15 Foods That Boost the Immune System

12 Strategies to Strengthen Your Immune System Article Resources

How to boost your immune system
Propolis is a bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world, if not the broadest spectrum, according to master herbalist Donnie Yance. Zinc not only boosts testosterone — which makes it an aphrodisiac. Enjoy these berries in juice or smoothies, or try them dried and mixed with granola. Raw organic milk is not associated with any of the health problems of pasteurized milk such as rheumatoid arthritis, skin rashes, diarrhea and cramps. In a study, researchers took obese, sedentary, postmenopausal women and assigned half of them to stretching exercises once a week and the other half to at least 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. As for people who don't eat meat, Ms Moss suggests instead having vegetable broth. If you are serious about boosting your immunity, then adding traditionally fermented foods is essential.

Skip links

Revealed... 10 foods that BOOST your immune system

The answer is regular exercise. It may seem too good to be true, but it's not. Hundreds of studies demonstrate that exercise helps you feel better and live longer. This report answers many important questions about physical activity. It will also help guide you through starting and maintaining an exercise program that suits your abilities and lifestyle. As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, which in turn contributes to more infections and more cancer.

As life expectancy in developed countries has increased, so too has the incidence of age-related conditions. While some people age healthily, the conclusion of many studies is that, compared with younger people, the elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases and, even more importantly, more likely to die from them.

Respiratory infections, influenza, and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people over 65 worldwide. No one knows for sure why this happens, but some scientists observe that this increased risk correlates with a decrease in T cells, possibly from the thymus atrophying with age and producing fewer T cells to fight off infection. Whether this decrease in thymus function explains the drop in T cells or whether other changes play a role is not fully understood.

Others are interested in whether the bone marrow becomes less efficient at producing the stem cells that give rise to the cells of the immune system. A reduction in immune response to infections has been demonstrated by older people's response to vaccines.

For example, studies of influenza vaccines have shown that for people over age 65, the vaccine is much less effective compared to healthy children over age 2. But despite the reduction in efficacy, vaccinations for influenza and S. There appears to be a connection between nutrition and immunity in the elderly. A form of malnutrition that is surprisingly common even in affluent countries is known as "micronutrient malnutrition.

Older people tend to eat less and often have less variety in their diets. One important question is whether dietary supplements may help older people maintain a healthier immune system. Older people should discuss this question with a physician who is well versed in geriatric nutrition, because while some dietary supplementation may be beneficial for older people, even small changes can have serious repercussions in this age group.

Like any fighting force, the immune system army marches on its stomach. Healthy immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment. Scientists have long recognized that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Whether the increased rate of disease is caused by malnutrition's effect on the immune system, however, is not certain. There are still relatively few studies of the effects of nutrition on the immune system of humans, and even fewer studies that tie the effects of nutrition directly to the development versus the treatment of diseases.

There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals, as measured in the test tube. However, the impact of these immune system changes on the health of animals is less clear, and the effect of similar deficiencies on the human immune response has yet to be assessed.

So what can you do? If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs — maybe, for instance, you don't like vegetables — taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may bring other health benefits, beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system. Taking megadoses of a single vitamin does not.

More is not necessarily better. Walk into a store, and you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to "support immunity" or otherwise boost the health of your immune system. Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease.

Demonstrating whether an herb — or any substance, for that matter — can enhance immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter. Scientists don't know, for example, whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity. Modern medicine has come to appreciate the closely linked relationship of mind and body. A wide variety of maladies, including stomach upset, hives, and even heart disease, are linked to the effects of emotional stress.

Despite the challenges, scientists are actively studying the relationship between stress and immune function. For one thing, stress is difficult to define. What may appear to be a stressful situation for one person is not for another. When people are exposed to situations they regard as stressful, it is difficult for them to measure how much stress they feel, and difficult for the scientist to know if a person's subjective impression of the amount of stress is accurate.

The scientist can only measure things that may reflect stress, such as the number of times the heart beats each minute, but such measures also may reflect other factors. Most scientists studying the relationship of stress and immune function, however, do not study a sudden, short-lived stressor; rather, they try to study more constant and frequent stressors known as chronic stress, such as that caused by relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, or sustained challenges to perform well at one's work.

Some scientists are investigating whether ongoing stress takes a toll on the immune system. But it is hard to perform what scientists call "controlled experiments" in human beings. In a controlled experiment, the scientist can change one and only one factor, such as the amount of a particular chemical, and then measure the effect of that change on some other measurable phenomenon, such as the amount of antibodies produced by a particular type of immune system cell when it is exposed to the chemical.

In a living animal, and especially in a human being, that kind of control is just not possible, since there are so many other things happening to the animal or person at the time that measurements are being taken. Despite these inevitable difficulties in measuring the relationship of stress to immunity, scientists are making progress.

Almost every mother has said it: So far, researchers who are studying this question think that normal exposure to moderate cold doesn't increase your susceptibility to infection. Most health experts agree that the reason winter is "cold and flu season" is not that people are cold, but that they spend more time indoors, in closer contact with other people who can pass on their germs.

But researchers remain interested in this question in different populations. Some experiments with mice suggest that cold exposure might reduce the ability to cope with infection. But what about humans? Scientists have dunked people in cold water and made others sit nude in subfreezing temperatures. They've studied people who lived in Antarctica and those on expeditions in the Canadian Rockies. The results have been mixed. For example, researchers documented an increase in upper respiratory infections in competitive cross-country skiers who exercise vigorously in the cold, but whether these infections are due to the cold or other factors — such as the intense exercise or the dryness of the air — is not known.

A group of Canadian researchers that has reviewed hundreds of medical studies on the subject and conducted some of its own research concludes that there's no need to worry about moderate cold exposure — it has no detrimental effect on the human immune system. Those who petted the stuffed dog just felt silly. While having lots of friends is healthy, science also shows that intimate, sexual relationships have immune system perks. Tobacco smoke triggers inflammation, increases respiratory mucus, and inhibits the hairlike projections inside your nose cilia from clearing that mucus.

Children and adults exposed to tobacco smoke are more at risk for respiratory infections, including colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis and middle ear infections. Beneficial microorganisms colonize our intestinal, lower urinary and upper respiratory tracts.

You can consume such bacteria in the form of live-cultured products such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi. Probiotic supplements, available at natural food stores, may reduce the risk of antibiotic-induced diarrhea, viral diarrhea, vaginitis and respiratory infections. Vitamin D plays a number of roles in promoting normal immune function. Vitamin D deficiency correlates with asthma, cancer, several autoimmune diseases e.

One study linked deficiency to a greater likelihood of carrying MRSA methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in the nose. Unfortunately, nearly one-third of the U.

Because few foods contain much vitamin D, your best bet is to regularly spend short periods of time in the sun without sunscreen , and to take supplements in northern climes during the colder months. Studies link deficiencies of zinc, selenium, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, D and E to reduced immune function. But scientists have yet to pinpoint exact levels of these nutrients for optimal immune function, much less whether dietary supplementation really helps the average, well-fed American.

For instance, research on vitamin C for prevention and treatment of the common cold has been inconclusive. Some micronutrients, notably vitamin A, can be toxic in overdose. Excessive levels of zinc paradoxically suppress immune function.

A varied, plant-based diet and a good multivitamin supplement should meet your needs. Routine vaccinations have had a huge impact on reducing, and in many cases nearly eradicating, a number of infectious diseases.

Most immunizations occur during childhood. Vaccinations for adults to consider include yearly influenza vaccines, tetanus boosters, the shingles vaccine for people 60 and up, and the pneumococcus vaccine for people over the age of A long list of medicinal plants contain chemicals that enhance immune system activity, including echinacea, eleuthero also called Siberian ginseng , ginseng Asian and American , astragalus, garlic, and shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms.

Garlic is the favorite choice of many. When someone in my family sniffles, I make an immune soup based on a recipe Brigitte Mars shared with me years ago:. Sauté onions, shiitake mushrooms and chicken, adding just enough water to keep the chicken from drying out. Add fresh vegetables such as carrots and celery. Cover with plenty of water. Toward the end of cooking, add Italian seasonings thyme, rosemary, oregano , which are tasty and antimicrobial, and the chopped, cooked chicken. Before serving, add fresh, pressed garlic one to two cloves per person and remove the astragalus roots.

Some people respond to front-page news about microbes — bird flu, flesh-eating bacteria, pathogenic E. But the science says to get a little dirty. Some experts even point to evidence that an over-sanitized environment is bad for your health, increasing the risk of allergic, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.

The so-called Hygiene Hypothesis posits that exposure to microbes early in life flexes and shapes the immune system to do what it was designed to do, like fight off the ebola virus. Growing up in an ultra-clean environment, though, may produce an immune system that attacks innocuous things animal dander, ragweed pollen, your own cells , leading to chronic inflammation. In support of that hypothesis, children who grow up in larger families blessed with germy siblings , live in the country around barnyard animals , or attend day care have lower rates of conditions such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.

On the other hand, improved sanitation along with vaccinations and antibiotics has clearly decreased the death rate from infections and lengthened our lives. Infections, however, continue to challenge us, which means that the Hygiene Hypothesis and other immunity-boosting practices remains a hot topic in immunology circles. I love that you mentioned the benefits of mushrooms in boosting immunity and to help fight cancer! One great recipe I have found kills two birds with one stone - it's LOADED with immune boosting ingredients ginger, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, sage, turmeric, etc.

The stock is even made from immune boosting herbs and roots! Great article, we can boost our immune system just with the right kind of food.

Here is another great article you might like http: There are many herbs for immune system one, that helps me a lot is chuchuhuasi. It is mainly sold as natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, but it is not broadly advertised as a strong immune system booster. You can find it here http: I have found that, drinking a tablespoon of braggs apple cider vinegar in a glass of water , first thing upon waking, keeps me free of any type of illness. I seldom even get headaches. It disgusts me with your lack of faith in our research for a silly superstition that's only going to get you killed.

This article said it was going to tell me how to boost my immune system naturally, which is exactly what I was looking for. I was very disappointed when I came to the point that it told me to get vaccinated. In no way should the writer of this article be telling people this is a natural way to stay healthy.

Vaccines are full of unnatural and dangerous chemicals that you have to literally dissect each vaccine to learn about because the CDC won't be honest about it and they have convinced or paid off the FDA enough to allow toxic levels of aluminum and other ingredients be injected in the bodies of our children and us because "the benefits outweigh the risks".

However, they don't inform the consumer of the risk. The consumer is a patient, we have the right to make informed decisions about our treatment and not be treated like lab rats that keep coming down with ailments attached to these vaccines, just because the people that benefit monetarily think the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks but never give the consumer the fine print about the risks. Start researching vaccine injuries and the ingredients in them, then can you still honestly tell me that you recommend vaccination for naturally boosting the immune system?!

If this is meant to be about natural health, make it about natural health and leave big pharm out of it! Everything else seems like useful info, just harder to trust when I see someone considering big pharm as a natural approach.

I'm disappointed that the author basically pooh-poohs the use of large amounts of vitamin C to boost the immune system. I have read a lot of the research. Unfortunately, the studies which show no benefit from the vitamin are those in which participants were given very small amounts. To be effective, the C has to be ingested in amounts like 5, mg. Linus Pauling's book on the subject is worth reading. Mother Earth, you should not print articles written by allopaths!

The only thing that works for my is taking supplements. If I don't take supplements I'll get a sick every time something comes around. I usually take Immuno-Care https: I eat really healthy too, lots of vegetables, seeds and yogurt. I eat little to no refined sugar ever. Before we had vaccines the number of mortalities from what we now consider harmless diseases were staggering.

Caution, yes, common sense, yes. By the way, the doctor in Great Britain that began this controversial research and connection to autism was completely discredited and his license to practice medicine was taken away. It was revealed that his research was fraudulent. But even if that we're not so, the stats speak for themselves. And if autism has recently risen, what bearing could that possibly have on the fact that the vaccinations have been ongoing for years, prior to that rise?

I was really enjoying this article Is this Mother Earth News?! I actually double checked. Vaccines are a toxic chemical cocktail.

Who bought you out? I was shocked to see Mother Earth News promoting vaccines not the most earth-friendly "health" tip. Then, I noticed the article was written by an M. Not so surprised now. I also have lost faith in Mother Earth News. You cannot recommend straight up poison such as vaccines to health conscience people! Mother Earth accepting big money from Big Pharma?!?! I have just decided to cancel my subscription to Mother Earth News. They well know vaccines are extremely dangerous particularly for children.

Search Harvard Health Publishing