Boosting Your Immune System: Fact vs. Fiction

Boosting Your Immune System: Fact vs. Fiction
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With Covid-19 cases rising worldwide, attention has turned to how we can stay as healthy as possible in the midst of a pandemic

The All-Important Immune System

The immune system is our body’s built-in defense against disease and illness

  • How Does Your Immune System Function?
    • A network of cells and organs that band together to defend your body against antigens 一anything with the ability to cause sickness一 including
      • Bacteria
      • Viruses
      • Parasites
      • Fungi
    • When functioning properly, this defense system can help recognize and help keep antigens at bay
  • The Novel Dangers of Covid-19
    • Coronavirus is classified as a novel virus
      • Meaning nobody has been exposed to it prior to the epidemic
    • Because we have not been exposed, nobody is immune, regardless of health
    • BUT the CDC has warned that while anyone could contract the virus, persons with lowered immune systems are most at risk of life-threatening complications
  • What If You Are Exposed?
    • Antigens are everywhere – in public places, our homes, and outdoors
    • A healthy system creates a barrier that stops antigens from entering our body
      • BUT if something gets through the barrier, our body produces white blood cells to attack the invaders
    • The white blood cells try to destroy the antigen before it can reproduce

However, for many people, their immune system has been damaged or is not functioning properly 一 making it difficult to fight off illness

  • What It Means to be Immuno-Compromised
    • Symptoms of less-than-functioning immune system
      • Recurrent infections
      • Slow healing wounds
      • Fever
      • Chronic fatigue
      • Digestive issues
  • Who Is Compromised?
    • Over 23 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disorders
    • Not only that, but anyone suffering from common diseases and taking several medicines are at risk, including
      • Cancer
      • Diabetes
      • AIDS
      • Certain drugs including anticancer medication
      • Radiation therapy
      • Organ or stem cell transplant

With much of the world under lockdown, is there any way to keep your immune system healthy from home?

Fiction vs Fact

  • Stay Up to Date on Vaccinations
    • Immunizations help prevent disease rather than to treat it once you have it
    • Vaccines work by introducing tiny amounts of antigens to your immune system so it can learn to fight the invading cells
  • There is No Vaccine Currently Available for Covid-19 
    • BUT it is still important to stay up to date on other immunizations
      • Why? The CDC estimates the flu causes up to 800,000 hospitalizations per year
      • The flu shot and other vaccines do not protect against Covid-19 ㅡ but they do help prevent an added burden on already overwhelmed hospitals 
  • Exercise Can Be Good
    • Low to moderate exercise can help lower cortisol, the stress hormone
    • Try 30-60 minutes of daily exercise a day ㅡ but stay in your home or outdoors, avoiding gyms or public spaces
  • BUT Don’t Overdo It
    • “Exercise helps boost the immune system, but we have to be careful not to overexercise because it can weaken your immune system” – Elizabeth Bradley, medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine
    • In fact, a 2020 study found high-performance athletes were at an increased risk of infection
  • Diet Is Important
    • Nutrient-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, and berries are recommended
    • Try probiotics: “[They] help to support the good bacteria that live in your body, which help to fight bad bacteria or viruses” – Dr. Morgan Katz, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University

Consult your doctor before use ㅡ It is possible to have too much good bacteria

  • BUT Not All Foods Are Equal 
    • Avoid foods with high amounts of sugar and trans fat
    • Too much sugar can suppress the effectiveness of cells in your immune system
  • Take Your Vitamins
    • Important vitamins which support immune function include
      • Vitamins A, C, D, and E

Vitamin D is especially important if we remain indoors, and out of the sun, more than usual

  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • BUT Don’t Rely on Vitamin C
    • Many people believe vitamin C, in particular, is a super immune boost – but the science doesn’t necessarily support this idea
    • In fact, a 2016 survey found that daily vitamin C intake had no effect on cold incidence 

There is no known method to improve immune systems if you’re already compromised, but you can take precautions to help avoid exposure

Know your body. Are you up to date on your health?

Boosting Your Immune System: Fact vs. Fiction