We see online claims that we can “boost” our immune system with just about everything from Vitamin C or Vitamin D to essential oils and silver nanoparticles. But how do we know which of these recommendations, if any, really work? Here are some recommendations that are really helpful for boosting the immune system:
- Get enough sleep
Inadequate or poor-quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness. Getting adequate rest may strengthen your natural immunity. Also, you may sleep more when sick to allow your immune system to better fight the illness. Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.
- Eat plenty of fruits, veggies and seeds
Getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, and seeds is a common recommendation seen on many sites, but the evidence is inconclusive if it truly helps. In one often-quoted study, elderly volunteers were randomized to less than two or greater than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. They found the group with the higher fruit consumption had a better immune response to the pneumonia vaccine but not to the tetanus vaccine.
- Eat more healthy fats
Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and salmon, may boost your body’s immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation. Olive oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory, is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties may help your body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses
- Stay hydrated
Water is recommended because it’s free of calories, additives, and sugar. While tea and juice are also hydrating, it’s best to limit your intake of fruit juice and sweetened tea because of their high sugar contents.
- Eat Citrus fruits
Most people turn to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. That’s because it helps build up your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells. These are key to fighting infections.
Popular citrus fruits include:
- Exercise daily
In addition to dietary measures that support your immune system, exercise may also play a role. It has been found to enhance the body’s immune response and improve its defense activity. Regular, habitual exercise resets the immune system, something known as “immunoregulation”.
- Avoid smoking
Smokers have an increased risk of catching infections and suffering severe complications from those infections. We shouldn’t need more reasons not to smoke, but a time like this highlights the importance even more.
- Manage Your Stress
Everyone gets stressed. Short bursts of stress may help your immune system. But lasting stress is a problem. It can hamper your immune system.