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How to Boost Your Immune System

Taking proper care of your immune system can help protect your body from viruses and bacteria during cold and flu season. Supplements are not necessary in most cases. Northeast Medical Group family medicine doctor Piyal Alam, DO, says living a healthy lifestyle can help boost your immune system naturally.

“Our immune system produces white blood cells and other types of chemical proteins that destroys pathogens or keeps them at bay to keep us safe and healthy,” said Dr. Alam.

Healthy diet, exercise and sleep

boost your immune system

Dr. Alam recommends looking for foods high in Vitamin C, B6 and E. Our body does not naturally produce or store Vitamin C, so it is important we get it through a healthy diet. Vitamin C rich foods include oranges, grapefruit, berries, tomatoes, sweet potato, bell peppers, cabbage and vegetables like spinach and kale.

Foods rich in Vitamin B6 include poultry, salmon, tuna, green veggies and chickpeas. Foods rich in Vitamin E include nuts, seeds and spinach.

A regular multivitamin can help bridge any gaps in your diet. However, be wary before starting a new regimen, as the FDA does not regulate vitamins. Read the ingredient list carefully to make sure there aren’t any additives and consult your doctor if you have any questions.

When it comes to exercise, The American Heart Association recommends around 150 minutes of moderate level exercise per week. That would amount to around 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week. If you are not getting enough exercise, try to add in activities you enjoy such as brisk walking, dancing, gardening, playing tennis or biking.

The last key pillar to a healthy lifestyle is making sure you get enough sleep. Often overlooked, Dr. Alam said sleep is just as important as a healthy diet and exercise. It allows the body and mind to rest and recover.

Other things you can do to lead a healthy lifestyle can include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake and reducing stress, which release hormones in the body suppressing the immune system. High levels of stress can actually make your body susceptible to viruses and bacteria.

Importance of vaccinations

Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Alam strongly recommends getting a flu shot in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine and booster.

“Vaccinations prime the immune system,” he said.

He explains to his patients that these vaccines give the body a “blueprint” that allows our bodies to respond quickly if exposed to viruses such as COVID-19. In addition to vaccines, proper mask wearing and hand washing can help keep us safe.