People say lemon juice and vitamin C will make you immune to common cold, but the reality is that you still get the virus but the symptoms improve a bit faster. Similarly, there are many things people say that are not really backed up by science. Nowadays, we have a nasty virus lurking around in the neighborhood and it is the perfect time to talk about immunity. Is there something really useful to make your – and your kids’ – immune system stronger?
The immune system in short
If we want to talk about the immune system, we should know at least some basic information. I won’t make it complicated and just explain types of cells and types of immunity.
Cells in the immune system are usually known as white blood cells. Here we have lymphocytes, neutrophils, macrophages, and others. Each one plays a significant role in our immunity:
- Lymphocytes: They are a family of cells that interact with each other to create antibodies, as I will soon explain.
- Neutrophils: They are the first-line of defense against bacteria, but do nothing to viruses.
- Other cells: We also have other cells you might have heard about, such as natural killer cells, basophils or macrophages. Each one has a role to fight a very specific type of microbe.
All of these cells are constantly interacting with each other and make up our innate and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is always the same and attacks pathogens right away. It is surely fast, but can be very inaccurate in severe infections. That’s why we have adaptive immunity, which is led by antibodies. These substances are created after registering and analyzing the target bacteria. They are very specific weapons against specific pathogens, take a longer time to develop but will be astonishingly accurate to destroy invaders.
Is it possible to enhance adaptive and innate immunity?
All-natural methods to boost immunity
There are several ways to boost your immunity, and these are all proven by scientific facts:
- By keeping a healthy diet: A healthy diet is fundamental for immunity. Malnourished patients and people with nutrient deficiencies get sick all the time. It’s important to consider that if you want to lose weight because calories are useful for everything in your body, including your immune function.
- Through exercise: Impressively enough, exercise is not only helpful because it helps achieve a healthy weight. It is also helpful to stimulate white blood circulation throughout the body. Each one of the cells listed above will move faster and reach the infection site faster. Body temperature temporarily increases and stress levels are reduced. All of this is very helpful to maintain excellent immunity.
- By relieving stress: Stress and tension are mortal enemies of immune function. The stress hormone is known as cortisol, and it is a steroid. As such, it is capable of creating signals in your immune cells that make them mute against bacteria. They may even stop replicating as they should, leaving your body completely exposed.
- Good hygiene: Naturally, if you don’t prevent infections, you won’t succeed in being healthy. That’s why I felt it necessary to include hygiene as a part of your defensive arsenal against disease.
Is there a useful supplement we can use?
If you ask supplement companies, you know their likely answer. Being fair, we should say that there is striking scientific evidence for very few supplements, and some modest evidence for others. The best scientific evidence is on vitamin E (not on vitamin C as most people think), and some herbs may also help.
Let us review them briefly:
- Vitamin E: According to studies, vitamin E boosts the activity of T lymphocytes. 100 or 200 mg of vitamin E will do the trick, and it is recommended mainly in older adults. What it does is reducing the severity of the immune suppression we all experience as we age.
- Chromium: Supplementing 200 mcg can help your body produce more lymphocytes. However, the effect only starts to appear after 12 weeks of nonstop use.
- Siberian ginseng: To protect the body, lymphocytes need to go through a process of maturation, which is significantly promoted by Siberian ginseng, according to studies.
- Astragalus membranaceus: Among many other herbs, this one has the highest benefit in the immune system. It activates T cells and make them more responsive against pathogens.
- Black cumin (nigella sativa): A type of herb that was found useful to increase macrophage activity. By doing so, it activates our innate immunity.
- Other vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc are perhaps the only with proven effect on reducing the symptoms of infectious diseases, especially respiratory conditions. However, the natural methods listed above are much more important for immunity in general.
- Probiotics: In this particular field, results are mixed and should be interpreted with care. Probiotics can modulate immunity and more research is needed to have a clear view. In the meantime, they cannot be considered the miracle cure supplement companies want to sell.
In a nutshell, the ways to provide a real edge against infections is cheaper than most supplements. You need to take care of your body (nutrition, hydration, exercise) and your mind (stress control, restful sleep), using hygiene measures according to each occasion. You can also combine these natural recommendations with a few herbs, vitamins and minerals. But be mindful, ask your doctor, and read about supplements before spending lots of money in online purchases.