Facts and Myths on How to Build Your Immune System
When there’s an abundance of information floating around, it’s often hard to decipher what’s fact and what’s a myth — especially when it comes to the immune system.
If you’re curious about how to build your immune system, but if you need a little help differentiating the immune system facts from the immune system myths, read on. From exercise and stress to food and germs, we’ll cover the most widely discussed aspects of immunity, including drinkable probiotics and capsule supplements, and help you understand how to boost your immune system and stay healthy.
Moderate exercise is a natural way to lower your stress and help with immune system function. If you’re feeling tired or fighting colds often, taking a walk or doing some simple physical activity can help you feel better. Take a 20-minute brisk stroll around the neighborhood or toss on a yoga video in your living room. Bike with your kids or go for an early morning swim in your pool. Regular exercise helps you feel happy and healthy.
Exercise is indeed good for you, but doing too much can cause harm. If you already are an avid exerciser, there’s no need to start marathon running or doing intense cardio at the gym to help build immune system strength. Similarly, if you don’t currently exercise, overtraining1 can actually weaken your immune system.
Probiotics2 help support your microbiome and the good bacteria that live in your body — which help to fight off the viruses and harmful bacteria. Probiotics live in fermented foods and promote healthy gut bacteria, which can also improve your mental health and aid in digestion issues. Certain probiotics3 have been shown to promote the production of natural antibodies and boost immune cells like the IgA-producing cells, T lymphocytes, and natural killer cells. Regardless of the benefits, you do have to be mindful of your intake because you can take too many supplements.
When it comes to probiotics, it’s important to note that not all yogurt4 contains probiotics. Some yogurts will be labeled and offer billions of good bacteria in a serving — yet this isn’t the case with all of them. When you go yogurt shopping, make sure to read your labels so you can know exactly what you’re purchasing.
No matter which way you look at it, chronic stress5 is never a healthy thing — especially when it comes to how to build your immune system. The stress hormone known as cortisol can disrupt how effective your immune system is. It does this by altering the way your white blood cells, or defense cells, react to infection. A good strategy to keep your strength and inner peace is to come up with effective ways to manage your stress. These stress reduction tools vary from person to person, so we suggest doing some digging to see what works best for you. Meditation and mindfulness have repeatedly been shown to reduce stress, as has mellow exercise like walking or yoga. You can also write in a journal or draw a bubble bath. If it’s work that’s getting you stressed out, make a to-do list or talk to your boss about taking on less work, if possible. If it’s relationship stress, speak with your family members and friends about how you feel. All of these things will help keep you less stressed and leave you feeling happier and healthier.
When we discuss stress6, it’s important to acknowledge that minor stress is a part of everyday life. Minimal amounts of stress are not going to make you get ill or make you succumb to viruses and disease. Chronic stress is what we want to be careful of. Chronic stress can also lead to things like depression or substance abuse, both of which can be seen as a link to a decrease in immune system strength. With stress, a good rule of thumb is to remember that it’s okay to have it — you just want to be aware of how much you have.
A healthy, balanced diet7 with plenty of fruits and vegetables is one of the best natural ways to boost your immune system. Wholesome foods ensure you’re getting enough essential nutrients, too, like zinc and vitamin D. Go for leafy greens and berries and avoid sugars and trans fats. To support your immunity, you want your diet to be an adequate mix of proteins, fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Enjoy almonds for vitamin E, bell peppers for vitamin C, and broccoli and citrus fruits for antioxidants. You can even treat your body to a delicious immune boosting smoothie on a weekly or daily basis. Don’t forget the garlic8 — which research shows can reduce the risk of becoming sick and staying ill. Sweet potatoes9 are another good one to add to the grocery list, as they’re filled with beta-carotene and vitamin-A to give your immune system a boost. Also, on the side of the spectrum, research shows that alcohol10 can weaken your body’s immune response to the flu and sickness. If you don’t want to cut it out entirely, it’s important to practice moderation when you drink.
With so many good facts surrounding what food can do for the immune system, there’s sure to be some myths, too. The myth that fresh fruits and vegetables are better than canned or frozen fruit at strengthening the immune system isn’t quite true. Although some may think fresh produce tastes better, canned and frozen produce is typically collected at the peak of ripeness to lock in its nutrients. And the easy thing about frozen or canned veggies and fruit is that it’s convenient and available. It’s better to keep some on hand to maintain a healthy diet, rather than risk running out of the fresh stuff and foregoing it altogether. It’s also important to note that though herbal supplements11 like echinacea and elderberry can offer immune support, they can work differently for some people — like those with autoimmune diseases — and should not be seen as a cure-all.
Hand hygiene is one of the most important things we can do to keep our immune system strong and to ward off cases of flu and colds. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water and regularly using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will keep your strength up and will help those around you stay healthy, too.
There’s a common idea floating around that says illness can be kept away, and our immune system can stay strong if we all cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze. This is a nice idea, but it requires everyone in your household and your work environment to do the same. All it takes is one hand with germs touching a doorknob to get others infected. Instead, cover your mouth12 with a tissue then put it in a wastebasket. If you don’t have one available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve (not your hand).
Vitamins and Minerals
Eating foods rich in vitamin C and taking supplements can certainly be beneficial to your body. Stick to your regular dose of vitamins and minerals, but don’t increase your dosage. Research shows13 that the best thing you can do is implement healthy habits from the start, rather than taking massive amounts of supplements during the common cold and flu season.
A lot of people think that because vitamins and minerals are good for you that there is no such thing as taking too many of them. In reality, if your vitamin and mineral intake is too high there is a chance you might damage some of your vital organs. Excess vitamin A can negatively affect your liver. Pregnant women who overuse vitamin A may can increase the chances of birth defects in their babies. Excess vitamin B6 can cause damage to nerves; and too much vitamin C can damage body cells.
Sleep14 improves our body’s ability to respond to bacteria and viruses. When we get quality sleep, we’re giving our bodies a chance to reset. This promotes everything from tissue growth and repair to muscle relaxation. To get better sleep, create a nightly routine that helps you unwind. For some people, this means taking a warm shower, making a mug of tea, and climbing into bed with cozy pajamas. It’s important to find out what works for you so that you can combat the negative side effects of sleep deprivation like irritability and forgetfulness.
When it comes to sleep, don’t fall into the idea that more is always better. The average adult needs 8 hours per night, and in fact, sleeping too much15 can have a negative effect on your health.
From getting adequate sleep to learning how to manage your stress, there are plenty of ways to build a strong immune system and stay healthy. Thankfully, once you know the facts from the myths, you can take your health into your own hands and feel good from the inside out.
Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have about our probiotic products or how to increase immune function and support a healthy lifestyle.
- 1 ”4 Myths About How To Boost Your Immune System Naturally and What You Should Try Instead.” GoodRx, https://www.goodrx.com/blog/boosting-immune-system-naturally-myths/.
- 2 “Facts (And Myths) About Boosting Your Immune System.” The Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facts-and-myths-about-boosting-your-immune-system-11584050588.
- 3 “8 Health Benefits of Probiotics.” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-of-probiotics#section7.
- 4 “Don’t Be Fooled: 5 Probiotics Myths.” LiveScience, https://www.livescience.com/56611-probiotics-myths.html.
- 5 ”4 Myths About How To Boost Your Immune System Naturally and What You Should Try Instead.” GoodRx, https://www.goodrx.com/blog/boosting-immune-system-naturally-myths/.
- 6 ”4 Myths About How To Boost Your Immune System Naturally and What You Should Try Instead.” GoodRx, https://www.goodrx.com/blog/boosting-immune-system-naturally-myths/.
- 7 “Facts (And Myths) About Boosting Your Immune System.” The Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facts-and-myths-about-boosting-your-immune-system-11584050588.
- 8 “8 Foods That Can Support Your Immunity.” U.S. News, https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/slideshows/foods-that-can-support-your-immunity?slide=7.
- 9 “Foods That Boost Your Immune System.” The Active Times, https://www.theactivetimes.com/healthy-living/15-foods-boost-your-immune-system.
- 10 “9 Myths About Immune-Boosting Foods That Health Experts Want You To Stop Believing.” Real Simple, https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/healthy-meals/immune-system-myths.
- 11 “9 Myths About Immune-Boosting Foods That Health Experts Want You To Stop Believing.” Real Simple, https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/healthy-meals/immune-system-myths.
- 12 “Water, Sanitation & Environmentally-Related Hygiene.” Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/etiquette/coughing_sneezing.html.
- 13”The Top 3 Myths About Immunity That Doctors Want You To Stop Believing ASAP.” Well Good,https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/immune-system-facts/.
- 14”4 Myths About How To Boost Your Immune System Naturally and What You Should Try Instead.” GoodRx, https://www.goodrx.com/blog/boosting-immune-system-naturally-myths/.
- 15 “Myths and Facts About Boosting Your Immune System.” Rudrani Banik, M.D., https://rudranibanikmd.com/autoimmune/myths-facts-boosting-immune-system-2.