Boost Your Immunity With These Habits That Really Work, Studies Show
In the COVID era, it seems a new supplement is touted to boost immunity every week. But be careful about what you see on social media and via your Amazon algorithm. The effectiveness of many of these alleged immune-boosters isn't supported by studies. But there are simple, science-backed things you can do every day to provide your immune system with serious support. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
Eat A Healthy Diet
It may not be the most exciting revelation, but it's all too often overlooked: Eating a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do to support your immune system. That means a diet high in fruits and vegetables, which contain micronutrients that can help support the immune system. Reduce added sugars, simple carbs and processed foods. They increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and inflammation, and directly tax immunity.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise is a powerful immune-system booster. According to the National Institutes of Health, exercise can
- flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which may reduce your chances of coming down with colds and flu
- spur antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly through the bloodstream, potentially neutralizing germs faster
- slow the release of stress hormones, which are known to impair immunity
The good news: You can realize these immune-boosting benefits with a moderate amount of exercise—even just walking 20 minutes a day.
Get Quality Sleep
"Scientific evidence is building that sleep has powerful effects on immune functioning," says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Studies show that sleep loss can affect different parts of the immune system, which can lead to the development of a wide variety of disorders." Those include cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and dementia. To keep your immunity in top shape, experts like the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
Chronically being stressed out causes the brain to pump out more of the stress hormone cortisol. That has a number of negative effects, including weakened immunity. According to the American Cancer Society, people who experience chronic stress are more prone to the common cold and viral infections like the flu.
Get Vitamin D
Growing evidence indicates that vitamin D provides serious support for the immune system. Lab studies have found that vitamin D can help control infections, reduce inflammation, and slow cancer cell growth, notes the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Good sources for vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel; egg yolks; liver; and fortified milk. However, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food, so taking a vitamin D supplement can be beneficial.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, recommends vitamin D supplementation to support immunity. "If you're deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection," he said in an interview last fall. "I would not mind recommending—and I do it myself—taking vitamin D supplements. There is good evidence that if you have a low vitamin D level, that you have more of a propensity to get infected when there are infections around."
Get Vitamin C
Many studies have found that vitamin C "Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system," wrote researchers behind a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients. "Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections … supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections."
Good food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, berries, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts.
Dr. Fauci also advocates for vitamin C supplementation. "The other vitamin that people take is vitamin C because it's a good antioxidant, so if people want to take a gram or so of vitamin C, that would be fine," he said. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.