Everyone wants to boost their immunity, particularly when cold and flu season hits. But most people aren’t really sure what immunity means, and whether improving your immune system is even possible. In this article we are going to take a quick look at what your immune system does, and then we are going to cover eight simple ways to boost your immune system.
What is your immune system?
Your immune system is your body’s defence against the environment and is absolutely necessary for your continued survival. It is made up of a complex system of organs, cells, and proteins, all of them working together to protect you from pathogens.
Your immune system is designed to recognise and defend against pathogens (bacteria, viruses etc) and even fight against your own cells if they are affected by illness.
Sometimes your immune system’s response to a pathogen can cause you to become ill. When your body recognises an infection it will respond by causing the area to become inflamed. This causes swelling, redness, heat, and many other symptoms to occur. It can also lead to a fever. All of this is necessary to fight the infection, but can leave the sufferer feeling pretty bad.
The common cold is a perfect example of a healthy immune system’s response to a virus. When your immune system realises that you have a cold, it will cause inflammation to fight this virus. A common misconception is that common colds occur in people with weakened immune systems, whereas it is usually people with strong immune systems that are affected.
This does not mean that you should avoid a healthy immune system if you want to escape common colds etc … While a common cold may be annoying, it is rarely anything more than a mild inconvenience. Having a weakened immune system can lead to death if you end up contracting the wrong virus. Luckily, there are many simple ways to boost your immune system, and we will discuss eight of them here.
Eight simple ways to boost your immune system
Boosting your immune system is all about consistency, performing the following eight tips for a couple of days a year isn’t going to make any difference. Instead of attempting all eight at once, maybe just pick a couple of tips and follow them consistently until you have established a routine. Then you can begin to add in another and another as time goes by. After a while you’ll have managed to hit all eight, and won’t have to think twice about any of them.
Tip #1 Swap your Vitamin C supplement for Vitamin E
If you asked ten people which supplement to take to improve your immune system they’d tell you vitamin C. But while vitamin C may be effective at improving the symptoms of a common cold, it does not have any supporting evidence for boosting your immune system.
On the other hand, vitamin E seems to have lots of evidence supporting it as an immune system booster. Studies in the elderly have shown that supplementing with 50-100mg of vitamin E helps to improve cellular immune function.
Tip #2 Sleep better
There are so many benefits to improving sleep quality that it seems obvious that it can also improve your immune system. Many studies have looked into the relationship between the two, noticing that people with poor immune systems sleep less, and that people who sleep less have compromised immune systems.
Go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning. This will help your body establish a routine and you will find it easier to fall asleep and to wake up refreshed. Exercise regularly, have a good diet, avoid caffeine after dinner, and consider natural sleep supplements.
Tip #3 Take Zinc
Not only is zinc great for boosting your immunity, but many people find that it helps them to sleep better, making this tip doubly useful. Studies have demonstrated that zinc is very influential in the functioning of your immune system. Taking between 5-10mg per day can help improve your immunity.
Tip #4 Reduce Stress
When we talk about stress, it’s not about small stressful events that occur every now and then. This is unavoidable in life, and isn’t even a bad thing. But chronic stress is another matter. Studies have shown that being stressed can actually redistribute immune cells as a survival instinct, this can compromise your immune system long term. You have two options here, remove the source of the stress if you can, or alternatively learn about how better to deal with stressful situations.
Tip #5 Quit Smoking
This tip is not quite as straightforward as it may appear. Of course smoking is unhealthy, and it can lead to cancer and early death. Quitting smoking can be one of the best decisions that you ever make. Nicotine has been shown to suppress the immune system, so removing nicotine from your daily routine can bring your immune system back to normal.
But suppressing the immune system can have some benefits too. Particularly from a neuroprotective or anti-inflammatory point of view. On the whole though, you should definitely drop the cigarettes.
Tip #6 Get some Vitamin D
Supplementing with Vitamin D has been shown to improve immune health, studies have demonstrated the benefits of supplementation on people with auto-immune disease.
Tip #7 Over Training
Moderate daily exercise is very good for your immune system, decreasing your risk of contracting certain infections and diseases. On the other hand, intense exercise without adequate recovery can actually negatively affect your immune system. Which is why getting ill is a common sign of over training.
Tip #8 Try Ginseng
Panax Ginseng is a commonly taken supplement, and there does seem to be quite a lot of evidence that it is an effective immune booster. Try a dosage of between 200 and 400mg per day.
Your immune system is a delicate ecosystem. It takes take and effort to keep in running in top form. Having a good and strong immune system takes time to develop and it’s never too late to start.