Spend Time In The Sunshine
Some scientists theorize that one reason we get more colds in the winter is that we get less exposure to the sun, and subsequently less vitamin D. The so-called “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced from the sun’s ultraviolet-B rays. While vitamin D is believed to help facilitate normal immune system function, scientists need more research before declaring the vitamin D specifically protects against cold and flu. However, some studies suggest it may help. One randomized controlled trial followed 340 Japanese school kids for four months during flu season. Half of the participants received 1,200 IU of vitamin D supplements while the other half received placebo pills. Researchers found that flu rates in the vitamin D group were roughly 40% lower than in the placebo group. While you can get vitamin D from food, experts still recommend the best way to increase levels of the vitamin are by getting some rays or taking a supplement if you have a deficiency.
STAY INFORMED: to get the latest food news delivered straight to your inbox.
Vita And Its Impact On The Immune System
Immune organs are organs or tissues that realize immune function, and are places where most immunocompetent cells proliferate, differentiate, mature, aggregate, and respond to immunity. Research has shown that crucial immune organs need constant dietary intake to maintain VitA concentrations, and RA was previously shown both to promote the proliferation and to regulate the apoptosis of thymocytes . In the thymus, endogenous retinoid synthesis and retinoids similar to glucocorticoids might, indeed, be involved in the regulation of thymic proliferation and selection processes, by being present in the thymus in functionally effective amounts . In mice, VitAD leads to a defect in both T cell-mediated and antibody-dependent immune responses . VitAD can also inhibit the normal apoptosis process of bone marrow cells, which leads to an increased number of myeloid cells in the bone marrow, spleen, and peripheral blood, indicating that VitA is involved in the regulation of homeostasis of bone marrow . VitA likely regulates the bone marrow population through binding retinoic acid receptor in the bone marrow cell nucleus. This binding alters the expression level of apoptosis genes, such as Bcl-2, Fas, and others. The specific mechanisms by which these apoptosis genes regulate bone marrow homeostasis require further investigation.
Eat More Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and salmon, may boost your bodys immune response to pathogens by .
Although low-level inflammation is a normal response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system .
Olive oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory, is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties may help your body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses (
These foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto.
Research suggests that a flourishing network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms .
In a 3-month study in 126 children, those who drank just 2.4 ounces of fermented milk daily had about 20% fewer childhood infectious diseases, compared with a control group .
If you dont regularly eat fermented foods, probiotic supplements are another option.
In a 28-day study in 152 people infected with rhinovirus, those who supplemented with probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis had a stronger immune response and lower levels of the virus in their nasal mucus than a control group .
Gut health and immunity are deeply interconnected. Fermented foods and probiotics may bolster your immune system by helping it identify and target harmful pathogens.
You May Like: What Vitamin Helps Tighten Skin
What Can You Do To Boost Your Immune System
The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.
But that doesn’t mean the effects of lifestyle on the immune system aren’t intriguing and shouldn’t be studied. Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and in humans. In the meantime, general healthy-living strategies make sense since they likely help immune function and they come with other proven health benefits.
Immunity in action. A healthy immune system can defeat invading pathogens as shown above, where two bacteria that cause gonorrhea are no match for the large phagocyte, called a neutrophil, that engulfs and kills them .
Infectious Diseases In Children
Infectious diseases in children were once a global threat . Recent research has suggested a close correlation between a deficiency of micronutrients and infectious diseases spread through the respiratory and digestive systems in children . Meanwhile, many infections result in a decrease in systemic VitA levels as a result of infection-induced anorexia and decreased VitA absorption from the intestine . VitA may also be lost in substantial amounts in the urine during infection . As mentioned above, VitA plays a crucial role in the establishment and maintenance of the human immune system. More importantly, VitA has demonstrated a therapeutic effect, to some extent, in diseases transmitted through the respiratory system, such as pneumonia and measles in children, or in contagious digestive diseases in children, such as infantile diarrhea and hand, foot, and mouth disease . The World Health Organization has suggested that, in less developed countries, a child between 6 months and 5-years-old should be supplemented with high doses of VitA to prevent and cure VitA deficiency-related diseases, and reduce the incidence and mortality rate of these diseases in children .
Don’t Miss: What’s The Recommended Dose Of Vitamin C
Supplements To Boost Immune System:
Fortify your immune system’s defences by making sure you’re getting an adequate amount of the following supplements:
Selenium deficiency is associated with impaired immune function, says Marogy. ‘People with inadequate levels of selenium have been shown to have lesser amounts of T-cells and a reduced ability to respond to viral infections,’ she says. ‘Selenium also plays a role in the production of cytokines molecules that play an important role in coordinating the immune system.’
When people are low in zinc, the immune response is the first to suffer and there is a greater risk of oxidative stress and inflammation.
‘Zinc is particularly important when it comes to warding off infections as we age, owing to the role it plays in the health of the thymus gland which produces infection-killing T-cells,’ says Marogy.
Food sources include seafood, pork and beans.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
The most important omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy immune system are DHA and EPA . They assist in reducing inflammation and promoting healing after any bacteria and viruses have been neutralised.
Natural dietary sources are limited to oily fish and seafood, so supplements containing fish oil or algae are important alternatives if you dont eat fish regularly.
How To Make Your Immune System Stronger
In times of great uncertainty, it is more important than ever to keep a close eye on your immune system. Challenging situations inevitably bring with them stress and anxiety that can deplete the bodys natural reserves of energy and have a negative effect on our immune system. This is especially so when potentially threatening illnesses are part of the wider picture.
The immune system plays a vital role in fending off harmful pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, so keeping it in good working order should be one of our top priorities.
The first line of defense in protecting our immune system is to choose a healthy lifestyle, and to remind yourself of this choice on a daily basis! Well look at a range of simple, adaptable, health-boosting ideas that will help you to do this no matter what the situation.
Recommended Reading: What Is A Toxic Level Of Vitamin D For Dogs
Vita Is Involved In The Formation Of The Epithelial And Mucous Tissues
The epithelium lines all outer surface and most inner surfaces of organisms, and it functions as the âfront lineâ of defense against pathogen invasion. Studies from recent years have shown that VitA plays a crucial role in the morphological formation of the epithelium, epithelial keratinization, stratification, differentiation, and functional maturation of epithelial cells . As a promotor for morphology and a cell differentiation enhancer, VitA is an integral part of the mucus layer of both the respiratory tract and the intestine. Since VitA promotes mucin secretion, it improves the antigen non-specific immunity function of these tissues . Research has shown that VitA improves the mechanistic defense of the oral mucosa, increases the integrity of intestinal mucus, and maintains the morphology and amount of urothelium cells .
Can You Strengthen Your Immune System
Dr. Cassel says another common misconception is having a “strong” immune system is what’s best for your body.
“You actually don’t want your immune system to be stronger, you want it to be balanced,” Dr. Cassel says. “Too much of an immune response is just as bad as too little response.”
Dr. Cassel says most of the things people take to boost their immune system, such as vitamins or supplements, don’t have any effect on your immune response.
You May Like: What Vitamins Should A 60 Year Old Woman Take
Vitamin D And Protective Immunity
Vitamin D has been used to treat infections such as tuberculosis before the advent of effective antibiotics. Tuberculosis patients were sent to sanatoriums where treatment included exposure to sunlight which was thought to directly kill the tuberculosis. Cod liver oil, a rich source of vitamin D has also been employed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as for general increased protection from infections.
Results of studies looking at potential benefits of administering vitamin D to decrease infection have not been consistent, most likely secondary to a number of methodologic concerns. One recent well-designed prospective, double blind placebo study using an objective outcome, nasopharyngeal swab culture , and a therapeutic dose of vitamin D showed that vitamin D administration resulted in a statistically significant decrease in the incidence of influenza infection.
The beneficial effects of vitamin D on protective immunity are due in part to its effects on the innate immune system. It is known that macrophages recognize lipopolysacharide LPS, a surrogate for bacterial infection, through toll like receptors . Engagement of TLRs leads to a cascade of events that produce peptides with potent bacterialcidal activity such as cathelocidin and beta defensin 4. These peptides colocalize within phagosomes with injested bacteria where they disrupt bacterial cell membranes and have potent anti-microbacterial activity .
Stress And Immune Function
Modern medicine has come to appreciate the closely linked relationship of mind and body. A wide variety of maladies, including stomach upset, hives, and even heart disease, are linked to the effects of emotional stress. Despite the challenges, scientists are actively studying the relationship between stress and immune function.
For one thing, stress is difficult to define. What may appear to be a stressful situation for one person is not for another. When people are exposed to situations they regard as stressful, it is difficult for them to measure how much stress they feel, and difficult for the scientist to know if a person’s subjective impression of the amount of stress is accurate. The scientist can only measure things that may reflect stress, such as the number of times the heart beats each minute, but such measures also may reflect other factors.
Most scientists studying the relationship of stress and immune function, however, do not study a sudden, short-lived stressor rather, they try to study more constant and frequent stressors known as chronic stress, such as that caused by relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, or sustained challenges to perform well at one’s work. Some scientists are investigating whether ongoing stress takes a toll on the immune system.
Despite these inevitable difficulties in measuring the relationship of stress to immunity, scientists are making progress.
Read Also: How Much Vitamin C Per Day When Sick
Does Being Cold Give You A Weak Immune System
Almost every mother has said it: “Wear a jacket or you’ll catch a cold!” Is she right? Probably not, exposure to moderate cold temperatures doesn’t increase your susceptibility to infection. There are two reasons why winter is “cold and flu season.” In the winter, people spend more time indoors, in closer contact with other people who can pass on their germs. Also the influenza virus stays airborne longer when air is cold and less humid.
But researchers remain interested in this question in different populations. Some experiments with mice suggest that cold exposure might reduce the ability to cope with infection. But what about humans? Scientists have performed experiments in which volunteers were briefly dunked in cold water or spent short periods of time naked in subfreezing temperatures. They’ve studied people who lived in Antarctica and those on expeditions in the Canadian Rockies. The results have been mixed. For example, researchers documented an increase in upper respiratory infections in competitive cross-country skiers who exercise vigorously in the cold, but whether these infections are due to the cold or other factors such as the intense exercise or the dryness of the air is not known.
How Your Immune System Works
Your immune system works to recognize and identify an infection or injury in the body. This causes an immune response, with the goal of restoring normal function.
Dr. Cassel says many people think that when they get sick, their symptoms are a sign that they have a virus or an infection.
However, your symptoms are actually a sign that your body is fighting back against the infection or virus, triggering an immune response.
“When you have a cold, you feel run down, your nose is runny, you feel congestedthese are the symptoms people complain about,” Dr. Cassel says. “People think ‘I’m so sick, this is terrible. Why doesn’t my immune system work?’ But with every one of these cold symptoms, that is your immune system at work.”
Read: Is It a Cold or the Flu?
Read Also: How Do I Know What Vitamins To Take
Ideas For Healthy Snacking
Struggling with having too many tasty snack options while working from home? Here are some tips to help keep calorie consumption down.
- Have more fruits and vegetables on hand at home. Pair fruits and vegetables with filling dips such as hummus, yogurt or guacamole.
- Dont skip meals. Start the day off with a hearty filling breakfast to get you going for the day. Take a break from work to sit down and enjoy a lunch filled with vegetables, protein and whole grains.
- Keep less healthy snacks out of reach and out of sight. Freeze your baked goods to make them less accessible. Put the candy in the garage or basement to reduce reaching for them mindlessly.
- When craving savory snacks find an alternative to chips. Consider nuts and seeds, whole grains or even beans like the recipe for roasted, seasoned chickpeas:
- 1 can of chickpeas tossed in olive oil, curry powder, and paprika.
- Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until crispy.
While you may not be able to completely avoid getting sick, a strong and healthy immune system can be your first line of defense. Focusing on your immune health can also help take the edge off your symptoms if you do get sick.
Eat A Healthy & Balanced Diet
Making good food choices is one of the most obvious ways that we can support or deplete our immune system.
- Avoid sugary, refined and processed foods. These encourage inflammation and place stress on our immune systems.
- Choose ingredients rich in zinc. Zinc is a classic immune-boosting mineral. It is found in abundance in grass-fed lamb and beef, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and pumpkin seeds.
- Support your gut with fermented foods. Sauerkraut and kefir are loaded with beneficial probiotic bacteria.
- Eat organic and local. Avoid taxing your immune system with the remnants of toxic herbicides and pesticides found in industrially produced food. As far as possible, source your food from organic growers and local farmers who take a natural approach.
Read Also: What Is In Men’s One A Day Vitamin
Build Your Social Network
We all know friends are important, but strong social ties can also have a big effect on your health. People with healthy relationships are likely to outlive those with poor social ties. Want to broaden your circle? Volunteer, take a class, or join a group that interests you. And nurture the bonds you already have.
Healthy Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System
Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system working properly. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress.
- Keep current with all recommended vaccines. Vaccines prime your immune system to fight off infections before they take hold in your body.
Read Also: Does Baby Formula Have Vitamin D