KILLEEN — The immune system might be one of the most fascinating but also complicated systems of the human body. If the network of cells, tissues and organs works well, it helps fight infection and defends your body against illness.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise and no near end of the pandemic in sight, many are looking for ways to boost their immune system.
Although a healthy immune system doesn’t give you immunity or completely prevents you from getting sick, it puts your body in a better position to fight infection when it does happen.
Dr. Chau Nguyen, primary care provider for the AdventHealth Medical Group in Killeen, explained how the immune system works inside the human body.
“You have a complicated system of surveillance with stationary and free-floating cells and other blood components to continuously monitor for anything that could be considered as foreign to attack and eliminate,” he said.
Once the human body identified foreign organisms, a cellular response initiates the elimination of the virus and creates antibodies to help fight the illness in the future.
“It is an orchestra of wonder that we are still learning,” Nguyen said.
Because scientists don’t have consistent proof of what can effectively boost the immune system as of yet, the health industry advertises a variety of promising supplements offered on drug store shelves and online.
Colloidal silver, mushroom powder and elderberry extract are few of many supplements that promise to strengthen the human immune response.
“There are many studies that suggest supplements and molecules can boost the immune system,” Nguyen said. “Unfortunately, we have not had any consistent studies with clear-cut evidence.”
While studies didn’t prove the effectiveness of such supplements, scientific evidence does show that there is no magic pill to help you stay healthy.
Research suggests, however, that many factors play a role in boosting your immune system.
“We only have strong evidence to suggest … association of better immune system with balanced and good mental health status,” Nguyen said.
He recommended exercise, diet and a healthy exposure to nature as the three vital pillars that strengthen the multiple components of the body’s immune response.
“This includes a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, balanced diet including fruits and vegetables for micronutrients and healthy exposure to nature to train your immune system for a balanced response,” he said.
Regular cardiovascular exercise outside, such as brisk walking, cycling or running, can help strengthen the body’s immune response. Besides improving your physical health, getting the body moving is just as crucial for your mind.
While indoor exercise is beneficial, being outdoors means you also get a much-needed dose of Vitamin D.
In addition to eating well and exercising, getting enough sleep is beneficial for keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Insufficient sleep, which is less than seven or eight hours a night, can have adverse effects.
Because the body’s immune response works in concert with other systems such as the central nervous system and the stress system, strengthening it needs a holistic approach.
“The bottom line is balance — whether in diet, mental health, activities, nature vs. indoor, etc.,” Nguyen said.