It’s probably the biggest thing that’s overlooked when it comes to immunity,” says Diamandis. “Sleep is absolutely essential for DNA repair and for allowing the immune system to relax,” she says. Most adults need between six and nine hours a night. Apps like Calm and Headspace can help.

Take A Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D plays a role in our immune response. And while most experts recommend a healthy diet over a large number of supplements, they make an exception for vitamin D, especially in sunshine-deprived countries. The UK’s National Health Service recommends vitamin D supplements; adults need 10 micrograms a day, it says.

Make Sure To Exercise
Dragging yourself out for a run can be hard, but it’s worth it, experts say. “Exercising regularly boosts your blood supply and improves circulation,” says Dr Manpreet Bains, a GP and head of clinical operations at Thriva Health. The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, a week, as well as some strengthening activities, such as lifting weights, heavy gardening, or push-ups. “The main message here is about getting into a habit and doing it regularly,” says Bains.

Meditation And Journaling
Stress is bad for our immune response, so activities that help us relax, like reading and meditation are helpful. “Things that reduce stress [are important],” says Holme. “In a stressful scenario you’re producing Adrenaline and Cortisol, which dampens down your immune system.” So schedule some self-care into your daily routine, she says.

Go For A Nature Walk
Evidence suggests that being in nature could help boost our immune system. “It might be going for a walk in the forest or on the beach,” says Rose Abbott, a practising GP and co-founder of Sophia Health, an advice platform for women. In particular, walk among some trees, Diamandis says. “Studies show that people who regularly go for walks in a forest or in green spaces have lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline,” she says.

Drink Lots Of Clean Water
Staying hydrated makes a difference, says Trotman. “Water is super important,” she says. “Our immune system is reliant on nutrients in our blood stream and our blood stream is mostly made of water,” she says. “It’s also important for detoxification pathways.” Health experts commonly recommend that we drink about two litres a day. “Herbal tea counts,” Trotman says, “but English breakfast and coffee don’t, because of the caffeine.”

Cut Down On Alcohol
It’s tempting to reach for a glass of wine after a day at work, but alcohol is not good for your gut, or your immune system. “The main culprit is binge drinking,” Bains says. Also try to avoid drinking right before you go to bed. “If you do drink, try and have it as early as possible in the evening,” says Abbott. “Because it affects your sleep cycle.”

Quit Cigarettes
Doctors link smoking with a decreased immune response. “Smoking can unsettle the balance of your body’s immune system, making it harder to fight infections,” Dr Naveen Puri, associate clinical director at Bupa Health Clinics, says.

Meet With A Friend
Believe it or not, a chat with a friend could help boost your immune system. “Connection with other people is super important,” says Diamandis. “When you’re isolated, you might not eat as well and you might exercise less, making you susceptible to illness.” Diamandis says it’s good to look after our “social nutrition” by spending one evening a week with a friend, or just sitting around other people in a coffee shop.

By Abby Young-Powell

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Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases Researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn is noted for saying "A healthful lifestyle clearly boosts the immune system, Dr. Tosh said, while the opposite is also true: Practicing unhealthy habits like not getting enough sleep, a poor diet and lack of exercise can weaken the immune system."

"It's that baseline of Good Health that helps Keep the Immune System strong. If someone is Eating Well, Exercising, getting a Good amount of Sleep and avoiding unnecessary stresses, they are less likely to get ill, and if they do get ill, have Better Outcomes" he said.

What You Can Do to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

According to Michael N. Starnbach, PhD, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston
Dr Yufang Lin, MD, an Integrative Internal Medicine doctor at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio

“Our immune systems are very finely tuned,” Starnbach, PhD, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston explains. The different Immune Cells are geared to recognize things in our bodies that are potentially harmful and to clear out those things.

Practice health-promoting behaviors that keep your own immune system functioning at its best (and that help prevent underlying chronic health problems that ultimately do make you more susceptible to infections), according to Dr. Lin and Starnbach. More specifically:

Get Enough Sleep.
Healthy sleep supports the immune system in a lot of really critical ways, Lin says. Research has found that very important parts of the immune response occur during the different stages and are regulated by our bodies’ Circadian Rhythms.

Eat Healthy Foods.
This includes lots of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. The vitamins and minerals in our food are the lifelines all the systems in our body rely on to function well (including the immune system); the better you feed the body with the nutrients you need, the better it runs and can avoid chronic and acute disease.right up arrow Also avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, which can interfere with immune function.

Avoid Environmental Hazards.
Prolonged exposure to toxic air pollution can have negative health effects, which can include damage to the Immune System, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Other toxins, which can include pesticides, heavy metals, and endocrine disruptors, impact immune system development, according to a research review published in the Journal of Immunology.

Stay Active.
Researchers haven’t yet pinpointed the mechanism through which staying active keeps the immune system functioning best, but they do know exercise helps keep other systems in the body functioning properly, so they suspect there’s a link, notes MedlinePlus.

A study published in Aging Cell found that older adults who exercise regularly can keep their immune systems functioning similarly to people decades younger who don't exercise regularly. Note: There's also evidence you can overdo it and that extreme training may harm immune function. For optimal immune function, stay with moderate activity levels.

Manage Your Stress.

Stress can suppress the immune system, keeping it from working at 100 percent. “Try to take time to relax and do something fun,” Lin says. “Make sure you take care of yourself.”

So Drs Lin and Starnbach are very much in favor of these things, we can do for ourselves. Hey?

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