The Best Ways to Increase Immunity, Experts Say
Every fall, with the onset of cold and flu season, your immune system needs all the help it can get. That's especially true this year, as experts warn of the possibility of a "twindemic" of flu and COVID-19. Luckily, there are simple ways you can boost your immunity every day. 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
Following a healthy diet—one high in fruits and vegetables, and low in processed foods, simple carbs, red meat and added sugar—is one of the best things you can do to support your immune system. Fruits and vegetables contain micronutrients that support immunity, while sugars, simple carbs, and processed foods increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and inflammation, all of which undermine your body's disease-fighting defenses.
Exercise can supercharge your immune system. According to the National Institutes of Health, exercise can cause antibodies and white blood cells to circulate through the bloodstream more quickly, potentially neutralizing disease-causing invaders faster. You can get this immune-boosting benefit from just a moderate amount of exercise—even just walking 20 minutes a day.
Don't Drink Too Much Alcohol
Overindulging in alcohol taxes the immune system in several ways, increasing your risk of heart disease, respiratory infections, and more than 10 types of cancer. To avoid that, drink moderately: No more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.
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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"—including cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and dementia. Experts like the National Sleep Foundation recommend seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
Get Enough Vitamin D
Studies have found that vitamin D can help control infections, reduce inflammation, and slow cancer cell growth, says the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, recommends taking vitamin D to support immunity. "I would not mind recommending—and I do it myself—taking vitamin D supplements," he said last fall. "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 Enough Vitamin C
"Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections," wrote researchers behind a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients. "Supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections." Fauci also advocates for vitamin C. "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.
Chronic stress causes the brain to pump out more of the stress hormone cortisol. That has a number of negative effects on the body, including weakened immunity. People who experience chronic stress are more prone to the common cold and viral infections like the flu. "Try to avoid or alleviate severe stress, which we know can sometimes impact the immune system," said Fauci last fall. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.