Having a strong immune response is important for overall health and fighting viruses. In a previous post I highlighted the benefits of getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Studies investigating how sleep effects the immune system demonstrate that people who got less than 6 hours sleep per night had a significant suppression of their immune system of up to 70% and have been shown to be more prone to get sick with the ‘common cold’ or the influenza viruses. Here are a few other things that can help our immune response.
Stress & Viruses
Many of us are experiencing increased stress levels during this pandemic. A meta-analysis of how stress affects the immune response showed stress of any significant duration – from a few days to a few months or years, as happens in real life – all aspects of immunity went downhill. Exercise has been indicated for boosting the immune response and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol and has been substantiated by numerous research articles. Additionally meditation is an activity practiced by many to reduce stress levels. A study of over 3,500 adults showed that meditation lives up to its reputation for stress reduction.
Exercise & You Defense System
Acute exercise is an immune system booster that improves defense activity and metabolic health. Research demonstrates a clear inverse relationship between moderate exercise training and disease risk. One study found that people who exercised 5 or more days a week reported fewer days with cold symptoms and less severe symptoms than people who did little exercise and reported being unfit.
Nutrition & Immune Response
Nutritious Foods that will support a strong immune response are vitamin C rich foods like red peppers, kiwi, papaya, citrus fruits, broccoli, greens like spinach and kale. However there are some specific benefits received from certain foods and teas.
Green tea supplements have shown to decrease the frequency of colds 3 times more than the placebo in a group of 200 healthcare workers. Green tea also has been shown to boost gamma delta T-cells, immune cells that fight infection.
Garlic is another super immune boosting herb that has been shown to suppress inflammation and also boost immune response by boosting natural killer cells. In a placebo controlled trial garlic users suffered 60% fewer colds and 70% fewer days that they were affected recovering quicker. Additionally garlic has been shown to alter expression of genes in regards to anticancer immunity.
Probiotics boost the immune response facilitating increased activity of white blood cells to respond to invading pathogens. The same was seen in natural killer cells to kill cancer cells. Randomized control trials show that those that take probiotics have fewer colds, fewer sick days and fewer symptoms compared to those who do not take a probiotic. Interestingly raw fruits and vegetables provide a diversity of microbes and studies of older individuals that increase their fruit and vegetable intake improved antibody response to vaccination.
So how do foods we eat change our molecular expression in regards to our immune response?
Consuming healthy foods may put our immune cells on alert and have them ready for an invasion by responding to antigens in these foods that use similar pathways that invading pathogens utilize.
Start your immune boosting program today by incorporating these recommendations into your lifestyle.
For more healthy lifestyle and exercise guidance, schedule an appointment (click here to schedule an appointment) with Jeff Gilliam at ReQuest Physical Therapy. He is the lead therapist in our Physicians’ Choice for Weight Loss Program. This weight loss program can be used to weight loss, weight gain, and weight management. It combines individualized exercise plans and food journaling with yummy recipes and healthy lifestyle education. This program is for anyone with physical needs who is wanting to maintain, gain, or lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.
Jeff Gilliam PT, PhD, OCS