How to Boost Your Immune System
There is good news and bad news when it comes to boosting your immune system.
The Bad News: There is no secret ingredient or superfood that is going to give you immune-boosting superpowers.
The Good News: Supporting your immune system is rather simple – eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, get adequate sleep and reduce stress.
- A Well-Balanced Diet: While animal and human studies suggest potential benefits of micronutrient supplementation, such as zinc, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, the science is still inconclusive and there is no clear consensus regarding the clinical relevance of immune-boosting supplementation. However, scientists do agree that a well-balanced diet, opposed to the Standard American Diet, can help reduce inflammation and enhance your immune system’s ability to fight infection. Bottom Line: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains, while reducing processed foods and alcohol consumption.
- Exercise: Frequent exercise has been shown to strengthen immune function, both by enhancing short-term immune responses to viruses and bacteria, but also by delaying the aging of the immune system. Bottom Line: Follow the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (refer to our blog post to learn more).
- Get Adequate Sleep: Immunological processes are closely linked to sleep and the circadian system. Research demonstrates that what happens during sleep supports the formation of long-lasting immunological memories. Moreover, continued sleep deprivation results in harmful low-grade inflammation and immunodeficiency, both of which you want to avoid. Bottom Line: Prioritize 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Reduce Chronic Stress: While short-term stress (lasting minutes to hours) can be beneficial, chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses or intensify harmful immune responses. A key player in this process is the steroid hormone, cortisol, which has been shown to inhibit critical functions of our immune system. Bottom Line: Find ways to reduce stress, such as meditation, breath work or exercise, and make them part of your daily routine.
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