The immune system is critical to fending off infections and staying healthy. During this COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety are key. The question becomes: How to supercharge your immune system? Can you? Which foods increase Immunity? How does inflammation affect our immune system? Can exercise boost your immune system? Let’s dig in.
How Can I Boost My Immune System Quickly?
The immune system is a complex defense system with multiple moving parts that protects us from diseases. the urgent question on everyone’s mind at the moment, is how to supercharge your immune system? The quickest way to boost your immune system is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Common examples include the following.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Increases in body weight increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and depression of the immune system.
Good Personal Hygiene
Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face and practice appropriate social distancing.
Smoking alters the functions of numerous immune cells including T cells, B cells, lymphocytes and macrophages which can lead to an inflammatory response and immune cells dysfunction (1)
Healthy Diets with Fresh Vegetables
You are what you eat. Processed foods are layered with trans fats, salt, preservatives, steroids, antibiotics, and possible viral contamination.
Getting adequate sleep is critical as studies have demonstrated that sleep can improve the function of T cells and T helper cells like interleukin-12, both of which are critical in warding off bacterial and viral infections (2). Those who sleep 6 hours or less have been shown to be more susceptible to viral infections (3).
Which Foods Increase Immunity?
Food provides us with much more than calories. Foods can be a powerhouse of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. Certain foods can boost your immune system enhancing your ability to stay healthy and fight off viral infections. Powerful immune system boosters include:
- Broccoli: a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals including Vit A, C, E. The key is to cook as little as possible or not at all.
- Almonds: Rich in vitamin E which is key to a healthy immune system.
- Citrus fruits: Rich in vitamin C which can boost your immune system as it is thought to increase your white blood cells. White blood cells are critical in fighting infection. It also attacks free radicals which are known to damage the immune system (4)
- Red bell peppers: Ounce for ounce red bell peppers contain twice as much Vitamin C as citrus.
- Garlic: Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
- Ginger: A relative of capsaicin, ginger may help decrease chronic pain and possess cholesterol-lowering properties in animal studies (5)
- Spinach: A key to Popeye’s and others’ strength and vitality.
- Carotenoids: Examples include carrots, kale, and sweet potatoes which are rich in Vitamin A that is important in the immune function regulation. (6)
Chronic Inflammation and Our Immune System
Acute inflammation is a normal response of your body’s immune response to injuries and infections. A number of different immune cells are activated and respond rapidly to injury or infection. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can cause significant health problems including arthritis, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. It also impacts your immune system. Chronic inflammation can be caused by:
Lack of Exercise
Consumption of processed and high glycemic foods
Interested in how to supercharge your immune system? Turn off Netflix, get off the couch and start exercising! Drink plenty of water and be mindful of your portions during meals. Use safe anti-inflammatory agents which include glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oil, curcumin, resveratrol.
Exercise May Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system’s principal role is to keep you healthy. It does this by fighting off bacteria, virus and other invaders before they can take over and cause permanent damage. If our immune system is weakened or compromised, illness and disease can occur. The aging process is not kind and impacts our immune system. Like other systems in our body, the immune system starts to decline in our 20s. This hinders its ability to protect us from disease and infections. A new study, however, shows that regular exercise can actually supercharge your immune system and keep it healthy and strong by preventing its decline as we age (7).
The purpose of the study was to determine if the immune system could benefit from exercise during aging. Many immune function levels were analyzed, including T cells, cytokines, and others. There were three groups of participants.
- Long-distance cyclists (age 55–79) with a long history of exercise
- Healthy but inactive group (age 55-79)
- Healthy young adults.
The results? Compared to the older participants in the healthy, inactive group, the immune function of the similar aged active cyclists was significantly better. In fact, in certain immune levels, such as the production of T cells, the active cyclists’ levels were comparable to the young healthy, inactive group. Meaning, in some immune functions, exercising into your 50s, 60s, and 70s could slow decline so drastically that it matches that of someone half or more of your age. The research concluded that the decline in our immune system may in part be due to the reduced levels of exercise as we age. The takeaway message is clear: Rather than becomes less active as we age we need to keep exercising throughout life to keep our immune systems in top performance.
Other key benefits of exercise include:
- Lower heart failure in middle age. One study demonstrated that those who start exercise in middle age can lower their risk of heart failure by 23% after just six years of regular exercise (8)
- Improved muscle repair and mass (9)
How to supercharge your Immune System? The immune system is critical to fending infections and staying healthy. The best way to give your immune system a boost is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This includes maintaining a healthy weight, stop smoking, eating healthy diets, getting adequate sleep and practicing good personal hygiene. Foods can increase our immunity. Good choices include broccoli, citrus, almonds, red bell peppers, and garlic. Active inflammation is helpful as it is part of your immune response. Chronic inflammation should be avoided as it can negatively affect your health and immune system. Exercise has many benefits which include mental clarity, endorphin release, reduced rates of heart failure, improved muscle repair and slowing the decline of your immune system with aging. Please share these simple answers to how to supercharge your immune system with friends and loved ones.
1.Qiu F, Liang CL, Liu H, et al. Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down. Oncotarget. 2017;8(1):268-84.
2.Besedovsky, L., Lange, T. & Born, J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch – Eur J Physiol 463, 121–137 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
3.Prather AA, Janicki-Deverts D, Hall MH, Cohen S. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep. 2015;38(9):1353-9.
4. Hughes DA. Effects of dietary antioxidants on the immune function of middle-aged adults. Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 Feb;58(1):79-84. doi:10.1079/pns19990012
5.Al-Noory AS, Amreen AN, Hymoor S. Antihyperlipidemic effects of ginger extracts in alloxan-induced diabetes and propylthiouracil-induced hypothyroidism in (rats). Pharmacognosy Res. 2013;5(3):157-61.
6. Chew BP, Park JS. Carotenoid action on the immune response. J Nutr. 2004 Jan;134(1):257S-261S. doi:10.1093/jn/134.1.257S
7. Duggal NA, Pollock RD, Lazarus NR, Harridge S, Lord JM. Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood. Aging Cell. 2018;17(2)
8.Florido R, Kwak L, Lazo M, et al. Six-Year Changes in Physical Activity and the Risk of Incident Heart Failure: ARIC Study. Circulation. 2018;137(20):2142-51.