The human immune system is a wonder. It fights infections and helps us prevent chronic illness. However, most of us get sick from time to time. Cold and flu season can feel like a constant battle against germs. We’re always looking for an advantage to help us win the fight. How can we boost our immune system and strengthen our body’s ability to fight germs? Hint: instead of following trends, build a foundation with healthy habits.
Boosting Immunity With A Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is essential to preventing illness and keeping your immune system in good shape. Tips for boosting immunity include:
- Eat a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
- Exercise regularly. Studies show regular moderate-intensity exercise helps increase the circulation of immune cells in your body. Exercise contributes to good sleep habits and reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Make sleep and rest a priority. Research continues on the effects of sleep on physical health. Consistent sleep supports healthy immune systems, while lack of sleep can weaken your body’s defenses.
- Drink plenty of water. Good hydration promotes healthy blood flow and supports the lymphatic system, which is vital to immune health.
- Avoid smoking and tobacco products.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Stay up to date on your vaccinations, especially as you get older. Vaccines help your body fight infection and often reduce the duration and severity of symptoms if you get sick.
Can Stress Affect My Immune System?
Chronic stress can take a toll on your immune system. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can reduce your lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help your body fight viruses and bacteria. Stress can also produce an inflammatory response that contributes to chronic illness. Find ways to manage stress by practicing mindfulness, increasing exercise, and seeking counseling as needed. Your primary care provider can help with a referral for behavioral health services.
How Does My Immune System Change as I Age?
As parents, we may notice that a virus that sidelines our kids for a day or two can wipe us out for a week. While young children may be at higher risk for some illnesses, we generally see a decrease in immune function as we age. Here are some tips for staying healthy in every phase of life:
Make sure your children stay up to date for childhood vaccines as recommended by your pediatrician or family medicine doctor. Help your kids develop healthy diet and exercise practices.
Adults should focus on a healthy lifestyle and stay current on recommended immunizations, including flu shots, COVID boosters, and tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (Tdap) vaccinations.
As we age, doctors recommend additional vaccinations to help us stay healthy. Adults 65 and older should add shingles and pneumonia vaccines to their lists and talk with their doctor about the RSV vaccine. Another issue we see in seniors is micronutrient malnutrition. Older adults often have a less varied diet and may lack essential vitamins and minerals. Tracking nutritional intake and routine blood work can help seniors stay healthy.
Can Supplements Boost My Immune System?
Many of us are flooded with ads for herbal supplements claiming to benefit our immune systems. But do supplements help? A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement can be beneficial, especially if you’re not getting proper nutrition from your diet. However, despite celebrity trends, we don’t recommend mega doses of a single vitamin. We also do not have scientific evidence that herbal supplements help with immunity. We generally tell patients that if a supplement makes them feel better, it’s okay to continue as long as it’s safe. However, we want to ensure you’re not taking something harmful and avoid interactions with prescription medications. Keeping the lines of communication open with your primary care provider is the best way to ensure you’re supplementing safely.
Boosting Immunity: How Can My Primary Care Provider Help?
There’s a reason we call them “well visits.” Routine checkups with your primary care provider can help you keep your immune and overall health in top form. Your PCP can help you on several fronts. The providers at Comprehensive Primary Care offer solutions and accountability on nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices. We help patients stay current with essential vaccines: flu shots, COVID boosters for all patients– and shingles, pneumonia, and RSV for older adults. Building a foundation of good health isn’t guaranteed to prevent every sniffle. However, we know that making healthy choices helps you stay fit and bounce back more easily when you get sick.