Can I Boost My Immune System?
The immune system is a complex network of cells, organs and tissues that work in tandem to protect the body from infection. While genetics play a role, we know from studies of twins that the strength of our immune system is largely determined by no heritable factors. The germs we are exposed to over a lifetime, as well as lifestyle factors like stress, sleep, diet and exercise all play a role in the strength of our immune response.
The bottom line is that there is no magic pill or a specific food guaranteed to bolster your immune system and protect you from the viruses. But there are real ways you can take care of yourself and give your immune system the best chance to do its job against a respiratory illness.
Lower your stress. Your body does a better job fighting off illness and healing wounds when it’s not under stress. Learning techniques for managing stress, like meditation, controlled breathing or talking to a therapist are all ways to help your immune system stay strong.
Improve your sleep habits. A healthy immune system can fight off infection. A sleep-deprived immune system doesn’t work as well.
Focusing on better sleep habits is a good way to strengthen your immune system. The sweet spot for sleep is six to seven hours a night. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule. Avoid screens, night-eating and exercise right before bedtime.
Check your vitamin D level: While more study is needed on the link between vitamin D and immune health, some promising research suggests that checking your vitamin D level — and taking a vitamin D supplement — could help your body fight off respiratory illness.
If you are concerned about immune health, you may consider having your vitamin D level checked and talking to your doctor about whether to take a supplement.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Numerous studies have found a link between excessive alcohol consumption and immune function. Research shows people who drink in excess are more susceptible to respiratory illness and pneumonia and recover from infection and wounds more slowly. Alcohol alters the number of microbes in the gut microbiome, a community of microorganisms that affect the immune system. Excessive alcohol can damage the lungs, and impair the mucosal immune system, which is essential in helping the body recognize pathogens and fight infection. And it’s not just chronic drinking that does damage. Binge drinking can also impair the immune system.
Eat a balanced diet, exercise and skip unproven supplements. A healthful diet and exercise are important to maintaining a strong immune system. However, no single food or natural remedy has been proven to bolster a person’s immune system or ward off disease.
Other common foods touted for their immune-boosting properties are ginger, citrus fruits, turmeric, oregano oil and bone broth. A number of small studies have suggested garlic may enhance immune system function.
Zinc supplements and lozenges are also a popular remedy for fighting off colds and respiratory illness. Some studies have found that zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of cold by about a day and, may reduce the number of upper respiratory infections in children.
Super important fact: Your subconscious is responsible for regulating all your bodily functions, including your lungs, heart, brain, digestion, nervous system, immune response. That’s how your organs function without active thought.
So can hypnosis boost my immune system?
Studies show it has real power: Practicing hypnosis regularly can help you sleep better, control cravings for bad-for-you foods, and reduce stress. Being able to calm your nervous system can prevent stress from raising levels of hormones that cause inflammation. This inflammation can, in turn, set off a chain of events in the body that can make you more susceptible to catching viruses.
Perhaps most interestingly, guided imagery and relaxation techniques like hypnosis may help fortify your immune system: According to a 2016 study analysis in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, meditation alone has the power to reduce the number of certain molecules (called cytokines) that create inflammation, boost healthy T-cell counts among sick patients, and improve activity of telomerase (protective DNA and proteins that help healthy cells multiply).