The Real Secret to Boosting Your Immune System
As you walk through a health store, pharmacy, or even while browsing the web, you’ll likely find a number of pills and potions claiming to boost your immune system. Some are expensive, others not so much. Well, we have good news and bad news: yes, there are certainly steps you can take to help keep your immune system strong and healthy. But no, there isn’t any magic elixir that will do the work for you.
The bottom line: Treat your body well with a nutritious diet, regular exercise, good sleep, and low stress. Get vaccinated to fend off serious threats like the flu, tetanus, and HPV.
If you make a mindful effort to live a healthy lifestyle, your immune system – and the rest of your body will thank you!
Q: What Exactly Is the Immune System?
A: The immune system is a complex network of organs, tissues, proteins, and cells that work together fight infection. When pathogens, also called antigens, enter our bodies, a healthy immune system goes into attack mode. Pathogens have a broad range, from microorganisms like bacteria and viruses to parasitic worms.
Q: How Does It Work?
A: When a new antigen is detected, the body’s white blood cells create an increase of cells called lymphocytes and antibodies, or specialized proteins that lock onto the antigen and destroy it. This process can be thought of as a blueprint, as the body will “remember” the antigen and create antibodies automatically next time it’s detected, before the antigen even has time to make you sick.
This is why you only get chicken pox once, and why vaccines are so effective.
Q: How Do I Boost My Immune System on a Daily Basis?
A: Hands-down, the key to maintaining your immune system from day-to-day is all in your lifestyle:
● Avoid using tobacco products
● Drink alcohol in moderation
● Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
● Keep saturated fat consumption low
● Maintain a healthy weight
● Sleep well – 7 to 9 hours per night, though this varies per person
● Get regular medical checkups
● Avoid infection by washing your hands and sanitizing your living and work spaces often
Q: Should I Take Vitamins or Supplements?
A: We recommend to take vitamins in moderation (if at all), but to focus mainly on eating the right foods. Research shows that five micronutrients play a larger role in boosting immune function. These nutrients are vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium.
What research doesn’t show, however, is that downing an expensive bottle of vitamins could have any benefit over eating a balanced diet with regular and recommended levels of these immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.
Q: Which Foods Actually Boost My Immune System?
A: There’s a huge list of foods that can benefit your immunity. To cover the bases, make these items a regular staple in your diet – and remember, this is just a short list:
● Vitamin C: papaya, kiwifruit, oranges, and other citrus fruits, acerola cherries, strawberries and other berries, guava, cantaloupe, cauliflower, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, kale, watercress, spinach, chard, some herbs such as cilantro
● Vitamin B6: sunflower seeds, pistachios, wild salmon, light meat turkey, chicken, pork, bananas, chickpeas, some potatoes (with skin), avocado, some fortified cereals, some dried fruits such as prunes or apricot
● Vitamin E: toasted wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, collards, asparagus, beet greens, pumpkin, red peppers, some fortified cereals
● Zinc: seafood such as cooked oysters, grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, cereals such as toasted wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, cocoa powder
● Magnesium: spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collards, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, lentils, edamame
Q: Do Vaccinations Really Help Boost Immunity?
A: Absolutely! Vaccines work by introducing killed or weakened germs into your body. This allows your immune system to create antibodies and a “memory” of the specific germ so that it’s ready to fight off that germ and prevent illness next time it makes its way into your body.
There are a lot of vaccination myths that are based on false science. The fact of the matter is that vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent certain potentially life-threatening conditions.
Q: Which Vaccines Should I Get?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have some key adult vaccination recommendations:
● A seasonal flu vaccine each year
● Td or Tdap vaccine for Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)
● HPV for human papilloma viruses
● Meningitis for certain college and university students
● Zoster vaccine for shingles and pneumococcal vaccines for adults 60 and older
Finally, Stay on Top of Your Health – No Excuses!
As you can imagine, a weak immune system leaves individuals vulnerable to devastating illnesses without the ability to fight back. That’s why it’s non-negotiable to treat your body well and take steps to keep your immune system functioning at its best.
Are you keeping up with the “best practices” for immune system health? If you need your flu shot, make an appointment or visit one of our 4 San Francisco Bay Area locations today. If you’ve unfortunately already caught a bug, we can help with that too!