Increase Immunity The Healthy Way

  • 7 Minute Read
  • Wellbeing
  • Written by: Dr. Jatin Bhide
increase immunity naturally

A little about immunity!

People usually vaguely discuss how to increase immunity naturally and share some healthy habits to boost the immune system. But the idea in broad terms remains elusive. This is due to several reasons, such as the immune system being a ‘system’ and not a single entity. Everything in this world, including our immune system, requires balance and harmony to function well.

It is specifically appalling that to this day researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response and which is the best way to boost the immune system.

As of now, science doesn’t have a proper answer to prove a direct link between lifestyle and natural ways to increase immunity. But luckily, this doesn’t mean the end of the world, as finding out the healthy habits for immune system functioning are very intriguing and should be studied.

Scientists are currently busy exploring the effects of age, diet, exercise, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and humans. While that happens, many natural ways can be practiced that depict how to improve immunity power in our body. Such techniques have played a key role as immune system boosters along with other proven health benefits.

Immune system and affecting factors

Nowadays, many marketed products claim to boost the immune system naturally. But there’s a flip side to it, which isn’t scientific. In a literal sense, boosting means increasing the production of the immune cells in our body, which is not a good thing particularly. For an appropriate example, athletes who dope engage in such activities to increase their performance by enhancing their blood cell numbers. However, they are at great risk of heart strokes and other ailments that can ruin their lives and careers.

An attempt to boost these cells is very complicated since various kinds of cells have very contrasting functions. An increase in the number of cells you don’t need can be nightmarish for your immune system and health. Such cells respond differently to many microbes in ways that we don’t even know of. Scientists are still finding the right answer about which cell to boost and specifically to what number. Our body produces a lot of these immune cells called lymphocytes which it could use. The extra cells that don’t do much are killed away by a process called apoptosis. It is still unknown which mix of the immune cells is needed the most to help augment the immune system for proper functioning.

Immune system and age

With increasing age, the capability of our immune system gets diminished, which ultimately leads to more infections and cancer. With the ever-changing environment, pollution, and some unavoidable lifestyle choices that we have to make, it has become really important to keep ourselves fit and maintain the rigor of our immunity.

There is a strong correlation between the incidence of age-related conditions and an increase in life expectancy in developed countries. It’s not that aging makes you weak. However, the process diminishes the function of some important cells, which helps maintain your immune system work healthily. Those cells are named after alphabets called B and T cells, which grow in the bone marrow of our body. Bone marrow is a spongy substance found in the center of our bones that houses these cells and helps their migration to the spleen organ, where these grow further and keep our immune.

But as we grow older, this migration step is hindered due to some genetic factors, lack of growth, and increased wear and tear of the cells, or if put out simply, then the death of these cells. Now, this process reduces the number of those alphabetic cells and then lowers the strength of our body to fight infections and diseases. It can also be said that the quality and chemical construct of the cells gets substandard, resulting in weaker immunity. A general conclusion from many studies reveals that compared with younger people, the elderly are more likely to catch diseases and infections and die from those, which is important to consider. Respiratory infections, including the COVID-19 virus, pneumonia, influenza, are a leading cause of death in people aged 65+ worldwide.

Read more about the role of age and immunity in “Ageless wisdom of being immune”

9 ways to boost your immunity naturally

Now, since we’ve discussed some basic mechanisms of the immune system in health and disease, let’s list out some pretty effective ways to boost that immune system of ours naturally to benefit the overall health.

Balanced diet!

Given the topic of our discussion, it’s pretty obvious that a well-balanced natural food-based diet improves our digestion and immunity both. But what to eat?

A healthy diet is essential for a strong immune system. A well-balanced diet includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and a variety of protein foods that keeps check of that deadly infections5. Have a diet having the following foods to stay healthy:

  • Vitamin (A, C, and E) rich diets such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, citrus foods, strawberries, certain cereals, and nut butter like almonds, hazelnut, and peanut butter.
  • Probiotic foods such as kefir, yogurt with live active cultures, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kombucha tea, tempeh, kimchi, and miso.
  • Prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, bananas, and seaweed.
  • Zinc-rich food, such as lean meats, poultry, milk, beans, and whole-grain products.
  • Protein-rich food, such as poultry, eggs, beans, peas, seafood, and lean meats.
  • Herbal supplements such as Tea catechins and Echinacea fight the flu viruses and other harmful bacteria and keep the digestive system in check.

Also, read more about the connection between gut health and the immune system in “How does boosting your immune system improve the overall health?”

Maintaining proper hygiene

Following proper hygiene methods like, washing hands thoroughly and often can help prevent the spread of disease-causing germs from one person to another (remember soaping and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds before rinsing with water? That works). Washing your hands before eating food, after using the toilet, caring for someone ill, coughing sneezing, etc helps a lot.

Keep the body moving regularly!

Regular physical activity can help us stay strong, independent, and healthy. At least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week is recommended. Even a short 10-30-minute brisk walk around the block may be a good way to start. In this techy world of ours, you can find some motivation to start from YouTube by simply searching for the activity you like, such as Yoga or Tai Chi, etc. which improves your overall fitness and boosts mental and emotional health.

Stop stressing out

Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and some holistic practices can make you peaceful and positively affect the immune system and overall wellbeing. Nowadays, many mental health apps help you cope with stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. So, the next time you feel down, make sure to use such apps or be sure to consult a doctor or a mental health professional if stress is affecting your day-to-day life.

Socialize a little

Many people often find themselves isolated, which may lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, and can compromise the natural ability of our immune system to function. It’s so important to stay connected. So please make sure to call, text, or use some video technology, such as Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom, to keep in touch with your loved ones while ensuring safety.

Get that sleep you deserve!

Insufficient sleep may impact your health negatively, so you need to make sure that you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every day. This will help the immune system respond to infection and inflammation and keep the immune system functioning properly by aiding immune cells production and keeping the ailments at bay.

No smoking!

It is quite well known that smoking harms our health in the worst possible ways imagined. So, encourage your loved one to quit as soon as possible. Moreover, take some extra support, talk to your loved one’s doctor or a family member to keep that in check. Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco expose one to nicotine, which is addictive and weakens your lungs and immune system. And yeah that also includes vaping. But not just the nicotine, there are some other chemicals in the e-liquids that seem to suppress your immune response, particularly when you inhale them through vaping.

Drink it up (It’s water, not the one you were thinking), and yes, 9. Reduce alcohol intake.

Adequate hydration is a key immune booster and keeps the digestive juices flowing. Water helps your body absorb nutrients and minerals and flush out body waste. Drink at least 8-9 glasses of fluid a day to prevent dehydration5. Try these steps:

  • Drink a glass of water before and after every meal and in-between some snacks.
  • Mix it up with some low-fat soup, milk, and caffeine-free tea or coffee.
  • Also, keep a water bottle handy for sipping throughout the day.

And most importantly, for alcoholic beverages, CDC recommends no more than 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men. Keep that in mind, you all! It’s just that alcohol slows down the digestive process, which again makes your immunity slow to fight infections—getting the point? So, drink in moderation.

Summary

While strengthening your immune system is an ongoing process, and there is no blueprint for the same, following these proven beneficial tips can be helpful. If you need to know more, keep reading more immunity articles on www.goodhealthybyyourself.info.

Stay positive, healthy, and happy!

References

  1. Singh, G. (2008). How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally?. Lulu. Com. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
  2. Panda, S., & Ding, J. L. (2015). Natural antibodies bridge innate and adaptive immunity. The journal of immunology, 194(1), 13-20. https://doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.1400844
  3. Montecino-Rodriguez, E., Berent-Maoz, B., & Dorshkind, K. (2013). Causes, consequences, and reversal of immune system aging. The Journal of clinical investigation, 123(3), 958-965. https://dx.doi.org/10.1172%2FJCI64096
  4. Dorshkind, K., Montecino-Rodriguez, E., & Signer, R. A. (2009). The aging immune system: is it ever too old to become young again?. Nature Reviews Immunology, 9(1), 57-62. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri2471
  5. Chandra, R. K. (1997). Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 66(2), 460S-463S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/66.2.460s
  6. Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of sport and health science, 8(3), 201-217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009 
  7. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., McGuire, L., Robles, T. F., & Glaser, R. (2002). Psychoneuroimmunology: psychological influences on immune function and health. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 70(3), 537. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-006x.70.3.537
  8. Schultze-Florey, C. R., Martínez-Maza, O., Magpantay, L., Breen, E. C., Irwin, M. R., Gündel, H., & O’Connor, M. F. (2012). When grief makes you sick: bereavement-induced systemic inflammation is a question of genotype. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 26(7), 1066-1071. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2012.06.009
  9. Gulia, K. K., & Kumar, V. M. (2018). Sleep disorders in the elderly: a growing challenge. Psychogeriatrics, 18(3), 155-165. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1111/psyg.12319
  10. Mehta, H., Nazzal, K., & Sadikot, R. T. (2008). Cigarette smoking and innate immunity. Inflammation Research, 57(11), 497-503. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00011-008-8078-6
  11. Sussan, T. E., Gajghate, S., Thimmulappa, R. K., Ma, J., Kim, J. H., Sudini, K., … & Biswal, S. (2015). Exposure to electronic cigarettes impairs pulmonary anti-bacterial and anti-viral defenses in a mouse model. PloS one, 10(2), e0116861. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116861