Five Scientifically Proven Ways to Boost Immunity
Can your diet (or lifestyle) improve your immune system? Yes it can, but be skeptical of supplements making these claims because there’s no single food or nutrient that will magically boost immunity. For example, Echinacea, a very popular herb (in the daisy family) taken to combat colds does not have research to support cold prevention when tested against a placebo. In most studies, Echinacea also didn’t lessen cold symptoms for those who got sick. However, don’t be discouraged; there are other ways you can keep our immune system strong to prevent catching a cold or recover faster if you do.
Keep in mind, just because our bodies are exposed to viruses this does not mean that we will necessarily get sick or experience symptoms. This is because cold symptoms are actually not caused directly by the virus but by our immune systems response. All the more reason to keep your immune system in top shape!
My Five Top Tips for a Strong Immune System:
1. Food before Supplements:
Skip the vitamin E, vitamin A and zinc supplements and instead load up on the fruits and veggies. A nutritionally diverse diet emphasizing fruits and veggies appears to be beneficial. Researchers in Northern Ireland randomly assigned 83 healthy volunteers aged 65 to 85 to eat either their normal diets (averaging two servings of fruits and veggies) or to include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. After 16 weeks, the fruit-and-vegetable group had a better immune response than the people who didn’t up their produce intake.
2.Keep a P.M.A (Positive Mental Attitude):
People who expressed more positive emotions were much less likely to become sick than those who expressed fewer positive emotions according to Sheldon Cohen an immunity researcher at Carnegie-Mellon University. Cohen found that people are five times more likely to develop a cold if they have significant stress in their life persisting for a month or more. Another reason to keep a P.M.A, those subjects also reported milder symptoms when they were sick.
3. Keep Moving:
Researchers at Appalachian State University in North Carolina looked at the physical activity of 1,002 men and women and found that participants who exercised had fewer sore throats, headaches, fevers, and other ailments. The key is to get moving almost daily. In the research study, those who did brisk walking at least five times a week had 43 percent fewer days with infections than those who exercised less than once a week.DYK: walking at least 5 times a week had 43% fewer days with infections than those who exercised less than once a week Click To Tweet
4. Take your Vitamin D:
It appears that people with higher vitamin D levels have a lower risk of upper respiratory infections. More research is still being done in this area but for now, there appears to be promise since vitamin D increases the production of proteins that act as natural antibiotics. I recommend clients take a vitamin D supplement, especially during winter months in Canada. We also do not receive adequate amounts of vitamin D through our diets. Speak with your dietitian if you’re uncertain about dosage of specific vitamins or mineral supplements.
5. Catch your zzz’s:
Cohen’s research team at Carnegie-Mellon also found those who averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night were three times more likely to develop a cold than those who averaged eight hours a night. Based on when you are getting up in the morning (for work or family obligations) be sure to determine an appropriate time to hit the hay to get enough shut eye!
To keep your immune system healthy, eat a nutritionally balanced diet emphasizing fruits and veggies. Keep your wellness a priority through acts of self-care to prevent stress and burnout. Get yourself moving regularly, take a vitamin D supplement and prioritize getting enough sleep! Also, remember to be critical of health claims promising, “immune boosting” – see my previous article on How to Spot Nutrition Misinformation for ways to know if something is worth believing.