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Tips for boosting your immune system

By The Health News Team | December 10, 2020
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As winter approaches, it is essential to adopt the necessary measures to keep our immune systems strong and healthy. This year, more than ever, we can’t let our guard down.

The first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Simply put, your immune system functions better when it’s protected from environmental assaults and reinforced by healthy-living tactics.

“Sleep, exercise and eating a healthy diet are more important now than ever before,” says Dr. Abisola Olulade, family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful time for many of us, and chronic stress can lead to inflammation and immune system overactivation. It’s important to pay attention to stress levels.”

Self-care can help reduce stress, inflammation
In addition to the usual immunity-boosting recommendations — eat a healthy diet, exercise, get plenty of sleep, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol consumption and refrain from smoking — Dr. Olulade offers some other helpful suggestions.

“Connecting with friends, listening to music and spending time in nature can help with decreasing stress levels,” she says. “These activities are always an excellent idea.”

Dr. Olulade notes that practices such as yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce anxiety, which in turn may lead to decreased inflammation. “However, more research is needed into their direct immune system effects,” she says. “Nevertheless, I still encourage trying these practices to help with stress reduction.”

No ‘magic pill’ for immune system
Conversely, many people believe supplements are the magic elixir. Not so fast, she cautions.

“The important thing to remember is that there is no ‘magic pill’ for boosting the immune system,” says Dr. Olulade. “Most people do not need to take a supplement if they are consuming a healthy, balanced diet. Vitamins can help ward off diseases, but only typically in people who are not well-nourished. In some cases, too many or high doses of supplements can lead to an overdose or toxicity. For these reasons, it is important to consult with a health care professional before using any dietary supplement.”

One of the best paths to boost your immunity, urges Dr. Olulade, is to be current with your vaccinations.

Getting a flu shot and other recommended vaccines are some of the most important ways to boost your immune system function,” she says. “Reducing your risk of exposure to COVID-19 and flu by practicing the 3 W’s — washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and watching your distance — is also vital to preventing infection.”

Which raises the question: Does having the flu or COVID-19 impact our immunity and, ultimately, our ability to fight off other illnesses?

“Having an illness like the flu or COVID-19 can temporarily impair immune function as the body is already using its resources to fight off an invader,” says Dr. Olulade. “Immune system function typically improves in most non-chronically immunocompromised people as the body recovers from the illness.”

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