19 Ways You’re Wrecking Your Immune System, Say Experts

19 Ways You’re Wrecking Your Immune System, Say Experts

  • June 12, 2021

A head cold, again? Some years, it seems like you’re constantly coming down with something. But a worse-than-usual flu season may not be entirely to blame. There are a bunch of ways you might be weakening your immune system without even knowing it, all day long—from how much sleep you get to your sugar intake to the items you touch at the office. Eat This, Not That! Health has rounded them up here. Gesundheit. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.


Sad thoughtful teen girl sits on chair feels depressed
Shutterstock

Loneliness can cause chronic stress, wearing down your immune system. According to a study published in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, feelings of loneliness affect the body on a genetic level—it causes an increase in pro-inflammatory genes and decrease in genes that produce antibodies and immunity. “The resulting long-term inflammation may represent a key mechanism in the development of loneliness-associated chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegeneration,” the scientists said. Yikes.

The Rx: Never get too lonely. Maintain social connections and make an effort to be around others regularly. Or just give someone a (consensual) hug. According to a study published in Psychological Science, the simple act of hugging someone reduces stress and gives you an immune boost.


Vitamin d foods
Shutterstock

An adequate vitamin D level is protective against several types of cancer. And D seems to help guard against colds and flu as well. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, a low vitamin D level is associated with “an increased susceptibility to infection” and increased autoimmunity, in which the immune system becomes confused and begins attacking the body instead of protecting it. Fifty percent of people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, the National Institutes of Health says. 

The Rx: According to the NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements, adults should get 600 IU of vitamin D daily, and 800 after age 70. (It also protects bone health.) Your doctor can test for vitamin D deficiency with a simple blood test, and advise you on a vitamin D supplement if it’s a good idea.


Woman Washing Hands In Kitchen Sink
Shutterstock

If there’s one tip everyone knows about preventing illness, it’s this one: Wash your hands. But too many of us aren’t doing it. A study by the American Society of Microbiology found that 83 percent of women washed their hands after using a public restroom—but only 74 percent of men did. And a separate study from Michigan State University found that 95 percent of us don’t wash our hands well enough to kill bacteria. To learn the correct technique, read on. 

The Rx: Wash your hands after using the restroom, before preparing food, or any time you feel they might be dirty. 


Analogue metal stopwatch close-up on the black background.
Shutterstock

That MSU study found that only 5 percent of us wash our hands correctly, only one in three people use soap, and 1 in 10 don’t bother with the basin at all. Not washing your hands exposes you to all kinds of disease-causing bacteria and viruses, from the common cold to norovirus to strep and staph.

The Rx: Here’s advice from the people who should know: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands vigorously using soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds—about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. But the MSU researchers found that bathroom users only washed their hands for an average of 6 seconds, and just 5 percent of people washed their hands for 15 seconds or more.


hispanic woman at home bedroom lying in bed late at night trying to sleep suffering insomnia sleeping disorder or scared on nightmares looking sad worried and stressed
Shutterstock

When we sleep, the body engages in several processes to repair and recharge the body. One of them is to make sure the immune system stays up to snuff. During sleep, the body produces inflammatory proteins called cytokines, along with restocking various disease-fighting cells and antibodies. If you’re not getting enough shut-eye, that could be why you keep coming down with colds and flu.

The Rx: Experts including the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep nightly. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, talk with your doctor—your overall health is at risk. 


tired businessman with eyeglasses and laptop computer rubbing eyes at office
Shutterstock

Chronic stress weakens the body and the immune system. When you’re stressed, the brain increases its production of the stress hormone cortisol, which impairs T cells, a component in the blood that fights infection. According to the American Cancer Society, people who experience chronic stress are more prone to the common cold and viral infections like the flu. 

The Rx: In today’s world, reducing stress is easier said than done. But it’s essential to mental and physical health. Regular exercise is an excellent stress reliever. Learning relaxation exercises can help. If you find yourself constantly stressed, talk to your health care provider.


Asian shopper disinfecting hands with sanitizer in supermarket during shopping for groceries. Public shopping cart is high risk virus and bacteria contact point.
Shutterstock

A recent study found that more than half the shopping carts at an average grocery store carry disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, which can cause diarrhea, nausea and fever. A separate study found that handles in the freezer section of a superstore held 33,340 bacteria colonies per square inch—more than a thousand times the bacteria found on the average cell phone. 

The Rx: Some grocery stores have antibacterial wipes you can use to wipe down the handle of your shopping cart. You can also buy a pack to bring with you. Wipe the handle, then let it dry completely for 20 seconds before you touch it.


Female doctor or nurse giving shot or vaccine to a patient's shoulder
Shutterstock

This is an easy one. The CDC recommends that all adults get a flu shot every year. It can reduce your chances of contracting influenza, which can cause serious or fatal complications like pneumonia—and cause a “twindemic” along with coronavirus.

The Rx: Get your flu shot. Ask your health care provider if you should get any other vaccinations, such as against shingles, while you’re at it.


woman lying on sofa and watching tv.
Shutterstock

According to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, being sedentary can impair the body’s ability to fight infection. 

The Rx: If you work a desk job, get up and move around as much possible. Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. And get regular exercise: The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity every week.


A woman taking a break from a running exercise in an outdoor urban environment.
Shutterstock

It’s called overtraining syndrome: Constantly working out, without giving your body a chance to rest, is not only counterproductive to your fitness goals; it can impair your immune system. 

RELATED: Everyday Habits That Make You Look Older, According to Science


Woman wine
Shutterstock

A hangover isn’t the only way over-imbibing can make you sick. Alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde, a potent toxin. In excess, acetaldehyde impedes the lungs’ ability to sweep microbes out of the body (hello, common cold) and reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria and viruses. Just one night of heavy drinking is enough to significantly impair the immune system, researchers have found.

The Rx: How much alcohol is too much? Experts, including the CDC and American Cancer Society, say men should have no more than two drinks daily, and women one. 


Woman wearing surgical protective mask pushing the button in a public transportation.
Shutterstock

Straphanging might be hazardous to your health. A British study found that people who take the bus or subway to work are six times more likely to get an acute respiratory infection than people who walk or drive. That’s simply because you encounter many more people—and their germs.

The Rx: After you get off public transportation, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands (with soap, and at least for 20 seconds).

RELATED: Signs You’re Getting One of the “Most Deadly” Cancers


Man pouring added sugar packet into drink
Shutterstock

Sugar causes inflammation, which decreases immunity by weakening white blood cells, whose job is to fight off infection. And most of us eat too much of it. The American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day and that women have no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams). The average American eats about 15 teaspoons every day.

The Rx: Reduce your consumption of added sugars like sugar-sweetened drinks, processed cereals, cookies and cake. Eat a variety of whole foods, fruits and vegetables—you’ll get vitamins and nutrients that will keep you healthy. 


obese woman
Shutterstock

Obesity weighs heavily on the immune system. Being overweight prevents white blood cells from producing antibodies and agents that fight inflammation. In an animal study conducted at the University of North Carolina, researchers found that obese mice were 10 times more likely to die when infected with a flu virus than mice of normal weight. 

The Rx: Maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy, balanced diet and staying active.

RELATED: The #1 Cause of Obesity, According to Science


Woman holding pill and glass of fresh water, taking medicine
Shutterstock

Antibiotics are meant to treat infections caused by bacteria. They don’t work on viruses like the common cold or flu. If you unnecessarily take antibiotics for those viral infections too often, you could become resistant to them.

The Rx: If your doctor diagnoses you with a virus, don’t insist on being prescribed an antibiotic “just to be safe.” It’s anything but.

RELATED: I’m A Doctor And Warn You Never Take This Supplement


man drinking water
Shutterstock

As we age, it’s easier to become dehydrated, and that can strain your immune system. Dehydration limits the secretion of antimicrobial proteins into your saliva, which ward off infections. That’s not the only way dehydration can make you sick: water carries nutrients and oxygen to your cells, flushes bacteria from your bladder and normalizes blood pressure, among several other functions. 

The Rx: Harvard Medical School recommends drinking four to six cups of water a day.

RELATED: The #1 Reason You Could Get Cancer, According to Science


Female hands holding a mobile phone and wipe the screen cloth
Shutterstock

Here’s a fun fact: Your cellphone may contain 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, has tested phones that contained 100,000 bacteria. “Viruses are a bit more mobile today than ever before, because you’ve got mobile phones,” said Gerba.

The Rx: Disinfect your cellphone once a month with a solution of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol. Apply it with a microfiber cloth or cotton pad. Don’t spray anything directly onto the phone; you might damage it.


Business woman working from home wearing protective mask
Shutterstock

Offices are hotbeds of germs—keyboards, phones, desks. But the germiest surfaces are likely in the break room, particularly the coffee pot. When Gerba’s researchers tested germ levels in a typical office, they placed a synthetic germ in the break room. It spread to nearly every surface in the office within four hours. 

The Rx: Keep hand sanitizer at your desk, and use it after each trip to the coffee pot. Make it a habit to wipe down your desk, phone, keyboard and door handles with an antibacterial wipe or spray.

RELATED: 9 Everyday Habits That Might Lead to Dementia, Say Experts


a gentleman with a beard scratching his eyes with glasses
Shutterstock

The common cold virus and flu bugs can linger on hard indoor surfaces for up to seven days. Opening a door and then touching your face is an incredibly efficient way to pick up whatever’s there—often the common cold or coronavirus.

The Rx: When you’re out in public, make it a practice to wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you eat, drink or touch your eyes, nose or mouth. And to get through life at your healthiest, don’t miss these First Signs You Have a Serious Illness.

19 Ways You're Wrecking Your Immune System, Say Experts

19 Ways You’re Wrecking Your Immune System, Say Experts

  • June 12, 2021

A head cold, again? Some years, it seems like you’re constantly coming down with something. But a worse-than-usual flu season may not be entirely to blame. There are a bunch of ways you might be weakening your immune system without even knowing it, all day long—from how much sleep you get to your sugar intake to the items you touch at the office. Eat This, Not That! Health has rounded them up here. Gesundheit. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.

Sad thoughtful teen girl sits on chair feels depressed

Sad thoughtful teen girl sits on chair feels depressed

Loneliness can cause chronic stress, wearing down your immune system. According to a study published in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, feelings of loneliness affect the body on a genetic level—it causes an increase in pro-inflammatory genes and decrease in genes that produce antibodies and immunity. “The resulting long-term inflammation may represent a key mechanism in the development of loneliness-associated chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegeneration,” the scientists said. Yikes.

The Rx: Never get too lonely. Maintain social connections and make an effort to be around others regularly. Or just give someone a (consensual) hug. According to a study published in Psychological Science, the simple act of hugging someone reduces stress and gives you an immune boost.

Vitamin d foods

Vitamin d foods

An adequate vitamin D level is protective against several types of cancer. And D seems to help guard against colds and flu as well. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine, a low vitamin D level is associated with “an increased susceptibility to infection” and increased autoimmunity, in which the immune system becomes confused and begins attacking the body instead of protecting it. Fifty percent of people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, the National Institutes of Health says.

The Rx: According to the NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements, adults should get 600 IU of vitamin D daily, and 800 after age 70. (It also protects bone health.) Your doctor can test for vitamin D deficiency with a simple blood test, and advise you on a vitamin D supplement if it’s a good idea.

Woman Washing Hands In Kitchen Sink

Woman Washing Hands In Kitchen Sink

If there’s one tip everyone knows about preventing illness, it’s this one: Wash your hands. But too many of us aren’t doing it. A study by the American Society of Microbiology found that 83 percent of women washed their hands after using a public restroom—but only 74 percent of men did. And a separate study from Michigan State University found that 95 percent of us don’t wash our hands well enough to kill bacteria. To learn the correct technique, read on.

The Rx: Wash your hands after using the restroom, before preparing food, or any time you feel they might be dirty.

Analogue metal stopwatch close-up on the black background.

Analogue metal stopwatch close-up on the black background.

That MSU study found that only 5 percent of us wash our hands correctly, only one in three people use soap, and 1 in 10 don’t bother with the basin at all. Not washing your hands exposes you to all kinds of disease-causing bacteria and viruses, from the common cold to norovirus to strep and staph.

The Rx: Here’s advice from the people who should know: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands vigorously using soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds—about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. But the MSU researchers found that bathroom users only washed their hands for an average of 6 seconds, and just 5 percent of people washed their hands for 15 seconds or more.

hispanic woman at home bedroom lying in bed late at night trying to sleep suffering insomnia sleeping disorder or scared on nightmares looking sad worried and stressed

hispanic woman at home bedroom lying in bed late at night trying to sleep suffering insomnia sleeping disorder or scared on nightmares looking sad worried and stressed

When we sleep, the body engages in several processes to repair and recharge the body. One of them is to make sure the immune system stays up to snuff. During sleep, the body produces inflammatory proteins called cytokines, along with restocking various disease-fighting cells and antibodies. If you’re not getting enough shut-eye, that could be why you keep coming down with colds and flu.

The Rx: Experts including the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep nightly. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, talk with your doctor—your overall health is at risk.

tired businessman with eyeglasses and laptop computer rubbing eyes at office

tired businessman with eyeglasses and laptop computer rubbing eyes at office

Chronic stress weakens the body and the immune system. When you’re stressed, the brain increases its production of the stress hormone cortisol, which impairs T cells, a component in the blood that fights infection. According to the American Cancer Society, people who experience chronic stress are more prone to the common cold and viral infections like the flu.

The Rx: In today’s world, reducing stress is easier said than done. But it’s essential to mental and physical health. Regular exercise is an excellent stress reliever. Learning relaxation exercises can help. If you find yourself constantly stressed, talk to your health care provider.

Asian shopper disinfecting hands with sanitizer in supermarket during shopping for groceries. Public shopping cart is high risk virus and bacteria contact point.

Asian shopper disinfecting hands with sanitizer in supermarket during shopping for groceries. Public shopping cart is high risk virus and bacteria contact point.

A recent study found that more than half the shopping carts at an average grocery store carry disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, which can cause diarrhea, nausea and fever. A separate study found that handles in the freezer section of a superstore held 33,340 bacteria colonies per square inch—more than a thousand times the bacteria found on the average cell phone.

The Rx: Some grocery stores have antibacterial wipes you can use to wipe down the handle of your shopping cart. You can also buy a pack to bring with you. Wipe the handle, then let it dry completely for 20 seconds before you touch it.

Female doctor or nurse giving shot or vaccine to a patient's shoulder

Female doctor or nurse giving shot or vaccine to a patient’s shoulder

This is an easy one. The CDC recommends that all adults get a flu shot every year. It can reduce your chances of contracting influenza, which can cause serious or fatal complications like pneumonia—and cause a “twindemic” along with coronavirus.

The Rx: Get your flu shot. Ask your health care provider if you should get any other vaccinations, such as against shingles, while you’re at it.

woman lying on sofa and watching tv.

woman lying on sofa and watching tv.

According to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, being sedentary can impair the body’s ability to fight infection.

The Rx: If you work a desk job, get up and move around as much possible. Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. And get regular exercise: The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity every week.

A woman taking a break from a running exercise in an outdoor urban environment.

A woman taking a break from a running exercise in an outdoor urban environment.

It’s called overtraining syndrome: Constantly working out, without giving your body a chance to rest, is not only counterproductive to your fitness goals; it can impair your immune system.

RELATED: Everyday Habits That Make You Look Older, According to Science

Woman wine

Woman wine

A hangover isn’t the only way over-imbibing can make you sick. Alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde, a potent toxin. In excess, acetaldehyde impedes the lungs’ ability to sweep microbes out of the body (hello, common cold) and reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria and viruses. Just one night of heavy drinking is enough to significantly impair the immune system, researchers have found.

The Rx: How much alcohol is too much? Experts, including the CDC and American Cancer Society, say men should have no more than two drinks daily, and women one.

Woman wearing surgical protective mask pushing the button in a public transportation.

Woman wearing surgical protective mask pushing the button in a public transportation.

Straphanging might be hazardous to your health. A British study found that people who take the bus or subway to work are six times more likely to get an acute respiratory infection than people who walk or drive. That’s simply because you encounter many more people—and their germs.

The Rx: After you get off public transportation, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands (with soap, and at least for 20 seconds).

RELATED: Signs You’re Getting One of the “Most Deadly” Cancers

Man pouring added sugar packet into drink

Man pouring added sugar packet into drink

Sugar causes inflammation, which decreases immunity by weakening white blood cells, whose job is to fight off infection. And most of us eat too much of it. The American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day and that women have no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams). The average American eats about 15 teaspoons every day.

The Rx: Reduce your consumption of added sugars like sugar-sweetened drinks, processed cereals, cookies and cake. Eat a variety of whole foods, fruits and vegetables—you’ll get vitamins and nutrients that will keep you healthy.

obese woman

obese woman

Obesity weighs heavily on the immune system. Being overweight prevents white blood cells from producing antibodies and agents that fight inflammation. In an animal study conducted at the University of North Carolina, researchers found that obese mice were 10 times more likely to die when infected with a flu virus than mice of normal weight.

The Rx: Maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy, balanced diet and staying active.

RELATED: The #1 Cause of Obesity, According to Science

Woman holding pill and glass of fresh water, taking medicine

Woman holding pill and glass of fresh water, taking medicine

Antibiotics are meant to treat infections caused by bacteria. They don’t work on viruses like the common cold or flu. If you unnecessarily take antibiotics for those viral infections too often, you could become resistant to them.

The Rx: If your doctor diagnoses you with a virus, don’t insist on being prescribed an antibiotic “just to be safe.” It’s anything but.

RELATED: I’m A Doctor And Warn You Never Take This Supplement

man drinking water

man drinking water

As we age, it’s easier to become dehydrated, and that can strain your immune system. Dehydration limits the secretion of antimicrobial proteins into your saliva, which ward off infections. That’s not the only way dehydration can make you sick: water carries nutrients and oxygen to your cells, flushes bacteria from your bladder and normalizes blood pressure, among several other functions.

The Rx: Harvard Medical School recommends drinking four to six cups of water a day.

RELATED: The #1 Reason You Could Get Cancer, According to Science

Female hands holding a mobile phone and wipe the screen cloth

Female hands holding a mobile phone and wipe the screen cloth

Here’s a fun fact: Your cellphone may contain 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, has tested phones that contained 100,000 bacteria. “Viruses are a bit more mobile today than ever before, because you’ve got mobile phones,” said Gerba.

The Rx: Disinfect your cellphone once a month with a solution of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol. Apply it with a microfiber cloth or cotton pad. Don’t spray anything directly onto the phone; you might damage it.

Business woman working from home wearing protective mask

Business woman working from home wearing protective mask

Offices are hotbeds of germs—keyboards, phones, desks. But the germiest surfaces are likely in the break room, particularly the coffee pot. When Gerba’s researchers tested germ levels in a typical office, they placed a synthetic germ in the break room. It spread to nearly every surface in the office within four hours.

The Rx: Keep hand sanitizer at your desk, and use it after each trip to the coffee pot. Make it a habit to wipe down your desk, phone, keyboard and door handles with an antibacterial wipe or spray.

RELATED: 9 Everyday Habits That Might Lead to Dementia, Say Experts

a gentleman with a beard scratching his eyes with glasses

a gentleman with a beard scratching his eyes with glasses

The common cold virus and flu bugs can linger on hard indoor surfaces for up to seven days. Opening a door and then touching your face is an incredibly efficient way to pick up whatever’s there—often the common cold or coronavirus.

The Rx: When you’re out in public, make it a practice to wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you eat, drink or touch your eyes, nose or mouth. And to get through life at your healthiest, don’t miss these First Signs You Have a Serious Illness.

5 Ways to Make Your Life Better in 5 Minutes, Say Experts

5 Ways to Make Your Life Better in 5 Minutes, Say Experts

  • June 9, 2021

What if we told you that you could improve your life just five minutes a day? That may sound like the introduction to every 1:30 a.m. infomercial ever written, but it really is possible. Science has found that we can boost our physical and mental health significantly without taking much time at all to do it. These five easy actions can make your life better in five minutes or less. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID

Woman taking her medication in her bedroom at home.
iStock

Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine physician with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, tells her patients to take 2,000 IU of Vitamin D daily. Studies suggest the vitamin can support the immune system—particularly important in the age of COVID—and may lower the risk of developing several types of cancer. 

Shutterstock

According to Harvard Medical School, a large study showed that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners—and those differences weren’t explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). High cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) are major risk factors for heart disease. Scientists believe that dogs’ calming effect can lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

RELATED: Sure Signs You Had COVID and Didn’t Know It

woman sitting in grass writing in journal
Shutterstock

Every morning, take time to write down five things you’re grateful for. It could be your health, your cup of morning coffee, or simply having a roof over your head. That short, simple exercise has been found to improve mood: Studies show that expressing gratitude causes the brain to produce more dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain. 

RELATED: Everyday Habits That Age You Quicker, According to Science

female friends talking at a coffee shop
Shutterstock

Pick up the phone or fire up your texting app to protect your heart and brain. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation can increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack, according to a study published in the journal Heart. People who reported poor social relationships had a 29% higher risk of coronary disease and a 32% higher risk of stroke than people who have solid friendships. The reason: Researchers believe loneliness increases chronic stress, which can wear down the heart. Additionally, studies show that people who are more socially engaged have a lower risk of developing dementia in the later years.

RELATED: 9 Everyday Habits That Might Lead to Dementia, Say Experts

Happy relaxed young woman sitting in her kitchen with a laptop in front of her stretching her arms above her head and looking out of the window with a smile
Shutterstock

Take a few moments every day to limber up—it can benefit more than your muscles. “Stretching a few minutes a day will do wonders for your health in the long run,” says Dr. Thanu Jeyapalan, clinical director of the Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Toronto, Canada. Some of those benefits: Better bone and joint health, improved balance, better flexibility and mobility, and lowered stress. “Even without formal meditation and controlled breathing, the gentle muscle stretching of yoga can reduce stress,” says Harvard Medical School. “Stressed muscles are tight, tense muscles. By learning to relax your muscles, you will be able to use your body to dissipate stress.” And to get through life at your healthiest, don’t miss these First Signs You Have a Serious Illness.

Your Good Health: Three ways to use immune system to fight warts

Your Good Health: Three ways to use immune system to fight warts

  • June 9, 2021

dr_keith_roach_with_bkg.jpgDear Dr. Roach: I have had plantar warts on both feet for decades. Unfortunately, they are on the pressure points of my feet (balls and heels). Nothing seems to eradicate the virus. I have tried bleomycin shots, Cantharidin, Candida antigen shots, liquid nitrogen, surgery, pulsed dye laser treatments, electrolysis, radiation (it did work for a couple of years, but it was all an out-of-pocket expense, and they eventually came back), salicylic acid, green banana peels. You name it, I have tried it.

 

Since it is a virus, one’s immune system should be able to fight it. The one area that I haven’t tried is immunotherapy, because it seems no one knows what type of immunotherapy would work. Do you have any recommendations?

K.G.L.

You have tried nearly everything I have heard of (and at least one I hadn’t: green banana peels?). It’s possible you have tried some other treatments but didn’t include them in your long list. For example, there is some benefit to the medicine cimetidine, normally used as an antacid treatment. It seems to help other therapies work a little better.

I know of three treatments that use the body’s immune system to fight warts: The first is a topical treatment, imiquimod. This treatment is painless and, in my opinion, certainly worth a three-month trial. The second is the use of contact allergens (one is called DPCP). This needs to be administered by an expert, usually in dermatology or immunology. The approach is like the Candida antigen injection you had done. They are intended to increase the immune system activity locally in and around the wart.

The third is to stimulate the body’s immune system with a vaccine. A study using the HPV vaccine showed almost 50% response rate. The downside to the vaccine is small. Apart from a sore arm, it’s very well tolerated. However, it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for people over 45, and you would likely have to pay out-of-pocket for it.

Dear Dr. Roach: At age 67, my baseline PSA jumped from 4.0 to 10.5, prompting my urologist to perform a prostate biopsy. Luckily, no signs of cancer. Does the 10.5 reading appear to be a false positive? How common are PSA false positives for my age?

D.H.

That large of a jump in the PSA is concerning for aggressive prostate cancer, but there are other causes. One is infection of the prostate. You don’t mention any symptoms, which makes prostatitis less likely, because most often there is fever, pain and urinary symptoms similar to a urine infection. A digital exam of the prostate normally shows tenderness in cases of inflammation and infection of the prostate. Prostate infection is treated by antibiotics, preferably guided by identification of the organism by urine culture.

Your negative biopsy is reassuring. Unfortunately, it is possible to miss prostate cancer by biopsy. Years ago, most prostate biopsies were done “blind,” that is, without any imaging. Most commonly now, biopsies are guided by imaging such as MRI or ultrasound. This enhances the ability to diagnose cancer if it is present.

If your PSA level drops back to the level of 4, that’s good evidence the 10 was a false positive. If it keeps going up, I would recommend a re-evaluation. The higher the PSA jump, the less likely it is a false positive reading for cancer. If the high number persisted, it would be worth considering another imaging-guided biopsy.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu

© Copyright Times Colonist

Easy Ways To Boost Your Health – Forbes Health

Easy Ways To Boost Your Health – Forbes Health

  • May 27, 2021

For outdoor enthusiasts, warmer weather means not only relaxing in nature, but also breaking a sweat amongst the elements.

While you can enjoy a wide variety of workouts from the comfort of your home, the great outdoors takes your options to the next level by providing a change of scenery, fresh air and affordable ways to work up a sweat. Plus, there are some impressive mental health perks to exercising in nature.

Here are some of the easiest ways to get moving outside, along with the impressive health benefits of doing so.

Walking

Not in the mood for an intense workout? Walking is one of the most basic forms of outdoor exercise, but its health benefits are unparalleled. Walking is easy on your joints—just one hour of walking every week helps ease joint pain. Regular walking is also associated with a decreased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). The best part? You can do it virtually anywhere.

Health Boost: A large study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found walking for just 20 minutes a day, five days a week, to be associated with 43% fewer sick days. Meanwhile, women who walk seven or more hours a week have a 14% lower risk of developing breast cancer, according to a study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.  

Hiking

While hiking is similar to walking, it’s an experience all its own. Exploring new trails of various lengths and difficulties leaves a lot of unknowns at the beginning of a workout, making it both a mental and physical challenge. 

Health Boost: There are clear health benefits to navigating tougher terrain and being surrounded by nature. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, you use 28% more energy when walking on rougher terrain versus walking on flat ground, leading to extra calorie burn. 

What’s more, the Japanese practice of forest bathing (“shinrin-yoku”)—or the therapeutic act of spending time among trees—is associated with lower blood pressure, an improved immune system and reduced symptoms of depression, research suggests.

Jogging

Ready to pick up the pace and get some fresh air at the same time? Try trading a treadmill walk for an outdoor jog. On a treadmill, you pound the same surface repetitively and the treadmill belt helps propel you forward. But when you run or jog outside, you navigate different types of terrain (grass, dirt paths and steps), and you do all the work of propelling yourself forward, thus working more intensely. 

Health Boost: Jogging in general offers a slew of health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, by increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. And one study found when older adults perform aerobic exercise like jogging or running, it can lead to an improved performance in tasks that require executive control (remembering and applying new information, as well as navigating impulses to respond quickly).

When you take your jog into the great outdoors (or at least around your neighborhood), the benefits increase. One study associated running outside with increases in positive engagement and energy and decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also said they enjoyed the act of running more and were more likely to do it again.

New to jogging? Brianna Bernard, a personal trainer and the founder of Brianna Bernard Fitness in Minneapolis, says one of the best things you can do when you’re first starting out is pace yourself. “Running is about building your endurance, and if your pace is too fast in the beginning, you’ll burn out before you reach the finish line,” she says. “Start at a comfortable pace that you feel confident you can maintain throughout the duration of your run.”

Interval Training

High-intensity interval training—also known as HIIT—is a popular workout method characterized by short bursts of intense movement, followed by short periods of recovery. As its name suggests, HIIT is intense, but these workouts (which usually last between 10 and 30 minutes) are considered one of the most efficient ways to exercise. 

Health Boost: HIIT—which can be done outside without equipment—can help you achieve the same results of moderate to vigorous training in half the time, making it an ideal workout for anyone crunched for time. 

And if you’re taking your workout outside in the name of boosting your aerobic capacity, outdoor HIIT can further improve your ability to take in and use oxygen. One small study found completing four 20-minute HIIT workouts a week over a five-week period increased peak oxygen capacity in study participants by 9%. 

Ready to get started? “Try running for 60 seconds and then walking for 60 seconds, and repeat for as many minutes as you like,” suggests Bernard. “You can increase the duration of your run as you progress and you can even shorten your walking time to intensify the workout.”

Biking

If you’ve spent all winter pedaling away on your stationary bike, more power to you. But now that the weather’s nice, try taking this practice outside, recommends David Chesworth, an ACSM-certified personal trainer and the fitness director at Hilton Head Health in South Carolina. 

“Not only can biking be a stress-relieving activity that can be done both indoors and outdoors, but it’s a great form of cardiorespiratory exercise,” he says. 

Health Boost: Biking targets a very specific set of muscles, according to Chesworth: the glutes, quads and hamstrings. And when you really push yourself, those muscles are challenged in ways few other workouts can achieve. 

There are three clear signs of a true cardio workout, and biking checks all the boxes, says Chesworth. “Biking gets your heart rate up, it’s repetitive in nature, and it works large muscles,” he explains. In fact, the glutes, quads and hamstrings are the three largest muscles in the body.

If you don’t feel up to an all-out power ride, remember a short bike ride through your neighborhood during the workday is still beneficial. And when you pair that movement with the benefits of spending time outside, you’re more likely to return to your desk feeling refreshed and focused.  

Jumping Rope

A favorite childhood activity, jumping rope can be a lot of fun, as well as an excellent workout. Jump ropes are very affordable, you can jump rope pretty much anywhere and the movement itself challenges the entire body as it improves your cardiorespiratory endurance.

Health Boost: Beyond its cardio benefits, jumping rope can improve coordination as well. A study in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine found pre-teen soccer players who incorporated jumping rope into their training routines had better motor skills after eight weeks. Plus, jumping rope burns several hundred calories in just 15 minutes, depending on your body composition, according to Bernard.

Curious where to start with a jump rope routine? Bernard suggests hopping on two feet for 60 seconds, hopping on your right foot for 30 seconds, hopping on your left foot for 30 seconds, and then hopping side to side for 30 seconds. 

Equipment-Free Bodyweight Exercises

There are tons of workouts you can do in your local park, backyard or driveway that don’t require any equipment and can challenge your entire body effectively. And these types of exercises are more than just convenient—they come with some awesome health benefits, too.

Health Boost: Research suggests that bodyweight-only exercises like squats can provide different degrees of strength than working with gym equipment like a leg press machine because you have to maintain control of your posture independently and rely more heavily on stabilizer muscles.

Not sure where to start? If you’re focused on strengthening the muscles in your lower body, Bernard recommends exercises like: 

  • Squat jumps: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees, leading with your glutes, and perform a bodyweight squat. Once you reach the bottom of the squat, explode from the squat position into a jump. Return to a squat position as you land, and repeat.
  • Walking lunges: With your feet shoulder-width apart, step forward with your left foot and bend the knee at a 90-degree angle while bending your right knee and lowering it toward the ground. Pushing off of your left foot, return to an upright position and immediately step forward with your right foot, bending the knee at a 90-degree angle while bending your left knee and lowering it toward the ground. Repeat.
  • Glute bridges: Lie on the ground on your back with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Place your palms flat on the ground on each side of your body. Push through your feet and lift your glutes off the ground, raising your hips and belly button toward the ceiling. Squeeze your glute muscles at the top of your bridge and slowly lower your body back down to the ground. Repeat.
  • Calf raises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes on the edge of a raised edge like a step or stair while holding onto any available railing. Lower your heels slowly toward the ground as far as your range of motion allows, and then extend onto the balls of your feet and squeeze your calf muscles at the top of the movement. Repeat.

When it comes to challenging your upper body, she suggests exercises like:

  • Push-ups: Start in a high plank position with your arms straight, your hands placed directly below your shoulders, your legs straight and your toes pressed firmly into the ground. Bending your elbows, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause for a moment and then push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Arm circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out straight to each side, parallel to the floor. Circle your arms forward using small controlled motions for 30 seconds. Then reverse the direction of the circles and repeat.
  • Alternating forearm plank to high plank: Start in a high plank position with your arms straight, your hands placed directly below your shoulders, your legs straight and your toes pressed firmly into the ground. One at a time, bend your elbows and place your forearms on the ground, shifting into a forearm plank while keeping your core engaged and your hips as level as possible. One at a time, place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders to return to the starting position. Repeat.

Try repeating one exercise for 30 seconds before moving on to the next, and see which exercises work best for you.

Before You Head Out

Once you’ve picked the hiking trail or path in your local park you want to try first, it’s important to arrive prepared so you can fully enjoy every aspect of your outdoor adventure. 

A good pair of sneakers is a must for virtually any activity, and be sure to bring a water bottle to prevent problematic dehydration. Keep your skin protected from the sun’s harsh rays by applying a solid layer of your preferred sunscreen before you leave home, and consider bringing the tube along for reapplication if you plan on being outside for more than a couple of hours.

Apparel is all about personal preference, but moisture-wicking fabrics tend to be far more comfortable than cotton when exercising outside. A hat and a pair of sunglasses can also be helpful on particularly sunny days. If you’re interested in gathering data about your exercise for your overall fitness goals, consider wearing a fitness tracker. And if you love a good pump-up playlist, remember to pack a pair of water-resistant headphones as well.

Sources

Dorothy DD, Song J, Hootman JM, Jackson RD, C. Kwoh K, Chang RW. One Hour a Week: Moving to Prevent Disability in Adults With Lower Extremity Joint Symptoms. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 2019;56(5):664-672. 

Zheng H, Orsini N, Amin J, Wolk A, Nguyen VTT, Ehrlich F. Quantifying the dose-response of walking in reducing coronary heart disease risk: meta-analysis. European Journal of Epidemiology. 2009;24(4):181-92.

Voloshina AS, Kuo AD, Daley MA, Ferris DP. Biomechanics and energetics of walking on uneven terrain. Journal of Experimental Biology. 2013;216(21): 3963–3970.

Exercise helps your heart. Kaiser Permanente. Accessed 05/26/2021.

Hooren BV, Fuller JT, Buckley JD, Miller JR, Sewell K, Rao G, Barton C, Bishop C, Willy RW. Is Motorized Treadmill Running Biomechanically Comparable to Overground Running? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cross-Over Studies. Sports Medicine. 2020;50(4):785-813. 

Gillen JB, Gibala MJ. Is high-intensity interval training a time-efficient exercise strategy to improve health and fitness? Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2014;39(3):409-12.

Kong Z, Fan X, Sun S, Song L, Shi Q, Nie J. Comparison of High-Intensity Interval Training and Moderate-to-Vigorous Continuous Training for Cardiometabolic Health and Exercise Enjoyment in Obese Young Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS One. 2016;1;11(7).

Nieman DC, Henson DA, Austin MD, Sha W. Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011;45(12):987-92.

Hildebrand JS, Gapstur SM, Campbell PT, Gaudet MM, Patel AV. Recreational physical activity and leisure-time sitting in relation to postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. 2013;22(10):1906-12.

Furuyashiki A, Tabuchi K, Norikoshi K, Kobayashi T, Oriyama S. A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working age people with and without depressive tendencies. Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine. 2019;24:46.

Lee DC, Pate RR, Lavie CJ, Sui X, TChurch TS,  Blair SN. Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2014;64(5): 472-481.

Trecroci A, Cavaggioni L, Caccia R, Alberti G. Jump Rope Training: Balance and Motor Coordination in Preadolescent Soccer Players. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2015;14(4): 792–798.

Wirth K, Keiner M, Hartmann H, Sander A, Mickel C. Effect of 8 weeks of free-weight and machine-based strength training on strength and power performance. Journal of Human Kinetics. 2016;53: 201–210.

Knab A, Shanley A, Corbin K, Jin F, Sha W, Neiman D. A 45-Minute Vigorous Exercise Bout Increases Metabolic Rate for 14 Hours. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. 2011;43(9):1643-1648.

Smiley-Oyen A, Lowry K, Francois S, Kohut M, Ekkekakis P. Exercise, Fitness, and Neurocognitive Function in Older Adults: The “Selective Improvement” and “Cardiovascular Fitness” Hypotheses. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2008;36(3): 280–291.

Mature & Aged Immune Systems and Common Ways to Boost Them

Mature & Aged Immune Systems and Common Ways to Boost Them

  • May 23, 2021
By Barry C. Fox, M.D., University of Wisconsin

The immune system coordinates the complicated innate and adaptive immunity via cytokines. These are chemical messengers secreted by various immune system cells, acting on other cells, and coordinating perfect immune responses. But what effect does ageing have on the immune system?

Concept of vegetables that are useful for boosting immunity.
A healthy diet is one of the recommended methods to boost the immune system. (Image: Ekaterina Markelova/Shutterstock)

The Immature Immune System of Newborns

Much of a newborn’s immune system is dependent upon the transfer of immunity from the mother to the newborn before or during birth. For example, immunoglobulin protection is exclusive of the IgG type that is small enough to cross the placenta. The fetal immune system is derived from primitive stem cells, arising from inside the developing baby’s bone structure.

An illustration of a newborn baby reaching for a toy that looks like a virus.
The immune system of newborns is immature, making them more vulnerable to various infections. (Image: Nina Aleksandryuk/Shutterstock)

These stem cells later differentiate into specialized cells as the immune system matures. It takes the newborn’s immune system a minimum of four to six weeks to develop individual responsiveness.

The initial vaccination series of some infants aren’t usually complete until after one year. The reality is children before the age of one are much more vulnerable to infections.

This is a transcript from the video series An Introduction to Infectious Diseases. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Concerns over the Hygiene Hypothesis

There are concerns known as the hygiene hypothesis—a potential disservice to the developing immune system by creating too clean of an environment. The developing immune system may need to be properly exposed to germs to function optimally. If the baby’s environment is too clean, for example, the production of T-helper cells may not be adequately stimulated. 

In a study conducted at Johns Hopkins, scientists also found that the timing of exposure to germs was crucial and that exposure during the first year of life was the most important. Their findings were based on an allergy and asthma study in inner-city environments where children were exposed to rodent and pet dander, household germs, and insect allergens. 

If exposed during their first year, the children were less likely to have allergy and asthma problems three years later. There also appears to be a slight benefit from growing up in a large family—with more germs—as well as growing up on a farm.

Learn more about STDs and other infections below the belt.

Aging and Its Effect on the Immune System

While some people age healthily, the elderly are far more likely to contract infectious diseases. Respiratory infections, influenza, and particularly pneumonia are the leading causes of death in those over the age of 65. No one knows for sure why this happens, but most scientists agree that the increased risk correlates with a decrease in T-cells, possibly from the thymus shrinking with age and generating limited T-cells to fight off disease.

The aging body also responds more slowly to challenges by infectious agents. Changes in the overall immune system as the person ages are known as immunosenescence. Research has revealed that with age, the innate defenses lose some of their ability and the cells don’t communicate with each other like they used to. When this happens, it makes it difficult for cells to react quickly and appropriately to invading germs. 

As a consequence of reduced lymphocyte production, vaccination is not likely to generate a strong immune response—both B-cell and immunoglobulin. The response may even be below the threshold for protection. But despite the reduction in efficacy, vaccinations for influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia have significantly lowered the rates of sickness and death in older people when compared with non-vaccination.

Learn more about flesh-eating bacteria and blood poisoning.

Benefits of Shingles Vaccination for the Elderly

An image of a man suffering from shingles with facial rashes/blisters
The elderly need to be aware of recognizing the signs of shingles within 72 hours of symptoms. (Image: VideoBCN/Shutterstock)

One exception to poor vaccine immune response is the shingles vaccine after 60. Since one in three individuals over the age of 60 will develop shingles, it’s important to get this vaccine. Shingles are a reactivation of chickenpox and rely on lymphocytes to remember prior viral exposure. 

In light of the immune reaction slowdown, the elderly need to be very careful and quite aware about recognizing the signs of shingles within 72 hours of symptoms. Why 72 hours? This is the window of opportunity for prescribing anti-viral shingles drugs. Medication may be effective in reducing both acute symptoms as well as incidence and severity of postherpetic neuralgia.

Learn more about respiratory and brain infections.

Signs and Symptoms of Shingles

Early twinging pains, itching, or unusual nerve sensitivity not attributable to injury. Burning of the skin (persistent in a limited area), followed by a red patch of skin without typical blisters. For eye or head shingles, a sensation that feels like something is irritating the eyes. 

In addition, one of the significant consequences of shingles, aside from the blisters and acute pain, is the dreaded postherpetic neuralgia, which occurs more frequently after 60. This is intermittent or continuous neural pain reactivated with infection. 

Antiviral medication cannot affect this type of pain if it’s not administered in the first 72 hours. Postherpetic neuralgia can last for many months and make normal daily activities very difficult. 

Learn more about global travel, war, and natural disasters.

Common Ways to Boost the Immune Systems of the Elderly

The most prevalent advice by doctors to boost the immune system is to eat a healthy diet full of vitamins and nutrients and to take exercise. Exercise is thought to benefit the immune system in several ways. It helps decrease stress, increases the circulation rate of antibodies and white blood cells, and surprisingly also brings about greater intestinal microbiome diversity. 

Moreover, people must avoid smoking, control their blood pressure, inject the annual flu shot, and get the shingles vaccine after 60 and the pneumonia vaccine after 65. Furthermore, one thing that has been added to the living healthy list is practicing meditation to reduce stress. Transcendental meditation has been recommended by the American Heart Association as a proven means to reduce blood pressure.

Common Questions about Mature and Aged Immune Systems and Common Ways to Boost Them

Q: What is the hygiene hypothesis?

The hygiene hypothesis happens when the environment is too clean for the immune system of newborns to develop. This hygienic environment can cause inadequate production of T-helper cells. The body may need to be exposed to germs in order for the immune system to function optimally.

Q: What happens to the immune system when people get older?

When people get older, the immune system becomes weaker and may not respond properly to infections. This happens because the thymus shrinks and consequently T-helper cell production decreases. Also, due to frailty, some cells lose their ability to communicate with one another.

Q: What are some common ways to boost the immune system?

The elderly have a weaker immune system compared to younger people. Hence, they need to boost their immunity through a healthy diet, exercise, doing meditation, reducing stress, and controlling blood pressure.

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Curing Cholera, Developing Germ Theory: Revolutionaries in Epidemiology

Covid-19: 7 ways to stay safe from the virus - News

Covid-19: 7 ways to stay safe from the virus – News

  • May 22, 2021

Get Vitamin C from citrus fruits like oranges, strawberries and cranberries.

Keeping our immune system healthy is the key to preventing infection from Covid-19 and other diseases. Healthy lifestyle choices, nutritious food and enough sleep and exercise are the most important ways to boost your immunity.

Here are six ways you can boost your immunity and stay safe from Covid-19

1-Vitamin D, C and Zinc

Doctors in the UAE advise people to consume food rich in minerals and vitamins as they have antioxidant, immunomodulatory and antimicrobial roles which are helpful for the immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Dr Faisal Hamza Dalvi, Specialist, Internal Medicine, Burjeel Day Surgery Centre Abu Dhabi said: “Vitamin D, C and Zinc are beneficial in enhancing ones immunity. Studies have shown that Vitamin C can reduce lung inflammation, and Zinc can slow viral replication in Covid 19. Recent research has also shown that Vitamin D levels were lower in patients with Covid-19. Adequate levels of Vitamin C and D are crucial to reduce the Covid-9 symptom burden and lessen the duration of respiratory infection.”

Dr Muhammed Shafeeq, pulmonologist (specialist), Aster Hospital, Qusais said: “Deficiency or insufficiency of these key nutrients, can lead to impairment of mucosal epithelial cells, possibly making people more susceptible to pathogen entry, such as SARS-CoV-2.”

Get Vitamin D from 5–30 minutes of sun exposure, particularly between 10am to 4pm, at least twice a week. Vitamin D is also found in fish, eggs and dairy products.

Get Vitamin C from citrus fruits like oranges, strawberries and cranberries.

2-Quit Smoking

Quit smoking right away as smokers are at higher risk of developing severe Covid-19 complication. Smokers are more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19 as the act of smoking involves contact of fingers with the lips, which increases the possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth.

Smoking shisha or hookah also involves sharing of mouthpieces and hoses which could also facilitate transmission of the virus.

Switch to nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine gum, patches, lozenge, nasal spray or inhalers to kick the habit.

Quit smoking in just 5 simple steps (Courtesy: Dr Shafeeq)

1. Have a plan. Once you’ve made up your mind, set the date and develop a plan.

2. Don’t go it alone. It will be easier to quit if you have support from family and friends.

3. Stay busy.

4. Avoid smoking triggers.

5. Reward your accomplishments.

3-Diet to boost immunity

Diet is the most important aspect when it comes to boosting your immunity. Doctors advise to consume fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes as they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants.

Whole plant foods contain antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, all of which lower your chances to get ill.

Healthy fats found in olive oil and salmon help in boosting your immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation.

4-Exercise and workouts

Dr Vipin Mishra, consultant endocrinologist, Zulekha Hospital said: “Regular exercise improves the health of every organ in the body. It also improves one’s quality of sleep and improves one’s immunity. In people who exercise regularly, even if they contract Covid-19, the infection is likely to be mild and possibly asymptomatic. Since regular exercise improves immunity; by logic it should enable the immune system to generate more antibodies.”

Dr Asma Binte Shahid, cardiologist (GP) at Kings college London Hospital said: “Regular exercises such as swimming, running or a normal cardio can help fight against Covid-19 in a way that the chances of hospitalization and death are lowered.”

5-Lose weight

Being overweight is associated with poor immune functions. People who are overweight are more prone to develop metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and in such cases immunity is compromised to an extent.

“People having diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease or cancer have severely compromised immune system. It is mostly such immune-compromised Covid 19 patients who need ICU and ventilator support; and they also have much higher mortality.” Dr Vipin said.

“Excess body weight creates excess fatty cells which create inflammatory proteins. Having a higher level of these can desensitize the immune system.” said Dr Asma. “Excess weight leads to impaired immunity, causes inflammation and increases chances for blood clot — all of which can worsen Covid-19.” She added.

6-Get good sleep

Sleep is when various organs of the body undergo a repair process. Lack of proper sleep leads to weakened immunity, which drains mental and physical health. It can also cause several heart complications and also lead to an increase in weight.

“Chronic sleeplessness also weakens the immune system and makes the person vulnerable to Covid-19. Chronic sleeplessness is an important immune-compromised state. Just like in any other immune-compromised situation, Covid-19 infection in such people may be more severe and even fatal,” Dr Vipin said. “Sleeplessness generally weakens the metabolism and also weakens different organs and systems.”

7-Lesser the stress, higher the immunity

Stress weakens the immune system. When we are stressed the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced, making us susceptible to infections.

Stress and anxiety are as bad as chronic sleeplessness. “They tend to increase the secretion of cortico-steroids and adrenalin in the body, push the metabolism into the catabolic phase and weaken all the organs and systems, including the immune system.” Dr Faisal said.

To curb stress doctors advise regular exercise, a balanced diet, relaxation techniques, avoiding long working hours and most importantly, setting realistic goals and expectations, to live a stress-free life. “Any exercise is good. Pick up something you like – be it jogging, swimming, dancing, bicycling, yoga. Anything which can help you be happy,” Dr Shafeeq added.


Get enough sleep

7 ways to strengthen your immune system naturally – Explica .co

  • May 17, 2021

Our immune system can be strengthened and benefited if we incorporate certain activities and habits into our routine, like getting enough sleep, eating more healthy fats, limiting added sugars, exercising moderately, and others according to Healthline.

The important and attractive thing about all these resources is that keep us from concentrating on drugs, allowing us to have a more active role in the development of our well-being and health in general.

1. Get enough sleep

There is a very close relationship between rest and the body’s immune function, a poor quality of sleep negatively influences the body’s natural defenses since if there is no rest, the immune function does not have the time necessary to regenerate properly.

Get enough sleepA good rest is very important so that all the functions of the immune system are regenerated. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Eat more healthy fats

Healthy fats help strengthen natural defenses because they reduce inflammation in the body, which affects its defensive abilities when it becomes chronic.

Olive oil and salmon are two very important sources of healthy fats that can be very helpful.

3. Eat more fermented foods or take prebiotic supplements

Fermented foods are very rich in bacteria beneficial to the human body, prebiotics, which are some that occupy the digestive tract.

Studies indicate that a nourished network of prebiotics supports the body’s immune function, specifically by making it easier for immune cells to differentiate between normal cells, harmful cells, and healthy cells.

4. Limit added sugars

Added sugars and refined carbohydrates increase the risk of obesity. Obesity, in turn, lowers the body’s natural defenses, so limiting the absorption of added sugars could help stabilize immune function.

On the other hand, limiting your intake of added sugars also lowers your risk of type II diabetes and heart disease, conditions that also affect immune function.

5. Perform moderate exercise

You don’t have to do a very demanding exercise routine for your immune system to get stronger, you just have to exert enough effort to allow your body to deflate a bit and let the immune cells act.

6. Stay hydrated

Hydration doesn’t help immune function much, but it does prevent dehydration, which considerably affects the body’s defensive capabilities against bacteria, viruses, and pathogens in general.

7. Properly manage stress levels

Managing stress and anxiety is a great way to stabilize and strengthen the immune system since it is well known that prolonged stress promotes inflammation of the body, which diminishes its defensive capacities.

All of these ways are accessible and easy to apply in our lives if we are disciplined and attentive enough. This will bring us benefits at the level of the immune system, but also will be useful to reach a state of integral Health.

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Pick up a home workout. Image: iStock.

15 ways to nail a healthy, happy winter

  • May 16, 2021

Body+Soul has enlisted the experts to reveal their top 15 tips to help you prepare and protect yourself once the mercury plummets.

#1 Eat the rainbow

It’s understandable if you’re feeling even more concerned than usual about getting sick this winter, says Melbourne-based GP Dr Preeya Alexander, since “symptoms like a runny nose and cough require a COVID swab and even more time off work given that the advice is to stay home if you’re unwell”.

Her advice is to strengthen and support your immune system by “eating plenty of rainbows – a varied diet high in fruit and vegetables” and managing your anxiety levels.

“Uncontrolled stress can negatively impact the immune system,” she tells Body+Soul. “So if you’re feeling stressed, up the exercise, reduce caffeine and introduce meditation.” And make sure you prioritise shut-eye. “Sleep is crucial in supporting the immune system.”

Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.

#2 Skincare

A change in season often means a change in the state of your skin. In winter, the most common complaints are dryness and dehydration. Body+Soul beauty editor Kelsey Ferencak credits three hydrating heroes for keeping skin happy at this time of year: humectants, emollients and occlusives.

“Humectants work to attract and transport water into the skin; think hyaluronic acid, which can help to bind up to 1000 times its weight in water, and glycerine,” she says. “Emollients, which can be found in ingredients such as jojoba oil and vitamin E, are light oils that sink into the skin and work to replace its natural oils. They help to bind cells back together for soft, smooth skin.”

And occlusives, which include oils, butters and squalane, “form a protective barrier on the surface of the skin to prevent moisture loss, and mimic the skin’s natural lipid barrier to help protect against temperature changes, wind and external irritants”. However, she adds, you need to take note of the order in which you apply them: always start with a humectant, followed by an emollient, and seal with an occlusive.

#3 Online workouts

Finding it impossible to muster the motivation for that 6am workout? Thanks to last year’s lockdowns, there are more at-home video-streaming workout options than ever before, so the hardest thing is choosing one, says Ben Lucas, director of Sydney fitness studio Flow Athletic.

“Try an online program that gives you access to a lot of variety on demand so you can train how you like, whenever you like.”

#4 Gut health

A strong immune system is essential to preventing colds and flu, but naturopath and nutritionist Belinda Kirkpatrick says it’s also important to consider your gut health.

“With approximately 80 per cent of your immune system living in your gut, it’s crucial to balance the bacteria of the gastrointestinal microbiome to reduce inflammation and fight disease,” she tells Body+Soul. The solution? She advises loading up on “immune-boosting nutrients and vitamins, zinc, iron and protein”.

#5 Sunshine

Fewer hours of daylight, commuting in the dark and a decrease in social occasions such as backyard barbecues and outdoor picnics raise your risk of the seasonal blues. As psychologist Jacqui Manning tells Body+Soul: “The main difficulties people can experience in winter are low mood or feeling sad – there’s even a type of depression called SAD [seasonal affective disorder] – along with a lack of motivation, increased lethargy and increased mental fogginess.”

To counteract this, Manning recommends heading outside on sunny days. “Go into direct sunlight for at least 10-15 minutes. Sunlight can boost vitamin D levels, which can help improve your mood.”

#6 Haircare

Like your skin, your hair can suffer from dehydration and dryness as a result of artificial heating and hot showers. John Pulitano, creative director and co-owner of Sydney salon Headcase Hair, advises adapting your shampoo and conditioner routine to suit the season. “Opt for something more moisturising, [as well as introducing] a pre-shampoo oil treatment as a way to add extra nourishment to the hair during winter,” he tells Body+Soul.

“Try using a moisture protective barrier leave-in balm [or including] a scalp scrub into your routine.” And wrapping a hot towel around your head post-shower will help to lock in the treatment’s goodness, he adds.

#7 Set a goal

The kilos can easily creep on during the winter months, so to keep your exercise routine chugging along, Lucas recommends “organising your workout schedule and putting it in your diary – keep it as you would any other meeting”. Being held accountable and working towards a goal can also help you to stay on track, he explains. “Sign up to an event like a fun run or obstacle course, which are often held in spring. It gives you something to train for – and a date to be ready by.”

#8 Flu shot

Get your flu shot – and soon. Alexander says now is the ideal time to get it. That way, she adds, “You’re protected for the peak months – usually July and August – [because] the immune response from the vaccine tends to wane after three to four months.”

#9 Nailcare

It’s not just the skin on your face that’s affected by the cold – the scalp, body, lips, and even nails and cuticles can become irritated, sensitive, red or brittle, too. “Keep shower lengths short and the temperature just warm as you can suck moisture from your skin when the water is piping hot,” warns Ferencak.

“And avoid using harsh soaps and astringent products that can dry out your skin.” When you’re heading outside, apply some lip balm to stop your lips from becoming chapped and sore.

#10 Winter warmers

If you start craving hearty, hot food the minute you don your coat, Kirkpatrick says to go for it. But before you reach for the pizza and wedges, take note: she’s saying yes to “warming and nourishing soups, curries and stews”.

These types of dishes have the added benefit of boosting your intake of fibre-rich veg, particularly those that are in season such as sweet potato, eggplant and cauliflower, she says, adding that you should limit the refined sugars and carbohydrates in your diet, and pack meals with legumes, whole grains and zinc-rich lean or red meat, eggs, beans, lentils, oysters and nuts instead. “[Zinc is] an immune-boosting mineral that helps fight off invading bacteria and viruses.”

#11 Squats, push ups and planks

No time for a full workout? Lucas says you can still get the key muscle groups working by doing some squats and push-ups and holding a plank. “Plank is an isometric exercise that’s awesome for your core,” he adds. “You can do it on your hands or elbows – just make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders to ensure it works your core rather than your neck.”

#12 Support immunity

Children. Daycare. Bugs. Repeat. It’s a never-ending loop, and at this time of year in particular, it’s vital to be supporting little immune systems. “Preschoolers contract about six to 12 viral infections per year,” Alexander tells Body+Soul.

There are no quick fixes, so she advises focusing “on the evidence-based lifestyle stuff, like getting enough sleep, keeping active and eating plenty of fruit and veg”. It’s also important to remember that children aged over six months can get the flu vaccine.

#13 Time for a trim

Dull and lacklustre locks weighing you down? Book in for a trim to keep those brittle ends in check, and ask for a nourishing hair treatment while you’re there. “Regular trims help to keep end- and mid-lengths looking clean and fresh, and stop any major damage from occurring,” Pulitano tells Body+Soul.

“A colour gloss creates a barrier from the cold elements, acting as a beautiful protective, shiny-mirror glaze over the hair, as colour tends to become flat during the colder months.”

#14 Hydration

While a glass of cold water may sound unappealing in winter, dehydration is prevalent during these months, so don’t forget to drink up. “Staying hydrated is essential for maximising physical performance, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, aiding digestion and more,” Kirkpatrick explains. Prefer something warming?

Herbal teas not only help to hydrate, they can also give your immune system a boost. Kirkpatrick recommends brews with ginger, lemon, rosehip or echinacea.

#15 Self-care

Manning says you can protect your mental health day to day by practising self-care strategies. She recommends deep breathing – “breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for eight” – and getting into nature. “Looking at the sky or a tree for a few minutes will slow your breathing down,” she explains. Also, keep in mind that in the same way certain animals hibernate in colder climates, our bodies need to adjust to this time of year.

“Our natural rhythms are in tune with our surroundings, so don’t expect too much from yourself.”

Covid: Chia seeds can boost immunity in five ways – here's how

Covid: Chia seeds can boost immunity in five ways – here’s how

  • May 16, 2021

Chia seeds are part of the mint plant family and are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirmed emerging evidence suggests that chia seeds can ward off disease. These tiny soft-shelled pellets contain dietary fibre, protein, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. A powerful antioxidant, the first way chia seeds can boost immunity is by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Anybody who has a condition that affects the heart and blood vessels is at higher risk of severe illness from Covid. Conditions include:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Previous stroke or mini stroke
  • Previous heart attack, stent, bypass surgery
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

Elevated cholesterol is the leading factor behind developing heart disease.

Thus, eating chia seeds can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease.

For those who already have heart disease, catching coronavirus will put extra stress on the body’s systems and organs.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson urged ‘spirit of caution’ apply to those travel abroad

By eating chia seeds, you’re helping to lower your blood pressure reading, resulting in less strain on the heart and arteries.

Any factor that can put your body into good shape is going to help when you come in contact with a virus such as Covid.

Bolstering your immune system is one of the best defences you can have, as well as being vaccinated and following good hygiene practices.

Thankfully, due to the fibre content in chia seeds, they’re a great food addition to help control blood glucose levels.

The global diabetes community verified that soluble fibre can help improve blood glucose levels.

To illustrate, the consumption of soluble fibre helps to slow down the passage of digestion.

Consequently, this prevents carbohydrates from being quickly absorbed in the small intestine, which would otherwise spike blood glucose levels.

Chia seeds are considered antioxidants, which means they can help neutralise free radicals in the body.

Medical News Today reported that neutralising free radicals can reduce oxidative stress on the body.

Oxidative stress has been associated with heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other inflammatory conditions.

By reducing your risk of various health conditions, you can be in better shape to fight off an invading virus, such as Covid.

In short, chia seeds are a great addition to a healthy and balanced diet that can help boost immunity.

capsimmunesystem.org