For much of the last year and a half, mask mandates have protected us, not only from COVID-19, but also from common viral infections such as the cold and flu. With the relaxation of mask mandates and other restrictions, medical experts are seeing a quick return of these pesky viruses.
You may be wondering what you can do to minimize the effects of these and other infections. As you consider your defenses, make sure you can separate fact from fiction. Here, we break down 4 “facts” you may have heard about infections and immunity:
- Being cold makes you sick: For those of you who grew up in cooler climates, how many times did your mom tell you to put on a coat or you’ll get sick? This might make you think that being cold will weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection. Merely being cold will not make you sick. But experts have found that cooler temperatures and low humidity make a good breeding ground for the flu virus.1 This may explain why colds and flu are more prevalent in the colder months. Additionally, people are more likely to gather together indoors during winter months, enhancing the spread of germs.
- It doesn’t matter if you get enough sleep: It does, actually. Sleep deficiency is associated with lower levels of infection-fighting antibodies, cells, and proteins. Studies have shown that people with challenged sleep are more likely to get sick after exposure to a virus.2 In fact, sleep can also affect vaccine responses and allergic reactions. The key is to get sufficient hours of quality sleep. For adults, that means at least seven hours per night.3
- Age can weaken the immune system: It is true that as we age, our immune system can slow down and take longer to identify and fight infections. Additionally, infections can be more severe.4 To optimize your immune system function as long as possible, take precautions: avoid smoking, eat a healthy diet, get good sleep, and maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise can boost immune system function: Research suggests regular workouts at a moderate level of intensity can improve immune response to viral and respiratory infections by promoting the exchange of white blood cells while reducing stress hormones and inflammation.5 Another way exercise helps with immunity is to reduce the risk of obesity, which is harmful to the immune system.
How to protect yourself from illness
A variety of unhealthy habits can harm your immune system, not only making you more susceptible to infection, but also making it harder for your body to fight off infection.
Lack of sleep, stress, smoking (cigarettes and e-cigarettes), obesity, and poor nutrition are all known to affect the immune system.
Why? Stress and smoking cause release of cortisol (“the stress hormone”), which can lower number of T-cells available to fight off infection.6 Lack of sleep can decrease production of important proteins and antibodies that help fight infection. Lack of sleep can also affect how quickly you recover from an illness. Obesity increases inflammation which can reduce your immune response over time.
When you’re looking to boost your immune system naturally, be sure to cultivate healthy habits such as:
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet to maximize important nutrients and minimize harmful, processed foods, such as sugar, salt, and saturated fat, which can cause inflammation and affect functioning of the immune system7
- Exercise regularly to lower cortisol levels
- Get sufficient, high quality sleep to allow your immune system to recharge and develop infection-fighting proteins and cells
- Reduce stress to reduce cortisol levels that can lead to excess inflammation
Beta glucan for immune system health
For those of us who aren’t able to exercise, get quality sleep, or eat enough healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and other foods needed to keep our immune systems in top shape, supplements may help.
Beta glucan, for example, is a type of soluble fiber believed to support healthy cholesterol levels and balance the immune system. It heightens the activity of white blood cells that seek out and target damaged cells and tissue.
Though the body does not produce beta glucans, they can be found naturally in foods, including oats, barley, seaweed, and edible fungi. Mushrooms are one of the most well-known sources and have been used for centuries due to their health-enhancing and immune-strengthening abilities.
GlucanPlus from PharmaNutrics is a unique formula designed to enhance the immune system’s natural protection against colds, lung issues, and other respiratory problems. It combines 1,3 and 1,6 beta glucans with zinc citrate to further enhance immune system functioning and natural white blood cell protection against oxidative damage.
Try GlucanPlus today.