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8 Tips to a Bulletproof Immune System

8 Tips to a Bulletproof Immune System

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Lisa Batten

PhD Psychology, Nootropics Specialist

Table of contents

8 Tips to a Bulletproof Immune System

Table of contents

Everyone knows their immune system is important, but is there a way to make it stronger?

We can’t see our immune systems, but those tiny little cells stay hard at work every day to keep us alive. There’s nothing quite like a pandemic to bring attention to how well our immune systems are functioning.

Building a healthy immune system can help you fight off harmful pathogens and boost your recovery if you get sick. We often leave immune functioning out of our wellness plans, but it’s time for that to change.

Boosting your immune system may be easier said than done. To help you out, we’ve found these eight scientifically-backed tips that you can implement into your daily routine to strengthen your body’s defenses.

Woman at the gym
  1. Exercise: While prolonged intense exercise might compromise your immunity, moderate exercise boosts it. Exercise reduces inflammation, improves lymphatic flow, and helps regenerate immune cells [1]. Any exercise helps, but you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week for immune-boosting benefits. Try walking, jogging, biking, or any activity you enjoy.
  2. Sleep: Sleep is vital for healthy immune functioning. While you slumber, your brain and body stay busy doing maintenance and repairs on all of your cells. Sleep deprivation is associated with a weakened immune system [2]. According to the National Sleep Foundation [3], most adults need about 7.1 hours of sleep a night for good health. Boost your sleep quality by avoiding digital devices an hour before bed as blue light has been shown to suppress melatonin [4] two times longer than other types of light.
    Check out the Ultiself Definitive Guide to Sleep for more tips on how to get better quality shut-eye.
     
    Sleeping man
  3. Eat Well: Gut health is a major key to good immune functioning. We can boost the good bacteria in our guts in a few different ways.
    • Probiotics: Studies have shown that consuming prebiotics and probiotics may help boost immune functioning [5]. Other work has found that probiotics may also help reduce the incidence, severity, and duration of respiratory infections [6].
    • Eat more fermented food: Fermented foods like kimchi and kefir provide your digestive tract with health-boosting beneficial bacteria [7] that improve immunity. 
    • Eat more whole plants: Whole plants not only boost your good gut bacteria, but they also provide a plethora of inflammation-reducing antioxidants [8]. A healthy gut can prevent pathogens [9] from entering your digestive tract. 
    • Reduce sugar: Sugar contributes to health problems like obesity, which is related to poorer immune functioning [10]. Aim to have added sugars make up less than 5% of your daily calorie intake. Scaling back on the sweet stuff will help combat inflammation, improve your body composition, and boost your immune system. 
    • Healthy fats: Regularly consuming healthy fats like fish oil and olive oil can reduce inflammation [11], helping bolster your immune system. Omega-3s, chia, and avocados are excellent sources of good health-promoting fats.
       
      Salad
  4. Reduce Your Stress: Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but too much of it can be toxic. Elevated stress hormones are associated with a suppressed immune system [12], which makes people more vulnerable to illness. You can implement daily habits to reduce your stress and boost your body’s defense system. Daily habits such as meditation, journaling, and positive affirmations have all been shown to induce relaxation and lower stress hormones.
  5. Drink in Moderation: When we consume alcohol, its first point of contact is the gut. Alcohol disrupts cells in the stomach and the gut barrier, which facilitates the leaking of microbes into circulation [13]. This disrupts good bacteria and triggers an inflammation response in the body. Heavy drinking can delay healing and disrupts immune cells [14]. Play it safe by drinking in moderation and limit your alcohol to three hours before bedtime, so it doesn’t disrupt sleep.
     
    Hand washing
  6. Hygiene: Wash your hands with antibacterial soap, use hand sanitizers, stop touching your face, cough into your elbow, and regularly disinfect your phone to reduce your exposure to pathogens. 
  7. Don’t smoke: Reading that smoking isn’t good for you is not groundbreaking. However, it is particularly bad for your immune system. Tobacco smoke increases inflammation and has an immunosuppressive effect [15], making it harder to fight off pathogens. 
  8. Supplements: If you’ve got everything else in check, supplements are an excellent way to give your immune system that extra edge. Vitamin c is not the only supplement for battling sickness. Here are other supplements that can boost your immunity:
    • Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps to modulate your immune response [16]. In addition to its benefits to your immune system, vitamin D is an excellent supplement for overall health, especially if you don’t get much sunlight.
       
      Sunlight
    • Protein: Protein deficiency impairs immunity [17] and makes you more susceptible to infectious disease. Aim for at least 60 grams of protein a day from whole protein sources like quinoa, fish, or poultry. 
    • Zinc: Zinc is one of the most popular recommendations for boosting immunity. It has been shown to shorten the duration [18] of the common cold, and it comes in candy form. Win-win. 
    • N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC): NAC is a stable form of the amino acid cysteine. It is used medically to treat acetaminophen overdose and to loosen thick mucus in the lungs of patients with chronic lung disease. It’s extremely safe, has a load of health benefits, and has proven antiviral action such as being shown to inhibit virus replication in the flu [19].
    • Nicotinamide Riboside: Nicotinamide riboside is a NAD+ precursor. What is NAD+? It’s a coenzyme essential for optimal health, and low levels of it are associated with poor aging and a variety of diseases [20]. NAD+ also stimulates sirtuins. Sirtuins repair damaged DNA, boost stress resistance, and promote healthy aging. Take this supplement if you want to foster your youth AND your immunity.
       
      Tea
    • Elderberry Fruit: This popular flavonoid from traditional medicine has been shown to boost immunity [21]. It can be taken as a preventative measure if you’ll be in a risky environment or just as a daily supplement.

When choosing supplements pick from reputable sources that have been independently tested by third-party organizations like United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, and ConsumerLab. Talk to your doctor about any interactions or risks before beginning a supplement regimen.

Conclusion

Developing habits that boost your immune system will also improve your overall health.

Making changes to your routine can be tricky. Start small and go easy on yourself. It’s all about progress, not perfection.

References

  
  1. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26477922/ 
  2. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26118561/ 
  3. The National Sleep Foundation's Sleep Health Index. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S235272181730102X?via%3Dihub#t0015 
  4. Will blue light from electronic devices increase my risk of macular degeneration and blindness? https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/will-blue-light-from-electronic-devices-increase-my-risk-of-macular-degeneration-and-blindness-2019040816365 
  5. Effect of Probiotics and Prebiotics on Immune Response to Influenza Vaccination in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29077061/ 
  6. Gut Microbiota-targeted Interventions for Reducing the Incidence, Duration, and Severity of Respiratory Tract Infections in Healthy Non-elderly Adults. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33137200/ 
  7. The history of probiotics: the untold story. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25576593/ 
  8. Functional Foods for Health: The Interrelated Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Spices and Cocoa in Humans. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27881064/ 
  9. Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28165863/ 
  10. Increased risk of influenza among vaccinated adults who are obese. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28584297/ 
  11. Nutrigenomics of extra-virgin olive oil: A review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27580701/
  12. The effect of stress on the defense systems. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20302192/
  13. Alcohol and the Immune System. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/ 
  14. Alcohol reversibly disrupts TNF-α/TACE interactions in the cell membrane. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1291403/ 
  15. [The effect of tobacco smoking on the human immune system]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10910674/ 
  16. Vitamin D and the Immune System. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/ 
  17. Amino acids and immune function. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17403271/ 
  18. Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28515951/ 
  19. N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) inhibits virus replication and expression of pro-inflammatory molecules in A549 cells infected with highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza A virus. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19732754/ 
  20. NAD + biosynthesis, aging, and disease. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29744033/ 
  21. Sambucus nigra extracts inhibit infectious bronchitis virus at an early point during replication. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3899428/

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 Mood  Stress  Health  AntiAging  Sleep  Immunity  Productivity  Sharpness
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