It’s safe to say that since March 2020, having a strong immune system has become a top priority. The immune system is vital to our health and longevity. As with all of our physiology, the immune system comes with incredibly complex factors that fight everyday to keep our bodies healthy.
But what are the real, science-backed ways you can boost your immunity? There are new statements made every day regarding a “magic pill” or supplement claiming to “boost immune health”. Unfortunately, research has shown that it’s not that simple. The best way to promote a strong immune system is to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. This means maintaining a sleep schedule, trying your best to reduce stress, and having a balanced diet.
A good night’s rest is especially important in strengthening your immune system. As your body rests, sleep-related hormones help you repair and strengthen your immune system overnight. Research has shown that adults who get adequate sleep have lower infection rates, better responses to vaccinations, in addition to quicker recovery time from illness.1 One study found that lack of sleep directly affects your immunity maintenance and response, leaving you more susceptible to disease.2 In other words, without a good night’s rest your body is more likely to allow infections to take over. The bottom line is: it’s important to get at least the recommended seven hours or more of sleep that the CDC suggests in order to maintain a strong immune system.
Psychoneuroimmunology is a fancy word for the field of science which studies how stress impacts our biological systems. Practices like yoga and meditation have already been shown to improve self-reported feelings of overall wellness. Preliminary research has shown that mindfulness meditation may actually help to reduce unwanted inflammatory responses of the immune system. One study showed that after practicing mindfulness meditation, individuals experienced a reduction in inflammatory markers.3 Further research is necessary to make deeper conclusions, but the important takeaway is: do something that makes you feel good. For some this may be a long walk, reading a book, or cooking their favorite meal. Whatever it may be, reducing stress is important to maintaining a strong immune system.
In today’s busy culture, eating “fast” is a top priority. A heavily processed diet along with a sedentary lifestyle causes inflammation, which contributes to heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and more.4 To overcome this, it is important to have a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of brightly colored fruits, vegetables, as well as unprocessed sources of fats and proteins. It may be helpful to set goals for yourself such as eating two different fruits and vegetables everyday in order to support a balanced diet and robust immune system.
- “The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease.” Physiological Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30920354/.
- “Sleep and Immunity in Times of COVID-19.” Revista Da Associacao Medica Brasileira (1992), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 21 Sept. 2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32965373/.
- “Mindfulness Meditation and the Immune System: a Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26799456/.
- “Western Diet and the Immune System: An Inflammatory Connection.” Immunity, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Nov. 2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31747581/.