How can I boost my immune system?
If you are like most people, you have probably been wondering if there is a way to boost your immune function to protect you against infection. Unfortunately, there is also plenty of misinformation that can make it challenging to know what to do. Let’s talk about what you can do to strengthen your immune function.
- Stress level
- Sleep pattern
- Dietary factors
- Maintaining a regular exercise routine, which consists of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, has been shown to improve your immune response and lead to significantly fewer respiratory infections.
- Excessive exercise, such as participating in high-intensity workouts for more than 90 minutes at a time on a regular basis, has been shown to be associated with significantly more respiratory infections than occur in people who perform moderate exercise.
- Vitamin D – There is promising research to suggest that maintaining a normal vitamin D level could help your body fight off respiratory infections. You might talk with your doctor about checking your vitamin D level, and taking vitamin D supplements if it is low. There are no clinical recommendations for taking vitamin D supplements for immune function if you have a normal vitamin D level.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption – There have been many studies that show a link between excessive alcohol consumption and immune function. Research indicates that people who drink alcohol in excess are more susceptible to respiratory infections and that they recover from infections and wounds more slowly. There are several ways that excessive alcohol can decrease immune function. This is true for binge drinking as well as chronic, daily excessive alcohol use.
- Maintain a balanced diet – A healthy, balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, with low levels of simple sugars, can improve the health of the microbiome of your gut. You may be surprised to know that your gut microbiome has a huge effect on your immune function.
- Don’t waste your money on unproven supplements – Despite many claims to the contrary, there is no single food or natural remedy that has been proven to improve immune function. You can read various claims about the immune-boosting properties of a number of foods, spices, and supplements, including ginger, turmeric, oregano oil, bone broth, zinc, and more. According to Dr. Krystina Woods, hospital epidemiologist and medical director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West, “There are people who anecdotally say ‘I felt great after I took whatever.’ That may be true, but there’s no science to support that.” There is no harm in eating foods that are touted as immune boosters as part of your balanced diet, especially if you enjoy them, but don’t rely on supplements that are unproven instead of a balanced, healthy diet.
If you have any more questions just Ask Hanna, our health advisors are here to help. And don’t forget to keep up the handwashing, trying not to touch your face, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor
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