Best 5 Ways to Improve your Immune System

Having worked in a long covid clinic in Lewisham for almost one year, I’ve spent many hours coaching patients on how to improve their immune systems. One thing about COVID-19 was that people’s immune systems were badly compromised. It was not uncommon for people to suffer with long covid, and in many cases I found that people’s immune systems were low.

How do you know if you have a low immune system?

There are lots of tell-tale signs including:

  • You get a lot of coughs, colds, and infections.
  • You’ve suffered with long covid.
  • It takes you longer than you would expect to get over colds, flu’s, viruses or infections.
  • You have chronic fatigue.
  • You develop or have a flare up of auto-immune symptoms.
  • You have digestive issues such as IBS, bloating or loose bowels.
  • You have a flare up in allergies.

My experience is that the current medical model does not support improving your immune system well enough. The focus on pharmacology and drug intervention does not provide a solution for people with poor immune health. There is no drug to improve your immune system!

In current times, does the fact that there is no drug to improve your immunity not strike you as strange? There are drugs that claim to do almost anything but yet again, it falls on healthy living and nutrition to improve our immune system being the most effective strategies.

Best 5 Ways to Improve your Immune System

1. Exercise

Exercise is essential for immune health because it can enhance immune system function, reducing the risk of infections and other immune-related conditions. Both the innate and adaptive immune systems appear to benefit from regular exercise.

Immune cells such as neutrophils, natural killer cells, and macrophages comprise the innate immune system, which is the first line of defence against infections and foreign invaders. It has been demonstrated that regular exercise increases the production and activity of these immune cells, thereby strengthening the innate immune response.

Immune cells such as T cells and B cells are part of the adaptive immune system, which is responsible for generating specific immune responses to pathogens and other foreign substances. Regular exercise has been shown to enhance the function of these immune cells, encouraging the production of antibodies and enhancing T cells' ability to recognise and respond to pathogens.

In addition to enhancing immune function, exercise offers additional advantages that indirectly promote immune health. For instance, regular exercise can reduce stress, which can have a detrimental effect on immune function. Exercise can also enhance the quality of sleep, which is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Noting that excessive exercise or overtraining can have negative effects on immune function, thereby increasing the risk of infections and other health problems, is essential. It is recommended to engage in regular moderate exercise, aiming for at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity at a moderate intensity.

In conclusion, exercise is essential for immune health because it can boost the immune system's function, thereby decreasing the risk of infections and other immune-related conditions. It is essential to engage in regular, moderate exercise and to avoid excessive exercise or overtraining, which can have a detrimental effect on immune function.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for the immune system because it regulates and supports the function of immune cells, such as T cells and B cells. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight; it is also available in certain foods and supplements.

Vitamin D modulates the immune response by enhancing the activity of immune cells and promoting their differentiation and function, according to research. On immune cells are vitamin D receptors, and vitamin D can activate genes involved in immune regulation and the defence against infections.

Deficiency in vitamin D has also been associated with a reduced risk of respiratory infections, autoimmune disorders, and other immune-related conditions. A 2017 meta-analysis of clinical trials determined that vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections, particularly in vitamin D-deficient individuals.

It is important to note that while vitamin D can be beneficial for the immune system, excessive vitamin D consumption can be harmful and lead to toxicity. Before taking vitamin D supplements, I always recommend you get a blood test from your GP or online to determine if you are actually low in vitamin D. Knowing where your level of vitamin D is right now is important to know if you need to supplement or not. Always be mindful that levels can change a lot in different seasons.

Our recommendation is first getting it tested, then supplement with 1000 iu’s per day if you are low. Then re-test after three months. If still low, seek support from us at Surrey Physio and we’ll advise why you may not be absorbing the vitamin D.

3. Sleep

One common trend I find working at the Long Covid clinic is that the majority of people do not sleep well. You probably know, if you don’t sleep well, how do you recover? Sleep is the body’s time to rest and recover, and is an essential part of improving your immune system. Yet so many people with poor immune health do not sleep well.

Sleep is essential for immune health because it plays a crucial role in immune system function and regulation. During sleep, the body secretes hormones and cytokines that are essential for immune function; sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can have a negative effect on the immune system.

Lack of sleep can impair immune function, making individuals more susceptible to infections and other health problems, according to research. In one study, those who slept less than 7 hours per night were nearly three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.

During sleep, the body produces cytokines, which are immune response-regulating proteins. Some cytokines, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF), contribute to the inflammatory response and aid in the fight against infections. Other cytokines, including interleukin-10 (IL-10), are anti-inflammatory and aid in preventing excessive inflammation and tissue damage.

Additionally, sleep influences the production of antibodies, which are proteins that aid in the fight against infections. After receiving a vaccine or being exposed to an infection, individuals with sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality have lower levels of antibodies, according to research.

But why do people not sleep well? There are three common trends that I see. First, people being overweight. Being obese makes sleeping problematic. Second, having high levels of anxiety and stress. If there are things weighing on your mind, you’ll be less likely to sleep well. Third, caffeine, alcohol and drugs – stop drugging your body.

To support immune health and overall health and well-being, it is recommended to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and work on reducing anxiety and stress to help you sleep better.

4. Lose Weight

Ok I know you’ll say its hard. But is it? No, its not that hard. Just cut out carbs. Reduce as many carbs as you can. Eat rice only once per week. Eat pasta only once per week. Avoid noodles. Significantly reduce bread. Reduce potatoes. Don’t pad out your meals with carbs. Do that and you’ll reduce weight.

Fasting is also very useful, and is something I’ve done very successfully. Simply cut out one meal per day. Eat less and it’s very likely you’ll reduce weight.

Also, be mindful of any medication you are taking that could be messing with your metabolism. Reduce all unnecessary medications or reduce to the require therapeutic dose.

Excess body weight and obesity can have detrimental effects on immune function, increasing the risk of infections, chronic inflammation, and other immune-related conditions. Obesity and excess body weight are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation, which can weaken the immune system and increase susceptibility to infection. In addition, obesity can alter the composition and function of immune cells, reducing their ability to combat infections and other health problems.

According to research, weight loss can enhance immune function and reduce the risk of infections and other immune-related disorders. For instance, one study found that weight loss in obese people improved immune function and decreased inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP).

Additionally, weight loss can have additional health benefits that indirectly support immune health. Losing weight, for instance, can improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and enhance overall physical function, all of which contribute to a stronger immune system.

5. Stress

Reducing stress is essential for immune health, as chronic stress can impair immune function, thereby increasing the risk of infections and other immune-related conditions.

Stress activates the body's "fight or flight" response, which can trigger the release of hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, that have detrimental effects on immune function. Cortisol, for instance, has been shown to suppress immune function by reducing the number and activity of immune cells, thereby increasing susceptibility to infection.

In addition, chronic stress can cause alterations in immune function, which can increase the risk of infection and other immune-related conditions. Chronic stress, for example, has been associated with increased inflammation, which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Reducing stress has been shown to improve immune function, thereby decreasing the risk of infections and other immune-related conditions. In one study, participants in an eight-week stress reduction programme had higher levels of immune cells and lower levels of inflammation than nonparticipants.

There are numerous methods for reducing stress, including physical activity, meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness practises. To support immune health and overall well-being, address issues in your life. Make changes. Improve your life.

If you are a patient and you are suffering with poor immune health, then speak to our team or book a one-hour consultation with Tim Allardyce, the author of this article. Or please call us to book an appointment with one of our amazing Surrey Physio team members. We have an awesome team of therapists to help you recover from pain, and get you back to living a normal life. Call us on 0208 685 6930 or click the link at the top to book online.