How to strengthen the immune system? – Food, supplements and tips

Although there is still no cure for the prevention or cure of coronavirus , strengthening the immune system definitely makes sense during the pandemic.

People with impaired immune systems are at higher risk of infections from viruses and bacteria. (2)

Making changes in habits and including certain foods and supplements can help strengthen your natural defenses.

If you are looking for a way to boost your immunity, the following article describes natural foods and supplements capable of strengthening the immune system.

What is the immune system?

The immune system is an interactive network of organs, white blood cells, and proteins that protect the body from viruses and bacteria or any foreign substance.

The immune system can neutralize and eliminate pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi that enter the body and fight against the body’s own cells where changes due to disease are detected.

The immune system works to protect us every day, and we don’t even notice it. But when the performance of our immune system is compromised, that is when we face a disease.

The immune system reflects a general state of human health. Our defenses are affected by chronic stress and a lack of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the diet. In addition, the quality and hours of sleep also play an important role.

However, it should be understood that taking large doses of vitamins in the form of supplements is not the solution to strengthening the immune system. It’s about getting the daily amount you need and making sure you cover the gap. Excess vitamin intake can lead to hypervitaminosis , characterized by weakening rather than strengthening the immune system.

// Immune system – briefly:

  • System that the body has to prevent and fight infections
  • Depends on nutrition and lifestyle
  • Vitamins and other natural supplements can strengthen the immune system to a lesser degree
  • Excess vitamins can be detrimental to the immune system

How to strengthen the immune system? – Supplements and natural plants

Below is a description of a set of herbs and natural supplements capable of strengthening the immune system:

1. Echinacea

The echinacea is one of the best natural supplements to strengthen the immune system. Research has shown that taking powdered echinacea on a daily basis reduces the chances of virus infections and reduces the duration of cold symptoms by up to 25%. (1)

Many of the chemicals in echinacea are powerful immune system stimulants that can have significant therapeutic value. Several investigations indicate that echinacea has the benefit of strengthening the immune system, especially in the treatment of acute infection of the upper respiratory tract. (1,2,3)

2. Ginseng

The ginseng plant can help you strengthen your immune system and fight infections from viruses and bacteria.

One study suggests that people who take ginseng may have an up to 38% higher survival rate after curative surgeries compared to those who don’t. (4)

In addition, it appears that ginseng extract could also enhance the effect of vaccines against pro-virus diseases such as influenza. (5) This is due to ginseng’s ability to help improve antibody production, fight invading microorganisms. Therefore it is considered an herb capable of strengthening the immune system.

3. Ginger

It is important to understand that ginger cannot cure infections such as those caused by the coronavirus.

However, studies have confirmed the benefits of ginger for colds. In studies, fresh ginger was most effective when given before viral infection. Fresh ginger inhibits viral binding, it could stimulate mucosal cells to secrete IFN-β which possibly contributes to counteract the viral infection. (4)

In addition, the study states that some components of ginger are capable of isolating and preventing the spread of certain types of viruses.

4. Green tea

Studies evaluating the efficacy of green tea show that it contains antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties. It works as an antifungal and antiviral agent, so it can be useful for immunocompromised patients.

To strengthen your immune system, drink a good quality green tea every day. The antioxidants and amino acids present in this tea will help your body fight germs and recover.

5. Sac

Several studies indicate that elderberry has the power to strengthen the immune system, especially since it has been shown to help treat symptoms of the common cold and flu. (7)

A study of 60 people with influenza found that those who drank 15 ml of elderberry syrup four times a day showed improvement in symptoms within two to four days, while the control group took seven to eight days to improve. (9)

Another study confirmed that when elderberry was used within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, the extract reduced the duration of the flu, and symptoms were relieved an average of four days earlier. (10). For this reason, elderberry-based supplements can be effective in strengthening the immune system.

Foods to strengthen the immune system

The minerals iodine, zinc and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, C, D and E, are considered the most important for the immune system. The lack of any of them can significantly alter the defenses. For those on a vegan diet , vitamin B12 is added to the list, its chronic deficiency is common and leads to a weakening of immunity. Vitamins and foods to strengthen the immune system are described below:

1. Foods with vitamin C

It is not yet clear to researchers whether vitamin C can prevent or cure the coronavirus . (8) However, what is known is that a lack in the diet can impair the immune system.

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is one of the key elements necessary for the immune system to function properly. Getting enough vitamin C in your diet can help reduce symptoms of respiratory infections and shorten the duration of viral illnesses and bronchitis. (9)

Including foods rich in vitamin C could help to have a stronger immune system, these are:

  • Citrus fruits – Orange, lemon, grapefruit, kiwi
  • Peppers – red, green, yellow
  • Berries – Blueberries, strawberries, cherries
  • Tropical fruits – Pineapple, mango, acerola

2. Foods with beta carotene

Beta-carotene has powerful antioxidant activity, helping to reduce inflammation, fight oxidative stress, and ultimately strengthen the immune system.

Rather than taking beta-carotene supplements, research proposes that beta-carotene can promote health when you eat foods rich in carotenoids.

The richest sources of beta-carotene are yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables, and some green foods . Foods with beta-carotene that can help strengthen the immune system are:

  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Red peppers
  • Spinach
  • Peaches
  • Kale

3. Foods with vitamin D

Vitamin D can modulate innate and adaptive immune responses, and a vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity, as well as increased susceptibility to infection.

Studies claim that one of the functions of  vitamin D  is to keep the immune system strong. Multiple investigations have been conducted that associate lower levels of vitamin D with an increased risk of infections. (4)

80-90% is produced by the action of ultraviolet rays on the skin. Only 10-20% of the total amount is covered through food. (2) To ensure that there is not a lack of vitamin D in children, going out in the sun for about 15 minutes is enough. Overdoing it with vitamin D products can cause  hypervitaminosis .

4. Foods with Zinc

Foods with zinc can strengthen the immune system. This mineral participates in biochemical reactions that improve your defenses.

The zinc supplements are often used as a counter remedy to fight colds and other illnesses. It can help reduce cold-related symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold.

However, to strengthen the immune system it is not a question of taking large amounts of zinc, but of avoiding its lack. In fact, it can be a risky health behavior. Eating the following foods with zinc is enough:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Integral rice
  • Eggs
  • Fruits of the sea
  • meats
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Nuts

5. Foods with magnesium

Many people are deficient in magnesium, because modern agriculture often does not supply adequate magnesium in the soil. Magnesium is an essential nutrient that participates in hundreds of biochemical reactions, including those of the immune system.

According to experts, a very cheap and highly beneficial supplement for any acute infection, especially viral, is oral magnesium chloride. (10)

If you are not consuming enough foods with magnesium , you can mix 25 grams of MgCl2 in one liter of water and drink 125 ml of this solution four times a day. If the taste is too salty / bitter, a favorite juice or smoothie can be added.

Other tips to boost immunity

To be successful in strengthening the immune system, it is not just a matter of including food and supplements but making lifestyle changes. Here are 5 tips to strengthen the immune system:

1. Sleep well

Studies have confirmed that  lack of sleep  can negatively alter the immune system. In particular, smaller numbers of cells have been confirmed that defend the body from strange attacks. (1) To strengthen the immune system, the US National Sleep Foundation recommends the following hours of sleep:

  • Newborn children: from 14 to 17 hours
  • Children from 1 to 5 years old: from 10 to 13 hours.
  • Children from 6 to 13 years old: from 9 to 11 hours.
  • Adolescents under 17 years: 8 to 10 hours.
  • Adults: 7 – 9 hours
  • Older adults: 7-8 hours.

2. Physical exercise

Incorporating physical activity into your daily and weekly regimen is extremely important for strengthening the immune system, both in children, adolescents and adults.

Exercise is good for the immune system, but you shouldn’t overdo it. People who already exercise shouldn’t exercise more just to strengthen their immunity. Long-term heavy exercise could actually cause damage to the body.

Studies have shown that people who follow a moderately energetic lifestyle have the most health benefits. An example of physical exercise to improve the immune system is:

  • Ride a bike 4 times a week
  • Take daily walks of 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Sports such as tennis, paddle tennis, rollerblading
  • Functional exercises at home

4. Increase personal hygiene

Technically, increasing personal hygiene does not strengthen the immune system, but it is a great way to reduce stress on the immune system. Make sure to wash your hands frequently, pay special attention to your hygiene before and after each meal.

Another tip from the experts is if someone in the family gets sick, throw out their toothbrush right away. The virus can jump from one toothbrush to another, infecting other members of the family.

5. Avoid stress

Studies show that chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and exacerbate pathological immune responses. The effects of stress on the immune system have been proven by science. (3)

To promote the immune system of both adults and children you must minimize their stress levels. This can be difficult today, especially when people are so concerned about the coronavirus, but it is really important that you find activities that allow a calm environment at home.

6. Do not smoke or drink alcohol

Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 harmful chemicals, many of which can irritate or kill cells in the body. The same goes for alcohol. Giving up alcohol and cigarettes is important to strengthen the immune system.

7. For no reason take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription

Taking antibiotics when you have a cold, flu, or sore throat is a very bad idea. Antibiotics only treat diseases caused by bacteria, they are not an effective medicine against viruses. In fact, taking antibiotics without a warrant infection may not only not help strengthen but can weaken the immune system.

ABSTRACT

The immune system is an interactive network of organs, cells, and proteins that protect the body from viruses and bacteria or any foreign substance.

To strengthen the immune system, herbs, natural food supplements, vitamins and minerals can be used.

Making lifestyle changes can help fight infection and boost immunity.

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