5 Ways to Boost Your Immunity
By Josh Dennis MS, CSCS, CISSN, CPT
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into panic mode. Nothing is more disempowering than focusing on things outside of one’s control. Instead of focusing on the doom and gloom, try to remain productive. With many of us forced to stay at home, there has never been a better time to build healthy habits. This article will highlight 5 simple ways to enhance your immune system function.
Back in my university days, I remember sitting in an exercise physiology class to talk about the immune system’s response to training. Generally speaking, exercise will strengthen your immune system as long as it’s not overdone. Exercise within the body’s adaption abilities is the name of the game. Research has shown that working out is beneficial for the immune system provided it’s not excessive (Nieman & Wentz, 2019). If you’re new to exercise, start out slowly. For more seasoned veterans, just be careful to not overreach. To really enhance your health and immune system, take your training outdoors!
2) Get Some Sun
With summertime around the corner, there’s no better excuse to catch some rays. While nobody is recommending excessive scorching or sunburn, you should not be afraid to spend some time outside. Building up sun tolerance gradually is the best way to go. Multiple lines of research have reported lower vitamin D to be associated with higher rates of infection (Aranow, 2011). While naturally producing vitamin D is best, it might be impractical or impossible for some individuals. For those forced to resort to supplementation, do yourself a favor and test your baseline levels first if possible. This will allow you to fine-tune your dosage to get to optimal levels.
3) Make use of Mushrooms
The medical power of mushrooms has been around for centuries. However, compared to their plant and animal counterparts, fungi tend to be the forgotten food group. Now that quarantine life has forced you to prepare more home-cooked meals, there’s ample time to experiment. Researchers on Shiitake mushrooms found that their consumption over the course of 4 weeks was enough to boost immunity (Dai, et al., 2015). My personal favorite way to serve up shiitake is to sauté some up along with fresh onions in ghee. These pairs are great with many meat dishes or even eggs.
4) Channel Your Inner Wim Hof
If you don’t know who Wim Hof is by now, do yourself a favor and google him. Put your stay at home mandate to good use and watch a video or two on the man who is rewriting physiology books. This guy is doing things that scientists did not think was possible. His magic mix centers around breath work, meditation, and cold-water immersion. This potent combination has since been found to modulate both the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system to fight off toxins (Kox, et al., 2014).
5) Sleep like a Bear
Less time spent commuting means more time for sleep. Even though it’s one of the lowest hanging fruits on the health tree, sleep often gets neglected. Sleep is the ultimate recovery tool and it should be relatively effortless. Piles of research add up every year backing sleeps importance. Studies such as the one from Besedovsky, Lange, & Born (2012) found sleep to enhance the body’s immune defense. A good start is aiming to get between 7 and 9 hours per night. For more information on how to get the most out of sleep, be sure to check out our sleep article here.
Aranow, C. (2011). Vitamin D and the Immune System. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 59(6), 881–886. doi: 10.2310/jim.0b013e31821b8755
Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2011). Sleep and immune function. Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology, 463(1), 121–137. doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
Dai, X., Stanilka, J. M., Rowe, C. A., Esteves, E. A., Nieves, C., Spaiser, S. J., … Percival, S. S. (2015). ConsumingLentinula edodes(Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34(6), 478–487. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2014.950391
Kox, M., Eijk, L. T. V., Zwaag, J., Wildenberg, J. V. D., Sweep, F. C. G. J., Hoeven, J. G. V. D., & Pickkers, P. (2014). Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(20), 7379–7384. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1322174111
Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the bodys defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 8(3), 201–217. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009