A strong immune system can go a long way toward ensuring one’s overall health. But bolstering one’s immune system is no small task, as even medical researchers admit there is still much to learn about the links between lifestyle and immune function.
The Harvard Medical School notes that a strongly functioning immune system requires balance and harmony. So it stands to reason that a highly unhealthy lifestyle will compromise the immune system, but it’s also worth noting that pushing the body too hard in the other direction also can adversely affect immune function.
Researchers continue to study the potential links between immune response and variables such as diet, exercise, age, and psychological stress. Though studies are ongoing, the Harvard Medical School notes that the immune system is bolstered by various strategies associated with healthy living.
Don’t smoke. Smoking is linked to a host of diseases and ailments, so it’s no surprise that it also compromises the immune system. The National Cancer Institute notes that cigarette smoke contains high levels of tar and other chemicals, which compromise the immune system’s ability to effectively combat infections. The effects of smoking on the immune system are both immediate and long-term.
Smokers’ immune systems may not be able to fend off common infections like the common cold as effectively as the immune systems of nonsmokers. And over time, as smokers keep smoking, their immune systems will continue to weaken, which the NCI says makes them more vulnerable to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Eat a healthy diet. There is no magical food or foods that can strengthen the immune system to a point where infection is impossible. However, the Cleveland Clinic notes that a balanced, healthy diet that includes a mix of vitamins and minerals plays a role in strengthening the immune system. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain a bevy of vitamins and antioxidants that help the immune system fight off potential infections.
Many people bemoan the absence of fresh fruits and vegetables at their local grocery stores during certain times of the year. But the Cleveland Clinic notes that manufacturers typically free frozen fruits and vegetables at peak ripeness. That means frozen fruits and vegetables provide similar nutrition to fresh fruits and vegetables during those times of year when foods are not in-season.
Exercise regularly. Like a healthy diet, routine exercise provides a host of benefits, and one such benefit is its impact on the immune systems. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that the precise relationship between exercise and immune system function remains a mystery. Some researchers suspect that physical activity may flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, reducing one’s risk of getting a cold, flu or other illness.
Another theory suggests that exercises causes changes in white blood cells, which the immune system uses to fight disease. These exercise-related changes may make it possible for the cells to detect illnesses earlier than they would if the body was not exercised regularly. While it’s important to note that these are just theories, the Harvard Medical School suggests that it’s reasonable to consider moderate regular exercise an important component of a healthy, immune-boosting lifestyle.
Don’t buy the hype. Men and women interested in boosting their immune systems will no doubt find many products claiming to do just that. The Harvard Medical School urges consumers to be skeptical of such products, many of which make dubious claims that are not rooted in recognized scientific research.
The immune system remains a mystery in many ways. But several healthy strategies may help people bolster their immune systems and potentially reduce their risk of infection.