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Boosting Your Immune System: 7 Proven Steps to Improved Disease Immunity

Published on Jul. 29, 2021

Sixteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are wondering: What can I do to strengthen my immune system so I can ward off future disease, including potential COVID-19 variants? We explore the top ways to strengthen your immune system and keep it running optimally so you can get – and stay – healthier.


How Your Immune System Works

Our immune systems are our internal defense line that protect us from outside invaders. Essentially, your immune system is just that: an interconnected system made up of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together to help prevent many foreign germs from entering (and wreaking havoc inside) your body.

A properly functioning immune system can quickly decipher between your body's own cells and the germs that can invade it and cause infection and inflammation (like viruses and bacteria).

Think of your immune system as an intelligent network of warriors, which not only recognize invading germs, but study them up close in order to develop antibodies that can keep you protected from any danger these foreign cells may pose. When your immune system fails to act quickly and protect you from these invading germs, health problems can arise, like infections.


Proven Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Nutrition

Just like a poor diet filled with processed foods, saturated fats, and sugar can cause inflammation, leading to chronic conditions like heart disease or Type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet can also influence your immune system.

Consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods like lean proteins, healthy grains, legumes (beans), seeds, and plenty of vegetables and fruit feeds your body the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally – and that includes your immune system.

In addition to fueling your body and giving you the energy needed to move through your day, many of these foods naturally contain immune-boosting vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D.


Vaccines

Our immune systems respond to foreign germs by producing antibodies that can help us fight off these invaders before they cause infection and other harmful side effects.

“However, there are some viruses and bacteria that the body, no matter how healthy, can have difficultly fighting and can be quite harmful or even lethal,” says Dr. Christine Nefcy, Munson Healthcare’s Chief Medical Officer. “Vaccines are a critical part of supporting and preparing your immune system to fight dangerous and potentially life-threatening viruses and bacteria.”

Because vaccines introduce these germs in small doses of an inert (aka inactivated) form of the virus, you get the immune response benefits as you would with a live virus entering your body naturally, but without risking infection and symptoms of disease. In addition, vaccines help diminish symptoms should you still become ill, keeping you out of the hospital.

Even better, once we reach herd immunity through vaccination (typically 70 percent of the population or more), dangerous viruses and bacteria have far less chance of spreading, even among those who are unable to receive vaccines.


Stress Reduction

Excess stress can cause your body to make more amounts of certain hormones, such as cortisol. While healthy levels of these stress hormones can actually boost your immune system, a surge in hormones like cortisol can have the opposite effect – decreasing your white blood cell count and promoting inflammation.

In turn, this can put your immune system into overdrive, potentially causing it to more or less burn out, putting you at higher risk for infection. Reducing stress through activities like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and building your long-term resilience can help alleviate stress and prevent this problem from occurring in the first place.


Frequent Handwashing

The skin is not only our largest organ but also serves as our first line of defense against germs. Washing your hands frequently or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can kills germs on the spot, preventing them from invading our bodies in the first place. Use these five simple steps from the CDC each time you wash your hands to ensure you’re removing germs in the most optional way.


Movement

Fitting in regular exercise, like walking, riding your bike, yoga, or playing a sport, plays a significant role in keeping your immune system robust and standing guard. To boot, exercise can help fight the immune system's natural tendency to weaken as we age.

Aim for at least 150 minutes a week, or approximately 30 minutes per day, five days per week. Regular movement can also promote better sleep, another important immune-boosting measure.


Screenings and Routine Check-ups

If your body isn't at its healthiest to begin with, it can make it all the more challenging to improve your immune system, especially if you suffer from chronic inflammation and other health ailments. Seeing your family doctor on a routine basis and following through with recommended screenings can help identify potential health threats you may be unaware of that can worsen over time without expert medical intervention.

Knowing your current health status and working alongside your primary care doctor and other specialists can help empower you to make the right health decisions that will naturally help boost, and protect, your immune system.


Behavioral Therapy

You may have heard about the mind-body connection, where our mental state – such as our thoughts, feelings, and attitude – can positively or negatively affect our physical health (and vice versa).

New research suggests that this important interconnection also impacts our immune systems: specifically inflammation, which can drive our immune systems to respond in harmful ways that can linger long past infection or injury.

More than 50 studies involving over 4000 participants show that some form of psychotherapeutic treatment can induce nearly 15% improvement in beneficial immune system function and an 18% decrease in harmful immune system function. The benefits appear to last for at least six months after therapy ends, regardless of the patients' ages or gender. (Source: JAMA Psychiatry).


Scheduling Your Next Appointment

Don’t delay your care. Munson Healthcare doctors, nurses, and medical specialists are here for you across 11,000 square miles of northern Michigan. Ready to help you feel your best for whatever comes next. 

Contact your doctor or PCP to schedule your annual exam. If you don’t have a family doctor, call Munson Healthcare Find-a-Doctor at 231-935-5886 or FindADoctor@mhc.net. Our team will help you find a physician nearby.

Find A Doctor

Are You Vaccinated?

Still on the fence about the COVID-19 vaccine? Get the FAQs and find a convenient location near you.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ    Find a Vaccine Location

Health Questions? Ask-A-Nurse

If you have immediate questions about your specific symptoms, call Munson Healthcare Ask-a-Nurse at 231-935-0951. A team of registered nurses are answering questions daily from 7 am to 11 pm at no charge to you (no insurance is required).

Ask-a-Nurse   231-935-0951

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