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The How and Why of Immune System Boosters: Habits, Foods, Supplements, and More

From COVID-19 to simple winter colds, plenty of people are looking for ways to prevent illness. Promoting healthy immune function is a common concern, especially when cold and flu season rolls around. But can you really strengthen your immune system? What boosts immune system responses, and what just doesn't work?

Basic FAQs

Q. How does the immune system work?

A healthy immune system works to identify and attack foreign cells in the body. When your body discovers something that shouldn't be there, lymphocytes--white blood cells--rush in to attack. This immune response often causes a lot of the symptoms we associate with being sick: fever, congestion or runny nose, aching, fatigue, and more. Your immune cells also work to create antibodies to recognize an intruder again, so you have a hard time getting the exact same disease twice.

Q. Can you boost your immune system at all?

Yes and no. Immune health is complicated, and like most things in the body, it needs balance. A "strong immune system" is simply one that is good at responding to actual threats before they harm you. After all, an allergy is just an over-reaction to non-dangerous foreign material in the body. "Boosting" your immune system is less about making your immune system stronger and more about helping your immune system do its job.

Q. What happens when you boost your immune system?

Typically, foods, habits, and supplements that boost your immune system do this by supporting immune functions. They can help fight off disease alongside white blood cells. Some nutrients and habits directly support your immune system or are necessary for overall health and wellness. Others help your body deal with the symptoms of a strong immune response.

Q. What can boost your immune system?

What boosts your immune system can vary from person to person. Mostly you boost your immune response by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding habits that can negatively impact your health.

Q. How to strengthen your immune system at home? What is the best way to boost immune systems naturally?

Developing healthy habits like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet are the best ways to have a healthy immune system. Reducing stress, avoiding alcohol, and, in some cases, losing weight can also help your immune system.

Q. How to build your immune system?

Your immune system naturally builds itself as it encounters new pathogens. Support it with healthy dietary choices and good exercise and sleep habits.

Q. What is the best time to take immune boosters?

If you are going to get an immune booster medication from your doctor, always listen to their medical advice on when to get it.

Q. Can you boost your immune system against coronavirus?

While boosting your immune system won't hurt your chances, the best way to avoid catching COVID-19 is still social distancing and wearing a mask in public. If you are immunocompromised, talk to your doctor about safe ways to handle daily necessities. Set up an appointment through the Babylon app.

FAQs: Boosting Your Immune System with Diet

Q. Which vitamins boost your immune system?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best vitamins to boost immune system response are Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and Zinc. Vitamin A and Zinc both help support immune system functions, with Vitamin D helps your immune system fight off bacteria and viruses.

Q. Are there supplements to boost immune systems?

Yes, there are certain vitamins and supplements you can take that may help your immune system. For example, there are links between probiotics and immune system health. Probiotics are often referred to as the "good bacteria in your gut." They're important for a healthy body. If the probiotics in your body are out of balance, that may lead to a less effective immune response. While probiotics can help strengthen your body's defense, there's no one-size-fits-all plan. Talk to your doctor about what probiotic supplements are right for you.

Q. What are foods that boost your immune system?

A balanced diet is one of the best building blocks for a healthy immune system. A diet to boost immune system response includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. There are also plenty of drinks to boost immune system health, from tea to milk replacements.

Q. Why does eating healthy food help your immune system?

According to a doctor from the Mayo Clinic, a balanced diet is important as a "good foundation for health and well-being." Healthcare experts recommend a healthy diet for overall body health. A healthy base helps increase your overall health.

Q. Does garlic boost your immune system?

Yes. Garlic has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. This makes it perfect for reducing the severity of colds, the flu, respiratory infections, and more. Chop or crush cloves before adding them to dishes.

Q. Does apple cider vinegar boost your immune system?

Yes and no. There's no strong evidence that ties apple cider vinegar to immune boosting effects. However, apples are high in antioxidants and there may be some link between them.

Q. Is green tea good for your immune system?

Yes. Both green and black teas are strong in antioxidants, though some are destroyed during the fermentation process in black tea. Green tea is steamed, which preserves more of the helpful nutrients. Green tea also provides your body with the amino acid L-theanine, which may help produce some germ-fighting ability in your T cells.

Q. Are there citrus immunity booster foods?

Yes. The Vitamin C in citrus promotes good health in a variety of ways. One of these is helping the immune system. With natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, it can help prevent bacterial and viral infections. It may also help increase the production of white blood cells. You can eat oranges, grapefruit, clementines, tangerines, lemons, limes, kiwi, and papaya for immunity boosting help.

Q. Is honey good for your immune system?

Yes. Raw honey especially has antioxidant properties, which are perfect for strengthening the body's defenses against bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.

Q. Is turmeric good for your immune system?

Yes. Like many immune-boosting foods, this spice offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which can help control infections and limit the symptoms from your body fighting off infectious diseases.

Q. Can you eat spinach for immunity boosting?

Yes. The Vitamin E in spinach and other leafy greens helps your body fight infections.

Q. Is ginger good for your immune system?

Yes. Both powdered ginger and ginger root contain gingerol, an anti-inflammatory that can also assist with some heart diseases.

Q. Can you eat yogurt to boost immune system responses?

Yes. Fermented foods like yogurt are a good source of probiotics, which help maintain the healthy bacteria in your gut and support your immune response. Other high-probiotic foods include miso, kefir, whole grains, olive oil, and pickles.

Q. Are sunflower seeds an immune system booster?

Yes. Like spinach, sunflower seeds are high in infection-fighting Vitamin E.

Q. Does broccoli help your immune system?

Yes. Broccoli offers Vitamins A, C, and E, all of which help support your immune system. It retains the most nutrients eaten raw or steamed.

Q. Are bell peppers an immune system booster?

Yes. Specifically red bell peppers, which are high in Vitamin C. They offer antiviral and antimicrobial benefits.

Q. Are almonds good for your immune system? Is almond milk an immune system booster?

​​​​Yes. Almonds, like many nuts, are high in Vitamin E and pack in infection-fighting antioxidants. These benefits carry over into almond milk.

FAQs: Special Circumstances

Q. How to boost the immune system when pregnant? When sick? In winter?

Getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, and reducing stress are all year-round ways to help your immune system perform at its peak. For recommendations specific to you, set up an appointment with your doctor through the Babylon app.

Q. How to boost your immune system to prevent colds/the flu?

Try eating foods that are high in antivirals, like garlic and red bell peppers. Otherwise, the best way to avoid getting sick is to avoid people who may be ill and to wash your hands frequently.

Q. How to boost kids' immune systems?

Zinc and probiotics are especially good for kids. Probiotics are best for helping prevent respiratory infections, while zinc is an overall immune booster. Introduce high-probiotic foods and zinc into your child's diet or consult their doctor to see if a probiotic booster may be right for them. If possible, it's always better to introduce nutrients through food, rather than supplements.

Additionally, make sure your kids are getting enough sleep. Younger children need up to 14 hours while teens need 8-10 to support their bodies.

Q. How to boost the immune system in adults?

Obesity and smoking are some major factors that can reduce the efficacy of your immune system. Along with reducing stress, try to cut back on other unhealthy behaviors.

Q. How to boost the immune system in seniors?

Diabetes, which affects many older adults and seniors, can decrease the effectiveness of the immune system. Talk to your doctor about managing the effects diabetes can have on your overall health. Seniors also benefit from a balanced diet, plenty of rest, and light weekly exercise.

FAQs: Healthy Habits

Q. Does sleep help your immune system?

Getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep can help make or break your immune system. Quality sleep helps you fight off infection. Setting a consistent sleep schedule and reducing screen time before bed can help you sleep better at night.

Q. Does laughing boost your immune system?

While it may be surprising, laughing does help boost your immune system.

Q. Can you have a weakened immune system due to stress?

While it may be hard to de-stress during a pandemic, the effect of stress on immune system performance makes it worth the effort. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol, especially from chronic stress, lead to a lowered ability to fight off infections.

Q. Does exercise boost the immune system?

The many health benefits of exercise include helping boost your immune system. Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise a day, along with maintaining a healthy body weight. Moderate exercise can include hiking, biking, jogging, swimming, or taking a brisk walk.

Q. Can you take medicine to boost immune system performance?

Especially if you have a condition that makes you immunocompromised, a doctor may prescribe medicine to support your immune system. Make an appointment to discuss with your doctor whether you need to take medication for your immune system.

Q. Is it true that alcohol weakens the immune system?

Yes. Alcohol and smoking can both weaken your immune system and make it harder to fight off infections. If you drink, limit your intake. It is recommended that you quit smoking to help improve your immune response.

References:

  1. If You Are Immunocompromised, Protect Yourself From COVID-19 - CDC
  2. Nutrition: Why It Matters - CDC
  3. Can You Really Boost Your Immune System? - Cedars-Sinai
  4. Mayo Clinic Minute: Nutrients to build a better body - Mayo Clinic
  5. A Mayo Clinic Doctor’s Advice Part 3: Foods that Support Immune Health - Thorne (with content from the Mayo Clinic)
  6. An introduction to probiotics - Mayo Clinic
  7. 15 Foods the Boost the Immune System - Healthline
  8. 9 Ways to Boost Your Body’s Natural Defenses - Healthline
  9. How to Boost Your Immune System - Harvard Health
  10. 3 Vitamins That Are Best For Boosting Your Immunity - Cleveland Clinic
  11. Strengthen Your Immune System With 4 Simple Strategies - Cleveland Clinic
  12. Boost the Immune System - The University of Maryland Medical System
  13. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits - BMC Nutrition Journal
  14. How to Boost Your Kid’s Immunity Heading Into the New School Year - Cleveland Clinic
  15. Diabetes in Older People - National Institute on Aging

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.