Health and disease often go hand in hand. The common cold, the seasonal flu, and all sorts of infections can make our daily life difficult. We lose work and study time as we have to recover, leaving us confined to our bed or couch. So, can we boost our body's defenses to avoid getting sick again?
Unfortunately, we have no remedy that will guarantee us eternal health. What we can do, however, is to adopt a series of health measures and habits to keep our immune system as strong as possible. This is the best way for us to fight off any disease. Are you ready to learn how to stay healthy?
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our Selection: The Best Supplements for Your Immune System
- 4 Everything You Should Know About Boosting Your Immune System
- 5 Buyer's Guide
- 6 Summary
- Our immune system contains cells, signaling molecules, and proteins that are responsible for fighting external attacks from viruses and bacteria.
- Eating correctly, resting enough, and keeping stress at bay will prevent imbalances in your immune function.
- If you plan on using supplements to boost your immunity, you can opt for multivitamins, vitamin C or D, probiotics, or other products such as echinacea.
Our Selection: The Best Supplements for Your Immune System
In the following section, you will discover our very own selection of the most popular products on the market to boost your immune system. Don't forget to contact your doctor immediately if you notice any unwanted symptoms. Once you have discarded any serious health issues, these supplements can help you feel stronger and combat nutritional deficiencies.
Everything You Should Know About Boosting Your Immune System
The immune system protects your body from invasion by pathogens (harmful microorganisms). Poor nutrition, chronic stress, or simply time can weaken your defenses and expose you to diseases. Luckily for us, we can develop a healthy routine to strengthen our immunity.
The Immune System and Our Defenses
In reality, reaching a perfect understanding of our immune system is a feat that only genetics specialists and immunologists are capable of.
A series of complex stimuli regulate our defenses, determining the location, intensity, and duration of the immune response.
That being said, getting to know our immune system a bit better can help us understand the mechanisms that strengthen or weaken it to stay as healthy as possible. In fact, we can divide this system into two primary forms of immunity (1):
- Innate immunity: This primitive system relies on natural barriers (skin, mucus, gastric acids, and sweat, among others) and specific cells (such as macrophages) that destroy microorganisms through stereotyped mechanisms (which do not change depending on the germ).
- Adaptive immunity: Also referred to as acquired immune system, it can recognize and respond to a specific microorganism, creating antibodies that facilitate its destruction. The memory of this type of immunity means that its response will be faster the next time you are infected by the same germ.
|Innate immunity||Adaptive immunity|
(same for all pathogens)
(adapted to each pathogen)
|Speed||Immediate||Delayed (several days)|
|Components|| - Natural barriers
- Inflammation and fever
- Phagocytes (pathogen-eating cells)
- Presenter cells (capture and display of microorganisms)
| - T-lymphocytes (cells that destroy microorganisms and regulate the body's response)
- B-lymphocytes (antibody producers)
- Signal molecules
Perfect coordination between innate and adaptive immunity is essential. Otherwise, we may experience phenomena of immunosuppression (weakness of the defenses) or autoimmunity (defenses attacking the body). Various healthy habits can help you maintain this balance.
The Allies of the Immune System: Rest, Diet, and Exercise
Although they seem to have little to do with your immunity, these factors can actually determine your resistance to diseases and the speed of your recovery. For instance, one study discovered that simply paying more attention to sick children helps them recover faster (5). Incredible, isn't it?
Sport as Prevention
Research has proven that regular and moderate exercise strengthens your immune system over time, in part mitigating the effects of aging. Your defenses also suffer and weaken over time, making you more vulnerable to infection (9, 10).
So, how much sport should you do every day to stay healthy? The World Health Organization (WHO) has precise recommendations regarding this. Adults between the ages of 18 and 65 should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of intense sport).
Children and people over the age of 65 will also benefit greatly from exercising. That being said, these population groups should favor leisure or family activities. You can discover the WHO's different recommendations in the following table (11):
|Age group||Recommended guidelines|
|Children aged 5-17|| Preferably aerobic exercise.
Playful activity or physical education.
Minimum of 60 minutes of daily exercise.
More intense activities at least three times a week.
|Adults aged 18-65|| Recreational activities, commuting (walking or cycling), and work.
At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Alternatively, 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week.
Each session should last a minimum of 10 minutes.
Muscle and bone-strengthening activities two or more times a week.
|Adults over the age of 65|| Recreational activities, commuting (walking or cycling), work (until retirement), and family activities.
At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Alternatively, 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week.
Each session should last at least 10 minutes.
Adults with reduced mobility should perform rehabilitation activities at least three times a week.
Activities to strengthen muscles and bones two or more times a week.
Adults who are particularly old or weak should exercise as much as their health allows.
A Fulfilling Life to Stay Healthy
But we all know that life isn't always easy. Many stressful and painful situations that are beyond our control can affect us. It is natural for us to feel sad, anxious, or even angry when facing tragic events. So, can we strengthen our emotional armor to stay healthy? Yes, and it's all detailed below!
- Love: It isn't poetry, it's genetics. The most recent studies have revealed that regulation of immunity occurs during the process of falling in love. While these data need to be further examined, some experts believe that love and passion have a positive effect on our body's defenses (15).
- Religion: This promising discovery has surprised many a scientist. Older adults who regularly attend the place of worship of their faith seem to produce a greater number of specific immune system mediators. These people demonstrate stronger defenses compared to other individuals (16, 17, 18).
- Meditative practices: If you don't consider yourself to be religious, you can turn to mindfulness practices for a potential boost to your immune system. The ancient practices of yoga and Tai chi chuan have also proved to reduce body inflammation and activate defenses when performed consistently (19, 20, 21).
- Psychological care: If you have suffered a traumatic event, seeking help from a psychology professional may be more helpful than you might think. Besides contributing to balanced mental health, psychological therapy could improve your body's ability to respond to infection by regulating the immune response (22, 23).
The Enemies of Health
- Smoking: We have known for decades that smoking increases the chances of suffering from various types of tumors. In addition, smoking can also negatively influence immunity by altering the activity of cells that protect us from respiratory tract infections. This can make you more vulnerable to diseases (24).
- Alcohol: The abuse of alcohol – drinking large amounts on a regular basis – has been linked to an increased predisposition to viral and bacterial diseases. According to the WHO, some of these diseases are particularly severe (tuberculosis and HIV) (25, 26).
- Other drugs: Heroin and cocaine can also alter the body's response to infection. While these data need to be corroborated by more studies, the probable negative impact of these compounds on your daily life means that you should not use them in any form (27, 28).
Last but not least, we cannot overlook our anxiety and nervousness levels. Experts currently identify the existence of two types of stress. On the one hand, good stress is time-limited (taking an exam or competing in an event) and can have a certain positive influence on our defenses.
On the other hand, bad stress is prolonged over time (being bullied or caring for a sick family member). This can lead to a depletion of our defenses, which may be outpaced by the situation. If you find yourself in this position, we encourage you to seek help to reduce, at least in part, your suffering (2, 23).
In the following section, we will delve into the products available on the market to help you strengthen your defenses. By learning more about their usefulness and possible applications, you can determine which supplements are most suitable for you and boost your immune system more efficiently. Don't pass up on this opportunity!
Multivitamin & Multimineral Supplements
Supplements that combine vitamins and minerals can help individuals who suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Followers of vegan diets (lacking in vitamin B12), people trying to lose weight (low nutrient intake), and the elderly (vulnerable to malnutrition) will benefit most from these products (6, 31, 32, 33, 34).
|Vitamin A|| It prevents deficiencies.
Particularly useful for undernourished groups fighting infectious diseases.
|B-group vitamins||They prevent states of deficiency.|
|Vitamin C||It may shorten the duration and reduce the severity of respiratory tract infections.|
|Vitamin D||It prevents deficiency states, presumably by reducing the frequency of respiratory tract disease.|
|Iron|| This mineral prevents deficiencies, therefore reducing the probability of infection.
Its random intake could worsen underlying conditions.
|Selenium|| It helps avoid deficiency states, improving the immune response to viral infection.
Unrestricted use of this chemical element could worsen asthma symptoms and promote invasion by parasites.
|Zinc|| It may reduce the intensity of the symptoms of the common cold.
In addition, it could shorten recovery time from this viral disease.
Make sure you are not suffering from an infection at the time you start supplementing; iron-rich products could aggravate its symptoms. As you may know, it is essential to consult your doctor if you are taking any medications that could interact with these supplements.
Virtually all multivitamin supplements contain ascorbic acid, often referred to as vitamin C. In fact, this nutrient is so popular that many people take it individually. Paradoxically, its most common use – cold prevention – may not be the most adequate.
Most experts now believe that vitamin C doesn't prevent us from getting sick. What it can do, however, is reduce the intensity of symptoms and the duration of the cold (33). Before you start taking this supplement, make sure you do not have a more severe condition that requires medical attention (such as pneumonia).
The microbiota in our body is absolutely vital for our well-being. These friendly bacteria prevent us from being colonized by harmful microorganisms, which is why maintaining a healthy flora should be a top priority. Stress, poor diet, and the use of antibiotics can destroy this delicate balance (36, 37).
While you can find hundreds of probiotic preparations out there, experts generally taking supplements containing Lactobacillus species for a positive impact on our health. Immunosuppressed individuals should never use them without medical supervision.
Your immune system protects you from attacks by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other parasites. Developing a series of healthy habits is the best way to keep your defenses in optimal condition. In addition, eating properly, exercising, avoiding drugs, and maintaining a positive attitude will help you stay healthy for longer.
Supplements developed to boost the immune system can help you address nutritional deficiencies or alleviate the symptoms of milder illnesses, as long as you have ruled out severe infections.
We hope that our article has helped you better understand how you can strengthen your immune system. If that's the case, feel free to leave us a comment and share it on your social media!
(Source of featured image: Monticello: 32014496/ 123rf.com)
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