The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined an important truth: Today, vital health information can travel faster than ever before … but so can misinformation.
That’s why, for the final installment in our three-part series on immune health, we’re looking under the hood of some common misunderstandings about immune health. After all, fueling yourself with the right information is one of the best forms of prevention.
DO exercise lots
Exercise can do wonders for your immune system. When you exercise, you boost the production of macrophages, important cells that attack viruses and bacteria that can trigger respiratory tract infections.
“But wait,” you might say. “Doesn’t exercising too much hurt the immune system?” A popular assumption for decades held that exercising vigorously could temporarily suppress immune function. This long-held theory has
since been debunked by experts in exercise physiology and immunobiology at the University of Bath in the UK.
The important thing to remember is that your body needs time for recovery between workouts to get the maximum benefit.
Supplemental support for workouts
These aids can help you work harder and recover faster. (For more in-depth info on sports nutrition, check out this article)
Great for any exercise regimen, protein powders come from sources like whey, pea, rice, hemp, and soy.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
Often used by athletes post-workout, BCAAs provide energy for muscles and assist with protein metabolism.
Creatine is one of the most well-researched and popular strength- and power-boosting supplements.
Among their many health benefits, these healthy fats can assist in post-workout recovery—they’re found in fish oil supplements or plant-based alternatives like flax oil or algae extracts.
DO get enough sleep
You probably know that if you don’t get enough sleep, you increase your chances of getting sick. And that if you get sick, lack of sleep affects how long it takes to recover. But what exactly is happening to your immune system when you’re sleep deprived?
Your body engages in a wide variety of little-understood and complex processes while you sleep. A group of scientists in Germany recently published a comprehensive review in the Journal of Experimental Medicine describing exactly how sleep can fight infection through positively impacting how T cells (specialized immune cells) target virus-infected cells.
Supplemental support for better sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, natural aids may help.
The flavonoid apigenin in chamomile (often consumed as a tea) is said to interact with benzodiazepine receptors in the brain that are involved with the sleep-wake transition.
Glycine is an amino acid that plays a role in the nervous system. Glycine supplementation has shown promise in improving sleep while also promoting less fatigue during the day.
With a reputation as the anti-stress mineral, magnesium can help sleeplessness by calming nervousness, irritability, and an inability to relax.
DO take probiotics
A diverse set of gut flora teaches the immune system to differentiate between friend and foe. Having the right set of gut microbes boosts the activity of immune cells in the gut.
Probiotics (“good” bacteria that you can consume) can help restore or maintain the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut. Probiotics occur naturally in cultured foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt and in certain fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha. Taking probiotics in either food or supplement form has been shown to reduce cold frequency by as much as 55 percent, likely due to probiotics’ influence on gut-based immune cells.
Supplemental support for your gut and immune system
Probiotic supplements have shown promise in studies for their role in supporting immune health. Some of the most studied probiotic species include
- Lactobacillus paracasei
- L. casei
- L. fermentium
- L. rhamnosus GG
- L. plantarum
- L. reuteri
DON’T drink more alcohol
Evidence indicates that alcohol consumption may have increased during the social isolation invoked during the COVID-19 pandemic. But increasing alcohol intake is a serious faux pas when it comes to immune health.
There’s evidence from both human and animal research that overconsumption of alcohol decreases immune reactivity, reducing the body’s ability to fight infection. The best advice for safe alcohol consumption is to limit yourself. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
Supplemental support for when you’ve indulged
If you enjoy a tipple from time to time, you might want to consider some supportive supplements to help bolster your immune system.
Studies have shown that even moderate alcohol consumption may decrease the amount of vitamin B12 in your system.
We’ve already established how good probiotics are for immune health. But it’s worth noting that because studies have linked alcohol with intestinal inflammation, probiotics may play an important role in maintaining gut health if you enjoy moderate sipping.
DON’T stress too much
Stress can induce the immune system’s acute phase response (“fight or flight”) and increase levels of circulating cytokines to help fight off infection.
This means that short-term stress may boost immune function. In a study of children starting primary school, those with higher levels of the stress-associated hormone cortisol had fewer colds. In another study, knee surgery patients who were anxious before surgery had elevated circulating immune cells in their bloodstream and actually recovered better post-surgery.
But your immune system can be seriously compromised by long-term stress. When stress is chronic, continuous higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines dysregulate the immune system. Serious harm to mental and physical well-being can result, from anxiety and mood disorders to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Supplemental support for chronic stress
Tackling chronic stress typically involves re-examining commitments and priorities, as well as sleep, diet, exercise, and self-care habits. Certain supplements, depending on your specific needs, can also be helpful.
Found in green tea or green tea extracts, L-theanine and epigallocatechin (ECGC) have been shown in studies to have positive effects on anxiety reduction, as well as on mood and cognition.
Used for thousands of years, lemon balm is a herb that has shown effectiveness at improving mood, reducing symptoms of anxiety, and increasing calmness and alertness.
In a recent meta-analysis, researchers found vitamin D supplementation had positive effects on stress, depression, and sleep, as well as other health biomarkers, in those with psychiatric disorders.
Immune System Helpers
Your local natural health store has a wide variety of immune system helpers—and knowledgeable staff—to keep you in fighting shape.
- chaga mushroom
- Mānuka honey
- oil of oregano
- reishi mushroom
- vitamin-B complex
- vitamins C, D and E
Explore deliciousliving.com to learn how each of these supplements supports immunity.
Top 5 ways to prevent the spread of covid 19
It’s pretty simple—these are the CDC’s top five recommendations.
- Washing hands—properly and frequently
- Avoiding close contact with others
- Wearing a cloth face mask when around others
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
Good-quality sleep can contribute to many other aspects of physical and mental well-being. Sleep deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart and kidney diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and stroke, as well as stress and mental health issues.