Are You Really Boosting Your Immune System?
The news has been filled with information concerning the immune system, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic and the start of cold and flu season. The body’s immune system is a complex network of organs, white blood cells, proteins called antibodies, and chemicals that work together to protect you from things like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi that cause infection, illnesses, and disease. It is possible to “boost” your immune system, or to help it to better protect you from illness, but there are a lot of myths floating around on ways to boost your immune system that are not backed by science. Take our quiz to find out the truth behind giving your immune system a “shot in the arm.”
- True or false? Stress has a huge impact on your immune system, either through the stress hormone cortisol impacting the effectiveness of your immune system by altering the way your white blood cells react to infections and other threats or through increasing risky behaviors for dealing with stress, such as drinking, smoking, poor eating habits, and drug abuse.
- True or false? Taking high doses of a Vitamin C supplement will prevent or shorten the duration of a cold.
- True or false? Taking a zinc supplement—about 13 mg every two to three hours—can shorten the duration of a cold by up to three days.
- True or false? When fighting a cold or infection, you should take generous doses of vitamins because “more is better.”
- True or false? Getting enough sleep and rest is vital for recovering from an illness and for preventing illnesses in the first place!
- True or false? The older you get, the more your immune system declines due to immunosenescence. This is because you have fewer circulating immune cells, and your cells react slower than before.
- True or false? Probiotics—or “good” gut bacteria—help your immune system to work at optimal levels and better protect you from illness and disease.
- True or false? Eating honey will cure your allergies, such as seasonal allergies due to pollen.
- True or false? Intense diet and exercise are the fastest ways to boost your immune system.
- True or false? You should avoid milk and other dairy products when you are sick because they will make you more congested.
- The best way to boost your immune system is to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, eat a healthy diet, exercise frequently, manage stress, avoid alcohol and smoking, rest when ill, avoid contact with sick people, and wash your hands frequently.
compiled by ERIKA ALDRICH
- True. Stress can lower your immune system’s ability to fight viruses, bacteria, illnesses, and diseases.
- False. While Vitamin C is needed by your immune system, studies have not shown any link between taking high doses of Vitamin C and preventing or shortening a cold; eating foods rich in Vitamin C is the best option.
- True. Studies have shown that taking zinc (in the form of a lozenge) can shorten the duration of a cold.
- False. While the body needs vitamins to perform at optimal levels, it is possible to overdose and experience undesirable side effects from taking vitamins above the daily recommended dosage.
- True. Getting an adequate amount of sleep and rest is one of the best boosts for your immune system there is.
- True. Studies have shown that those 65 and older are more vulnerable to severe illness from viral and bacterial infections.
- True. Research suggests that probiotics likely activate immune cells that combat viruses, reduce inflammation, and kick out “bad” bacteria in your GI system that make you more susceptible to illness, though our understanding of the exact role probiotics and the microbiome play in wellness is incomplete.
- False. Scientific studies have not shown that honey helps in any way to alleviate allergy symptoms.
- False. While it is true that excess body fat increases inflammation and weakens the immune system, intense diet and exercise can actually also weaken your immune system due to causing a lack of proper nutrition and stressing the body with intense exercise. Moderate exercise that increases slowly in intensity is the best option for your immune system and overall health.
- False. No clinical studies have found that dairy products increase mucus secretions.