Every year in the United States, around 20% of the population gets the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the annual flu vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months, unless the vaccination is deemed unsafe due to medical conditions, and generally about half of the people do.
The currently licensed flu vaccines in the U.S. are live-attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIV), recombinant hemagglutinin (HA) vaccines, and inactivated vaccines (including whole-inactivated vaccines, split vaccines, and subunit vaccines). The last group, inactivated influenza vaccines, are the most commonly used. Every year, several months before the annual flu season starts, the Food and Drug Administration decides which four strains of the seasonal flu virus will be dominant and informs the vaccine manufacturers accordingly.
According to the CDC, since 2009, the effectiveness of the flu vaccines ranged between 19% and 60%, with it being under 50% in most years. This may be one reason many people opt for other ways to boost their immunity come flu season.
Here are 77 tips to boost your immunity
1. Eat the rainbow
Essential nutrients such as vitamins B, C, and D, play a critical role in maintaining and boosting our immunity, and the best way to obtain them is through food intake, so a healthy balanced diet is of paramount importance.
The "eat the rainbow" principle, simply put, refers to the fact that the more colorful your vegetables and fruits variety is, the more nutrients you'll get. Dark and leafy greens contain an abundance of antioxidants – natural molecules that help neutralize the damaging free radicals in the body.
Immune-boosting foods also include eggs, fatty fish, milk (especially the dairy products fortified with vitamin D), cereal, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
2. Get enough vitamin D
Studies have shown that vitamin D is a faithful defender of our immune system. The higher the level of vitamin D in our body, the lower the risk of us contracting a virus.
Theoretically speaking, the body can produce sufficient vitamin D, if it is exposed to enough sunlight. In addition to eating food with vitamin D, we should also bask in the sunshine, at least twice a week, for about 20 minutes each time.
After being exposed to the sun for 5 to 30 minutes, the blood concentration of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, also known as 25(OH)D, will rise to approximately 60 ng/mL and stay at this level.
If the sky is covered with clouds, the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) energy is reduced by 50%, and air pollution can also decrease UVR.
A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 8 can block at least 87% of UVB, thus preventing your skin from synthesizing vitamin D.
3. Eat warm oatmeal in the morning
Our stomachs upon waking from sleep in the morning gain nourishment better from warm foods than cold. Grains contain several nutrients, including immunomodulating nutrients, and can help set the tone for a healthy day.
Oat nutrients include dietary fiber (β-glucans), copper, iron, selenium, zinc, polyphenolics (e.g. ferulic acid and avenanthramides), and proteins (e.g. glutamine). Acting together, these excellent nutrients can modulate both of our innate and acquired immune systems to provide optimal immune responses. At the same time, they can alter our gut microbiome for the better, which also enhances our immunity.
4. Fast intermittently
Intermittent fasting, which has been practiced for thousands of years, can boost our immunity by enhancing certain host defense mechanisms and modulating the inflammatory response. During the COVID-19 pandemic, intermittent fasting has been associated with greater survival rates.
5. Get enough vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the largest immune system boosters of all time. In fact, lacking it can even make you prone to disease and infection.
It is an essential nutrient and it supports the function of many immune cells. For instance, it enhances the proliferation of B cells and T cells, which create antibodies and destroy infected or cancerous cells, respectively. In addition, vitamin C supports the epithelial cell barrier against pathogens.
Daily intake of vitamin C is essential for good health, because our body doesn't produce or store it. However, the good news is that vitamin C is in many foods, so most people don't need to take a vitamin C supplement unless advised by a doctor.
Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale, and broccoli.
6. Eat nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds contain an abundance of nutrients, including zinc, iron, selenium, copper, calcium, and Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The fatty acids help our body properly absorb vitamin E, which is immunity-boosting. Therefore, nuts and seeds can effectively reduce inflammation and enhance our immune function.
The nuts and seeds that we should consume on a daily basis are walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Note that peanuts are not true nuts, and they don't count!
7. Quit smoking
Cigarettes and chewing tobacco both contain nicotine and other chemicals that can weaken or suppress our immune system. Smoking can also destroy the respiratory epithelial cells' ability to produce interferons. Overall, smoking and vaping can increase the risk of immune system problems.
8. Sleep a little earlier
It has been proven that sleep loss can negatively affect different parts of our immune system, which in turn can result in various disorders and diseases. Cytokines, a type of protein of the immune system, are only produced during sleep. And a lack of sleep can also impede the production of antibodies in our body.
To get an adequate amount of sleep, you need to follow a regular bedtime schedule, stay active throughout the day, avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol before bedtime, and relax and unwind before going to sleep.
9. Get enough vitamin A
Vitamin A is a group of unsaturated monohydric alcohols, which plays a critical role in boosting our body's immune function. Besides playing promoting and regulatory roles in our innate and acquired immune systems, vitamin A can also help cure various infectious diseases.
Foods rich in vitamin A include broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, red bell peppers, cantaloupes, mangoes, fish oils, dairy products, and eggs.
10. Eat mushrooms
For thousands of years, certain medicinal mushrooms (e.g. almond mushroom, caterpillar fungus, and sheep's head mushroom) have been used in Eastern medicine, especially traditional Chinese medicine, to enhance our immune system.
These medicinal mushrooms contain various nutrients, including beta-glucans, which are polysaccharides that can activate immune cells. They can also enhance macrophage and natural killer cell function.
In addition, mushrooms have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties. Their antineoplastic properties can slow the growth of tumors, and increase malignant-cell phagocytosis. And mushrooms are potential immune modulators, affecting hematopoietic stem cells, lymphocytes, macrophages, T cells, and natural killer cells.
Most of these immunity-boosting mushrooms can be used in cooking or consumed as powder.
11. Add some herbs and spices
Common spices and herbs possess antiviral, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and immunity enhancing properties, as they contain many essential nutrients including different vitamins. Therefore, they can play a role against viral infections. In fact, some researchers believe that the daily use of many spices in cooking had enhanced the immunity of the Indian population, and that its mortality from the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be low.
Common herbs and spices include garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, and thyme.
12. Keep hydrated
Roughly 60% of our body is made of water. Having too much or too little water in our body can keep our immune system from working properly.
For instance, lymph, a fluid of our circulatory system responsible for transporting important immune cells throughout our body, is made up of mostly water. Therefore, if we become dehydrated, it will slow down the movement of lymph. In the worst case scenario, it may result in an impaired immune system.
In order to provide our immune system with adequate water, it is recommended that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, while avoiding sugary drinks.
13. Try some black tea
Dr. Yumi Ishihara, a well-known Japanese naturopath, used to be the physician of a former prime minister of Japan. He's over 60 years old, but he still sees patients and writes daily, and gives over 100 lectures a year. Ishihara is used to fasting in the morning and replacing breakfast with a cup of black tea with molasses and ginger. According to him, drinking this kind of black tea in the morning can warm our body, activate our internal organs, and promote excretion. It's his anti-aging immune booster.
14. Cut back on sugar
Dr. Heather Moday, an American immunologist, published an article pointing out that during the COVID-19 pandemic sugar was the worst food for our immunity.
In a research experiment conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a group of subjects fasted overnight and took 100 grams of free sugar orally on an empty stomach. For comparison purposes, the control group took the same amount of caloric starch orally, also on an empty stomach. It was discovered that for the first group of subjects, the phagocytic activity of their phagocytes had significantly reduced; and the maximum degree of reduction occurred between one to two hours after their ingestion of sugar, and it was a decrease of 50 percent as compared with the fasting state.
Even after five hours, their immune capacity was still affected. However, the control group didn't show a decline in immunity. Therefore, eating a moderate amount of rice, pasta, and bread will not reduce our immunity.
There's no need to fear viruses when you understand how immunity works
Furthermore, a high-sugar environment can also cause chronic inflammation and inhibit the activity of many immune cells, including white blood cells, natural killer cells, macrophages, and T cells.
Therefore, in order to improve our bodies' innate immunity, we must pay more attention to "sugar reduction." To do so, we must check the sugar content of every item in our pantry, eat less overly processed foods; and eat more carbohydrates in the form of vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, or seeds.
Furthermore, saccharide damages our phagocytic cells and worsens our gut microbiome. This can result in obesity, increased psychological stress, chronic inflammation, impediment of the secretion of interferons by epithelial cells, and damaged antiviral function of natural immune cells, T cells, and B cells.
15. Manage body weight
Obesity, a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 in adults, has been linked to impaired immune function and a chronic inflammatory state.
Healthy habits can help with this, such as regularly performing physical activity, eating the right amount of wholesome foods, and getting sufficient sleep.
16. Take a walk or bike ride
Aerobic exercise can help with our blood circulation, which allows our infection-fighting immune cells to efficiently travel to where they are needed throughout the entire body. Therefore, regular physical activity can help our body fight illness caused by invading viruses and bacteria.
Walking or biking can help our immune cells perform effectively by increasing blood circulation, reducing inflammation, and strengthening antibodies.
According to a study of over 1,000 male and female participants, those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who did no exercise or exercised once per week. And after falling ill, the first group recovered more quickly than the second group, with milder symptoms, as well.
17. Go for a swim
Exercising releases endorphins, which bolster our immune system function, and swimming does the same, too. Swimming also improves overall circulation, which allows nutrients and immune cells to be transported to where they're needed, and it also allows waste to be removed quickly, which helps reduce inflammation.
According to Baishali Mukherjee, the Southeast Asia regional liaison for the World Federation of Music Therapy, singing is a form of aerobic exercise that releases endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins can relieve pain and play a role similar to that of painkillers, and oxytocin can make people feel happy and play an important role in reducing stress and anxiety.
Mukherjee said that it's all about endorphins' ability to reduce stress. Whether we are under stress or have any physical discomfort, illness, or psychological pain, music can positively affect our mind and body.
Oxytocin is the hormone that mothers secrete when giving birth, breastfeeding, and bonding with their babies. And for both men and women, singing can stimulate their body's secretion of oxytocin. As aforementioned, oxytocin can reduce pain, depression and anxiety, suppress inflammation, reduce the release of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as enhance our immune function.
19. Take a warm bath
Dr. Sonosuke Yukawa is a well-known Japanese specialist in rheumatology. He recommends taking warm full-body baths to boost immunity. The water should come up over your shoulders, allowing the entire body to relax from head to toe.
He recommends maintaining water temperature at 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows the parasympathetic nerves to become active and the body and mind to settle down.
The parasympathetic nervous system, which is part of the autonomic nervous system, is critical in orchestrating the body's neuroimmune processes.
In addition, it can also modulate inflammation by acting as an anti-inflammatory neural circuit.
According to Yukawa, the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system is the most important purpose of an enjoyable bath. However, in order to avoid that activation of the sympathetic nerves, the maximum bathing time should not exceed 15 minutes.
20. Take a forest bath
Forest bathing is an experience that refreshes the senses. All you need to do is walk into a forest, and focus on your five senses to connect with nature
Forest baths can boost the number and activity of natural killer cells. In one study, increased natural killer cell activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest bathing trip lasted for over 30 days for both male and female participants. Currently, Japanese researchers are exploring the possibility of cancer prevention (for certain types of cancer) through forest bathing trips.
21. Take a vacation
In one case, a bright, young professional in her 30s was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. Two years after receiving cancer treatment, unfortunately, her cancer came back. She followed her doctor's advice and took up a "less stressful" job. However, that didn't help with her condition.
Instead of making other treatment plans, her doctor simply advised her to take a vacation. So she toured around France for an entire month, visiting friends, drinking lots of French red wine, and simply enjoying herself. When she came back to pay her doctor a visit, she looked rejuvenated, and her tumor markers also appeared normal again. Even her doctor found this remarkable.
22. Get a plant
Similar to trees and shrubs in nature, indoor plants can also help boost our immune system. Certain potted plants in the room can also improve our sleep quality to allow us to have deeper and better sleep. Furthermore, through photosynthesis, these plants can absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, playing a role in purifying the air and beautifying our living environment.
Several recommended plants include Saint George's sword (i.e. snake plant), mint, and aloe vera. The leaves of Saint George's sword secrete volatile bactericidal substances and increase the concentration of negative ions in the room, so it is suitable for the bedroom.
Mint leaves can also secrete a volatile bactericidal substance, and the plant's ability to kill bacteria is very strong, which is beneficial for the entire family's health.
Aloe vera can protect against radiation and also has a very strong air-purifying ability.
23. Start gardening
According to one pilot study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, horticulture-related activities can reduce stress levels and cortisol concentration in saliva. The participants of this study are 20 maladjusted elementary school students, who took part in three gardening activities, including flower arranging, planting, and flower pressing. It was discovered that their salivary cortisol levels decreased by at least 37 percent, compared to their pre-participation levels.
The ability of gardening activities to reduce cortisol levels suggests that gardening, which is a form of horticultural therapy, has an effect on improving antiviral immunity.
24. Get enough vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful lipid-soluble antioxidant that supports the growth of T cells and modulates their function. It achieves this mainly by helping with the T cells' membrane integrity, signal transduction, and division. Since T cells fight off infection, vitamin E helps the body fight off infectious diseases.
It's also an antioxidant, which fights harmful free radicals that can damage our cells and cause us to age and become ill.
Vitamin E can be found in many food sources, including different nuts (e.g. hazelnuts, peanuts, and Brazil nuts), seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds), spinach, almonds, pistachios, avocados, broccoli, asparagus, and blackberries.
25. Get enough vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is critical in supporting biochemical reactions in our immune system. It is in charge of producing white blood cells, which help the body fight infection and other diseases, as well as T cells, which regulate the body's immune responses. Furthermore, vitamin B6 can assist the body in the production of interleukin-2, a protein that regulates the activities of white blood cells.
Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to poor immune responses, mood swings, antibody reduction, altered lymphocyte differentiation, and maturation. It reduces the body's ability to fight infections.
Vitamin B6-rich foods are chicken, salmon, tuna, bananas, green vegetables, potatoes (with the skin), chickpeas (main ingredient of hummus), and oatmeal.
26. Get enough vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is critical in the body's production of red blood cells. Therefore, it's vital to the transportation of oxygen to important organs and tissues in the body. Furthermore, vitamin B12 deficiency can reduce bone mineral density, which will eventually lead to brittle and fragile bones.
Also, vitamin B12 deficiency may result in a significant decrease of CD8+ cells, which are T cells and mediators of adaptive immunity, as well as suppressed natural killer cell activity.
Foods rich in vitamin B12 include meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs.
27. Try spirulina
Spirulina is the famous alga consumed by NASA astronauts. It's a treasure trove of nutrients, containing protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, folic acid, and many others.
Spirulina can modulate our body's immune functions. Since it can inhibit mast cells from releasing histamine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in the inflammatory response, it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have also suggested that spirulina has anticancer, antiviral, and antiallergic effects. After being ingested, spirulina can also increase the body's immunoglobulin A (IgA) production. Therefore, eating spirulina can boost our immunity.
28. Try curcumin
Curcumin is a yellow pigment found in turmeric, which is a spice used in curry. It is a dietary polyphenol with anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin can increase the amount of antioxidants in the body, as well as modulate the activation of many immune cells, including T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells. Thus, curcumin has the effect of modulating the immune system.
It can also downregulate the expression of proinflammatory cytokines, and this gives it its anti-inflammatory properties.
29. Try ginseng
Ginseng is the root of plants in the genus Panax. There are 11 varieties of ginseng, including the American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, L.) and Asian ginseng (P. Ginseng). Ginseng has long been used in Asia as a dietary and medicinal ingredient.
Ginseng has long been used to treat many inflammatory diseases. Ginsenosides, which are ginseng saponins, have anti-inflammatory effects and can downregulate the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and certain enzymes. Several ginsenosides, including Rg3, Rb1, and Rg1, induce macrophage and microglia M2-polarization, by which these cells produce distinct functional phenotypes. Through M2-polarization, these cells become alternatively activated macrophages and microglias, respectively. They, in turn, help suppress inflammation. Therefore, there are at least two mechanisms by which ginsenosides can suppress inflammation.
Ginseng can also maintain the immune system's homeostasis by regulating it. For instance, ginseng extract can enhance macrophages' phagocytic activity, as well as stimulate the generation of inflammatory mediators. Ginseng also has immunostimulatory effects on dendritic cells, which act as a link between innate and adaptive immune responses. Furthermore, ginseng extract enhances natural killer cell functions.
30. Get enough zinc
Zinc, an essential mineral, helps with our immune and metabolism functions and plays a critical role in reducing our infection, morbidity, and mortality rates.
Zinc deficiency can lead to severe immune dysfunctions, which affect the T helper cells in our body. Zinc-deficient cells would have decreased activation of nuclear factor-kB, which in turn causes a decrease in the gene expression of interleukin-2, which is a type of cytokine signaling molecule of the immune system. Since interleukin-2 increases the growth and activity of other T and B cells, its decreased gene expression will impede the development of the immune system.
Foods rich in zinc include meat (e.g. beef), fish, seafood (e.g. oysters), eggs, dairy products, and zinc-fortified breakfast cereals.
31. Get enough iron
Iron is an essential nutrient and mineral needed by our body. Its deficiency can impair our body's immune responses. Specifically, low blood serum iron levels can inhibit our T cells' immune responses to vaccines and infections, as T cells need iron to support their metabolism. Researchers have found that if our body is iron-deficient, the mitochondria in T cells would generate less energy. As a result, the T cells will become less able to perform their duties and fight infections.
Iron-rich foods include red meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach), dried fruits (e.g. raisins), as well as iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
32. Get enough copper
Copper is an essential mineral that our immune system requires to perform several of its functions. Research has shown that copper deficiency reduces the number of interleukin 2 molecules, which then decrease T cell proliferation.
When severe copper deficiency takes place, the number and capability of neutrophils (i.e. white blood cells) in the peripheral blood decreases. In order to destroy ingested microorganisms, neutrophils first boost their levels of copper ions. A copper deficiency would render them less effective at destroying invaders.
Therefore, insufficient copper levels weaken our immunity and increase our susceptibility to sickness and infection.
Foods high in copper include shellfish (e.g. oysters and lobsters), seeds, nuts, organ meats (e.g. livers), wheat-bran cereals, whole-grain foods, and (dark) chocolate.
33. Get enough selenium
The trace element selenium plays an important role in the health of both of our innate and acquired immune systems. Its deficiency has been shown to impede immune cell function and result in slower immune responses. Specifically, selenium-deficient lymphocytes are less able to proliferate in response to mitogen. In addition, leukotriene B4 synthesis, which is required by neutrophil chemotaxis, is also impaired by selenium deficiency.
Furthermore, selenium is an antioxidant that can help lower oxidative stress in our body, which in turn reduces inflammation and enhances our immunity.
Selenium-rich foods include Brazil nuts, certain fish (e.g. yellowfin tuna and halibut), roasted ham, shrimp, beef liver, chicken, cottage cheese, brown rice, eggs, and baked beans.
34. Get enough chromium
The naturally occurring heavy metal chromium is also an essential nutrient needed by our body. Chromium supports our immune function through several mechanisms. It has a stimulatory effect at low concentrations on lymphocytes, which are T and B cells responsible for protecting our body against environmental threats. Chromium also increases TNF and IL-4, two cytokines that promote immune responses.
Foods rich in chromium include broccoli, grape juice, turkey, potatoes, and green beans.
35. Get enough essential fatty acids
The essential fatty acids needed by our body include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; fish oil). Besides being fundamental structural components of our immune cells, they also have anti-inflammatory effects. Specifically, DHA decreases the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and both DHA and EPA increase the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α).
ROS is an array of derivatives of molecular oxygen. An excessive amount of ROS can cause molecular damage, which is called "oxidative distress."
Furthermore, DHA can enhance phagocytosis, antifungal properties, and neutrophils' interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) secretion. Also, an imbalance of saturated/unsaturated fatty acids can potentially result in the development of many allergic, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases.
36. Manage your salt intake
A high-salt diet kills good bacteria in our gut, which would impair our immunity. Specifically, too much salt can kill a type of bacteria called Lactobacillus, which inhibits the growth of certain pathogens and helps reduce inflammation in some people. Once Lactobacillus is reduced in number, autoimmune diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis) can take place.
Once our body's immunity is weakened, its ability to fight bacterial infections will also be impaired. Furthermore, a diet high in salt can result in high blood pressure, which in turn causes strokes and heart diseases.
37. Eat some beans
Legumes, including red, black, pinto, kidney, and black beans, as well as chickpeas and other types of peas, are immunity-boosting and anti-inflammatory, as they contain a lot of protein, which is essential to immune cells' construction. Legumes also contain an abundance of nutrients, including folate, vitamins, iron, fiber, potassium, and magnesium. These nutrients all help with our immune system's function.
38. Eat a pineapple
Healthy fruits that can boost our immunity include apples, pineapples, pears, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, cantaloupes, watermelons, different types of berries, and kiwis. They contain various vitamins and other nutrients, including vitamin C.
39. Don't drink alcohol
Drinking alcohol can damage our epithelial cells, T cells, and B cells.
Excessive alcohol consumption can slow our body's ability to fight infections for 24 hours. Over a long period of time, excessive alcohol use can weaken our body's self-repair ability and immunity.
40. Jump into a sauna
Taking regular sauna baths can allow us to be exposed to extremely hot and dry temperatures for a short period of time. This can enhance our immune system due to "environmental conditioning", which forces our body to adjust to different temperatures, and in this case, extreme heat.
41. Try ginger tea
Warm ginger tea can open our pores and let us sweat, and the vitamin C in the ginger can also relieve muscle aches and pains caused by a fever. Also, drinking honey water and lemon water after catching a cold can also help relieve the cold symptoms.
Ginger contains 60 trace minerals, over 30 amino acids, and hundreds of enzymes, which renders it antibacterial, and anti-parasitic. Therefore, ginger is a great immunity booster, and the best way to consume ginger is drinking ginger tea.
42. Take a nap
Napping not only improves our memory, but it can also effectively improve our body's immune system, because the cytokines in our body are produced only during sleep, and the lymphocytes are being stimulated throughout the nap, thus improving the activity of immune cells in our body.
43. Clean your room
A clean living environment with fresh air is beneficial for our health and immunity, as it makes it less likely for us to catch an infection.
44. Wash your hands
Following good personal hygiene habits can immensely benefit our immune system. As the skin is part of our first barrier of immunity by fending off germs, bacteria, and viruses, keeping our skin clean, especially on our hands, is of paramount importance. Good personal hygiene can help avoid contracting or spreading the infection to others.
To maintain good personal hygiene, we should wash our hands before preparing food and after using the bathroom, and when sneezing or coughing, cover our mouth and nose with a tissue.
45. Call a friend
A study found that social interactions, including virtual and online ones, can boost our immune system, although the exact mechanism is yet to be explored.
According to another study, people with a healthy social network have a 50 percent better chance of survival than those with weaker social ties.
There are many ways to build a social network, including joining the workforce, volunteering, taking a class, and joining a club.
The simple act of smiling can strengthen our immune system. First, smiling can release neurotransmitters, which can reduce stress level. Second, smiling reduces anxiety, thus boosting immunity. Third, smiling triggers the release of dopamine. As the dopamine level in our body rises, the number of natural killer cells and antibodies in our bloodstream increase, too.
47. Be grateful
According to a study conducted by the University of California, San Diego's School of Medicine, people that are grateful to others generally show better well-being and less fatigue, and their sleep is of high-quality. These positive results all boost the immune system.
48. Be patient
Being patient and reducing the chance of conflicts can help us relax and reduce our stress hormones (e.g. cortisol), thus maintaining our immunity.
49. Let go of stress
When we are in a stressful situation, our body naturally wants to find ways to help us handle it. It does so by initiating a stress response, which happens to suppress our immune system, making us more prone to infection or disease.
Therefore, in order to avoid the suppression of our immunity, we should minimize our stress.
Sitting in meditation can reduce our body's chronic inflammatory state, maintain cell rejuvenation, and enhance antiviral ability.
When meditating, dramatic changes take place at the microscopic level in the human body. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), meditation can enhance our body's immune system, and it also improves the body's ability to break down invading viral RNA. In this study, 388 subjects participated in an 8-day meditation practice, and their peripheral blood samples were then collected for analysis.
After eight days of meditation, 220 genes in their bodies were significantly upregulated, and the ones that were more substantially regulated were antiviral and/or related to immunity enhancement. Furthermore, meditation appeared to have long-lasting positive effects, as three months after the study, some genes remained upregulated.
51. Don't overwork
Sometimes we are overcommitted to our work but are afraid of speaking out about our inner stress. This will cause stress to accumulate inside our body, which is detrimental to our immunity.
Express your stress in a peaceful way, and get others' support when you need it.
52. Get some sun
When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. Also, sunlight may energize our immune system's T cells which help fight infections.
53. Visit green spaces
According to an article published in Nature Sustainability in October 2021 by multiple U.S. research institutions, areas with more green spaces also had significantly fewer COVID-19 cases.
Many plants, including cedar, pine, garlic, and oak, give off phytoncides, which are airborne chemicals with antibacterial and antifungal properties. When we breathe in these phytoncides, the number and activity of our natural killer cells, which destroy cancerous and virus-infected cells in our body, increase. Therefore, phytoncides can bolster our immune system.
54. Try an energy exercise
Qigong, or energy exercise, is a traditional way to boost our immunity. According to a study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Qigong practice can significantly increase the number of white blood cells, lymphocytes, and monocytes, which are all important immune cells.
55. Try shadowboxing
Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art practice, is also known as "shadowboxing." According to several studies, Tai Chi can also bolster our body's immune system and its response to inflammation.
In a study conducted by experts from UCLA and the University of California, San Diego, participants aged 59 to 86 were divided into two groups, with the first group taking Tai Chi classes three times a week for 16 consecutive weeks, while the control group taking non-Tai Chi-related health education classes. They were then injected with a chickenpox vaccine to test the antibodies in their bodies since all of them had already been inoculated with smallpox vaccines in the past. As it turned out, the first group's immune system response was almost twice as strong as that of the control group.
56. Try yoga
The ancient mind-body practice of yoga has anti-inflammatory and anti-stress effects on our bodies. As per over a dozen randomized controlled trials examining the effects of yoga on immunity, yoga practice has the effect of downregulating pro-inflammatory markers in our body, as well as enhancing cell-mediated and mucosal immunity. The researchers suggested that yoga could be used as a complementary intervention for patients suffering from inflammation.
57. Try mindfulness
Mindfulness training is based on the belief that our brain is directly connected to every organ in our body, including the immune system. This training can allow us to build neural pathways and networks in our brains.
A review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences examined 20 randomized controlled trials on the health effects of mindfulness meditation. According to its findings, mindfulness meditation can reduce the activity of a cellular transcription factor called nuclear factor-κB (NF-kB), which is a regulator of our innate immunity and induces the expression of various pro-inflammatory genes.
Also, mindfulness can reduce the C-reactive protein (CRP) level in our body. The CRP level increases when there's inflammation in our body. The CRP can also increase the number of CD4+ T cells, which play an important role in instigating our adaptive immune responses. Furthermore, mindfulness can increase telomerase activity, and telomerase is responsible for maintaining genome stability by adding repeat sequences to the ends of chromosomes. In summary, mindfulness can boost our immunity and protect us from illness in several different ways.
58. Massage the Hegu point
Taiwan-based traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Dr. Bo-sheng Chen has shared with us three acupuncture points that can be pressed to improve blood circulation, regulate neural responses, promote endocrine balance, and enhance our body's immune function.
Hegu point (LI-4): located on the dorsum of the hand, in the depression between the first and second metacarpal bones, and more towards the index finger. It is an important special effect point for the human body, and it can be pressed to relieve cold symptoms.
59. Massage the Qinghai point
Qihai point (CV-6): located around two fingerbreadths below the navel. It can warm the yang and replenish the qi (i.e. vital energy), thus strengthening immunity.
60. Massage the zusanli point
Zusanli point (ST-36): located four finger-breadths directly below the knee on the outer side of the leg. Its main function is to regulate the digestive and immune systems. It can help increase intestinal peristalsis and reduce flatulence-induced compression of the diaphragm. It is considered the most powerful acupuncture point to press to boost immunity.
61. Get a foot massage
According to traditional Chinese medicine, different areas of the foot correspond to organs and systems of the entire body. By applying pressure to these foot areas, it is believed that the health of their corresponding organs or parts of the body can be improved.
Reflexology can be used to boost our immunity, as it improves the blood and lymph circulation of the pressured foot areas and their corresponding organs/areas of the body. This can help the blood and lymph to carry away and remove toxins from the body. Furthermore, reflexology can also increase the production of endorphins, which are necessary for immune cells receptors to function.
62. Press on ear acupuncture points
Our ear, although small, has a large number of acupuncture points, which correspond to different organs in the whole body from head to toe. Auricular acupuncture is a type of acupuncture especially performed on ears. By pressing certain points on the ear, various effects, including immunity boosting, are achieved.
According to Dr. Johnathan Liu, registered acupuncturist and a professor at a Canadian public college, ear acupuncture has many miraculous effects; and it is fast, has few side effects, and is inexpensive to do on our own.
Dr. Shou-yi Su, who's based in Tainan, Taiwan, has shared with us five auricular acupuncture points that can be stimulated to enhance immunity and vitality.
Shenmen point: located within the triangular fossa. Pressing this point can help adjust our autonomic nervous system, calm our emotions, and keep our body and mind in good condition.
Pingchuan point: located at the tip of the tragus.
Fei (lung) point: located in the center of the ear hole next to the cartilage.
63. Press on the 'adrenal gland' point and jiaogan point
Shenshangxian (adrenal gland) point: located at the edge of the sideburns, just below the cartilage of the tragus. Pressing this point can stimulate adrenal hormone secretion.
Jiaogan point: located below the intersection of the triangular fossa and the helix.
However, these two points should not be pressed too often, otherwise, it can easily affect our sleep. And poor sleep can lead to a decline in immunity.
It's easy for modern people to feel stress and tension in this fast-paced society, and these emotions can interfere with our autonomic nervous system and weaken our immunity. We can press the following acupuncture points to improve the situation.
64. Try moxibustion
Moxibustion is a method of using moxa or other herbal medicines to cauterize acupuncture points, by using the heat of the moxibustion fire and the substances released during the application of moxibustion and the pharmacological effects of certain herbs to stimulate meridians and acupuncture points, thereby achieving the purpose of healing and health care.
Moxibustion can be used to warm up yang and strengthen the antipathogenic qi, and it's a very useful method to boost immunity. According to research, moxibustion improves our immunity by regulating various immune cells and immune factors. For instance, ginger-isolated moxibustion has been found to significantly regulate the immune function of children with asthma, and they have a higher CD4+ level and lower level of CD8+ than the control group. And according to another study, moxibustion at the Zusanli point improved the cellular immune function of bed-ridden patients.
There are several mechanisms through which moxibustion can boost our immunity.
First, through warm stimulation, moxibustion can enhance local blood and lymph circulation, relieve and eliminate smooth muscle spasm, strengthen the local tissue metabolic capacity, and dissipate pro-inflammatory factors in the body. Second, moxibustion can improve circulation, and a better blood flow can promote metabolism, which in turn improves our overall health. Third, during and after moxibustion, the skin would be congested with blood, which can enhance the nutrition in this area of the body, increase the metabolism and rejuvenate the tissues. For example, moxibustion can sometimes rejuvenate the hair for alopecia areata patients. Fourth, moxibustion can enhance the absorption capacity of tissues. If our gastrointestinal absorption function is normal, the entire body will be well nourished. Fifth, when the body's various secretion glands are malfunctioning, moxibustion treatment can play an adjusting role, correcting their excesses and deficiencies. Sixth, appropriate application of moxibustion can strengthen the natural healing effect and promote the healing of diseases, so the entire body's physiological functions improve.
65. Try astragalus membranaceus
Astragalus membranaceus (astragalus) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years as an immunity booster. As it contains antioxidants, it can protect our cells from damage.
Astragalus also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immunoregulatory properties. Its extract can increase the activity of macrophages, increasing the migration and release of immune response mediators. Therefore, astragalus may be effective at defending the body against infections.
66. Listen to classical music
Besides promoting mental wellbeing, helping us focus, increasing our productivity, enhancing our brain function, and putting us in a good mood, listening to traditional and classical music can also boost our immunity. Specifically, listening to these types of music can reduce our blood cortisol level, promote the secretion of oxytocin, which would quicken wound healing, and suppress certain immune disorders.
According to a Swedish study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, open heart surgery patients who listened to soothing classical music during their recovery period had significantly lower stress and blood cortisol levels and higher oxytocin secretion levels than patients who didn't listen to such music.
67. Join a chorus
A study has shown that cortisol in the body decreases rapidly after 40 minutes of participation in choral singing. Cortisol, or the "stress hormone," weakens the immune system and causes the body to age faster.
Another study published in 2004 in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine confirmed that people who participated in choir singing and those who only listened to choir music enjoyed the benefits of the music, but those who sang would get more: the number of immunoglobulin A antibodies (IgA) in their bodies increased significantly. IgA plays a role in our immune system, as it is the first line of defense in the resistance against infection, via inhibiting bacterial and viral adhesion to epithelial cells.
68. Watch a positive movie
Harvard psychologist David McClelland and colleagues once conducted an intriguing study, in which when watching a film about Mother Teresa helping the sick and dying in Calcutta, the audience's immune function was enhanced and remained high for an hour afterwards. This effect even happened to those who did not like Mother Teresa. Their brains subconsciously resonated with her good deeds and the power of compassion shown in the film.
This study suggests that our bodies and brains are similar to signal receivers, changing and sensing all kinds of information in our surroundings. Positive messages would bring about positive material changes in our body and enhance our anti-viral immunity.
69. Look at beautiful paintings
As chronic stress can suppress our immune cells, to boost our immune function, we should completely relax our mind and body sometimes. We can do so by visiting art galleries to admire beautiful paintings, which are pleasing to the eye.
70. Read or listen to a good story
Good stories that enhance a positive view of life and make us happy can have a great effect.
This feeling of happiness can increase the number of immunoglobulin A and a decrease in salivary cortisol in our body, thus enhancing our immune system.
71. Put down your cell phone
It is common knowledge that excessive use of cell phones is detrimental to our health. Specifically, the blue light emitted from cell phones can disrupt our sleeping schedule, making us prone to illness. The constant notification from your email inbox and social media accounts can definitely increase your anxiety and stress levels.
Furthermore, your interactions on social media platforms, which are easily accessible with your cell phone, can potentially put you into a bad mood.
Last but not least, cell phones tend to have a high level of bacterial contamination. And according to Time magazine, our cell phones can be 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat.
In summary, the excessive use of cell phones can weaken our immunity, making us prone to infections and diseases. Therefore, as it's impossible for us to not keep a cell phone nowadays, we can limit its use to a minimal level.
72. Limit screen use
Our screens are often used mindlessly, to consume negative news stories or kill time scrolling through social media. This can lead to overstimulation, negative feelings, and/or dopamine dysregulation.
Instead, we can put our electronic devices aside, take some time to read a few paperbacks, listen to classical music, cultivate several indoor plants, grow a little vegetable garden, or go out for a walk in nature. These can all boost our immune system, instead of weakening it with negative messages and information.
73. Forgive yourself and others
According to a study conducted by several Harvard scientists and published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2020, after being hurt by the action of others, people who rarely forgive the perpetrators are prone to negative emotions such as anger, resentment, thoughts of revenge, disappointment, depression, and loneliness. This is a vicious cycle of negative emotions, and it will bring them a lot of psychological pressure and stress, which will have a negative effect on their immune function.
People who can easily forgive others do not have so many negative emotions. And as the amount of negative emotions is reduced, their stress is also decreased, and so is the negative effect on the immune system. Furthermore, their antiviral ability will become enhanced.
74. Think about your life purpose
A 2003 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine discovered that among 43 women who lost a close relative to breast cancer, those who began to place greater emphasis on seeking a meaningful purpose in life had stronger natural killer cell function and greater resistance to viruses than those we didn't.
Perhaps it sounds incredible that our minds have a direct impact on immunity, but scientists have long ago discovered that spirit and thoughts can affect the state of immune cells and DNA in the human body.
75. Laugh more
Professor William F. Fry at Stanford University found that laughing increases the number of antibodies and immune cells in our blood and saliva, and it also excites the parasympathetic nerves, reduces adrenaline levels, and relieves fatigue. So laughing is an excellent "medicine" to improve immunity.
In the 1970s, Norman Cousins, a professor of psychiatric and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a life-threatening autoimmune disease with a 1 in 500 chance of recovery. Cousins tailor-made a holistic approach for himself, including laughing (by watching comedy movies), a lot of vitamin C, and a friendly, optimistic personality. He eventually recovered from his illness, after optimism and positivity curbed his illness.
76. Do something nice for someone else
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2013, people who are more considerate of others have a stronger immune system than that of people that focus on personal sensory enjoyment.
Specifically, the subjects were divided into two groups: one group with a view of eudaimonic well-being tend to pursue human justice and noble goals; and the other group with a view of hedonic well-being are more inclined to pursue personal sensory enjoyment. As per the study results, the first group have higher gene expression of interferons, higher antibody production ability, and significantly lower expression of inflammatory genes than the second group.
Peace, calmness, consideration for others, kindness, altruism, and forgiveness are all good mental states, which are beneficial to our immunity. And on the other hand, impatience, anger, resentment, and other negative mental states are detrimental to our immune system.
77. Turn a negative thought into a positive one
Our thoughts come from the brain, which connects and regulates the endocrine and immune systems through the nervous system. Negative thoughts and emotions tend to make people sick and can affect our neurological, endocrine, and organ functions, as well as the function of our immune system.
There is some evidence that sorrow, especially if it lasts a long time, can depress our body's immunity. The effect can linger for six months, or even longer if the grief is too deep.
On the contrary, when we have cheerful and positive thoughts, our body's immunity works better. Scientists have proven that people with strong immunity are relatively optimistic.
There is a specific discipline that studies the effects of emotions on immunity, that is, how the immune system interacts with the central nervous system. It is called psychoneuroimmunology.
Scientists have found that what was previously thought of as a mental-emotional response can be connected to biochemical reactions in the brain and the entire body. Candace B Pert, who studied neuropeptides and their role in the immune system, proposed that neuropeptides and their receptors form a psychosomatic network that covers the entire body.
Our mental and emotional state will determine how easy it is for a virus to enter our cells, and will also determine whether or not we will get sick with the same dose of virus attack. A good mental and emotional state would have a protective effect on our body and would prevent viruses from entering the cells. Neuropeptides have an immunomodulatory effect. And self-produced, natural neuropeptides can provide real protection.