The idea of “boosting” your immune system is attractive, especially given the spread of COVID-19, but that’s not the right way to think about it. Our immune system is complex and it is a system with many parts working together. It can be bad to boost one part of the system and having an overactive immune system can be as bad or worse than a weak one. Instead, of wanting to “boost” our immune system, the goal should be to do those things that support the functioning of a healthy and balanced immune system.
Top Things to do to Support a Healthy Immune System:
1. Don’t smoke
2. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. This is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
3. Get enough sleep
4. Exercise regularly
5. Maintain a healthy weight
6. Drink alcohol only in moderation or not at all
7. Take steps to reduce stress, such as practicing meditation or the relaxing breath
8. Believe it or not, this study found that “sexual healing” is a thing.
Immune function reduces as we age so taking the above steps is key as we get older.
Here are some things that don’t work:
1. Taking a lot of vitamins and supplements is not recommended. While having enough of the right vitamin and minerals is essential to a healthy immune system, taking megadoses of vitamins doesn’t help. According to the Cleveland Clinic, key vitamins for immune support are C, B6, and E but they note that the best way to get nutrients is through diet rather than through vitamins or supplements. In fact, it’s important to be careful with vitamins and supplements. Taking more than the recommended dose of some vitamins, such as vitamins E, D, A, and K causes more harm than good.
With respect to vitamin C, there is no evidence that taking more than the recommended dose is worthwhile and according to Harvard Medical School, “at doses above 400 mg, vitamin C is excreted in the urine. A daily dose of 2,000 mg or more can cause nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and it may interfere with tests for blood sugar.”
2. Don’t waste money on potions and herbs that claim to boost immune function. According to Harvard Medical School, there is no evidence that herbs or other ingredients that claim to boost immunity or support immune function do anything worthwhile and some may actually be harmful. Case in point is the well-known supplement “Airborne” which paid a huge fine to the Federal Trade Commission for making unproven claims about its immune support capabilities. As with taking all sorts of vitamins and minerals, herbs and supplements claiming to help immunity just result in the production of expensive urine.
3. Staying out of the cold isn’t necessary. It’s a myth that getting cold causes us to get sick. The reason people get sick more often when it’s cold is that we spend more time indoors where its easier to spread germs.
Sources for this IFOD: Harvard and Harvard and Health Magazine