The latest research states that added sugars and processed foods can contribute significantly to obesity, which can in turn reduce your immune system response.
One study of around 1,000 people found that obese people who got their yearly flu shot were twice as likely to still get the flu afterwards than non-obese people who got their vaccine.
Cutting your sugar and processed food intake can lower inflammation. It also aids in weight loss, of course, and reduce your risk of developing conditions like heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
And since all three conditions – obesity, diabetes, and heart disease – are known to weaken your immune system, “curbing your sugar intake is an important part of an immune-boosting diet,” according to Healthline.
Try to limit your sugar intake to 5% or less of your total daily caloric intake. If you’re on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, for example, you should get less than two tablespoonful’s (25 grams) of sugar in one day.
Reducing your sugar and processed foods can not only help you lose weight, but can improve your immune system.
Dehydration is when your body doesn’t get enough water. It can reduce your physical performance, mood, focus, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These can also lower your resistance to disease.
Your first hint that you may not be getting enough water is a common feeling – thirst. You may also get a headache. You should be drinking enough fluid to create a pale-yellow urine.
Water is best because it doesn’t have any added calories. Try to avoid too many sweetened drinks like fruit juice, sweet tea, or sodas.
While those can help hydrate you, the added sugar can reduce your immune response and negate the positive effects of drinking enough fluid.
Staying hydrated can boost your immune health. Water helps your body make lymph, which carries immune system cells like white blood cells. Try eating hydrating foods like cucumbers, melon or celery.
Also, try to avoid overdoing diuretic or water-reducing substances like caffeine.
As a general guideline, you should drink whenever you’re thirsty and continue drinking until your body no longer signals it needs liquid. You may need more fluid if you exercise, work outside, or live in a hot climate.
Remember that as you age, your body is less able to signal its needs for liquid, so older people are less likely to drink enough. If you’re over 55, you should make sure you drink enough even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty.
Although hydrating doesn’t have a direct effect on your immune system, it’s important to your overall health and thus, important to your immune system.
There’s a strong link between your immune system and your mental health. Stress and anxiety make poor germ fighters.
Studies have shown that just having anxious thoughts can lower your immune response in as little as half an hour.
Constant stress makes it even harder to fight off viruses and bacteria. Stress makes your body produce cytokines, molecules that trigger inflammation that can reduce your immune response.
“When you’re under chronic stress or anxiety,” says Dr. Mark Moyad, “your body produces stress hormones that suppress your immune system.”
Research at Carnagie Mellon University found that if you’re stressed, you’re more likely to come down with the common cold.
In one study, healthy adults were exposed to the cold virus, then quarantined for five days and monitored. Those who reported stress were twice as likely to get sick.
“In addition,” Dr. Yufang Lin says, “people who are stressed are less likely to pay attention to other healthy habits, like eating right and getting enough sleep, which can affect immunity.”
There is also evidence that sorrow, if it lasts a long time, can lower your body’s immunity. This effect can last for up to six months – and can go on even longer if your grief is deep or doesn’t ease.
Talk to a doctor or therapist if you suffer from anxiety or grief that doesn’t seem to be letting up in a reasonable time period.
Although you can’t avoid stress or sorrow, you can use strategies to manage it better. A 2012 study in Annals of Internal Medicine found that adults who either had a daily exercise routine or performed mindfulness meditation were less likely to get sick with a respiratory infection – or that, if they did get sick, missed fewer days at work.
Exercise increases the release of endorphins, hormones that reduce stress and create feelings of pleasure. This makes it a great way to fight off stress. Dr. Lin says, “Since stress negatively impacts our immune system, this is another way exercise can improve immune response.
Mindfulness is a way of focusing your thoughts on the here-and-now instead of worrying about the future or stressing over the past.
Stress can negatively affect your immune system but managing that stress can moderate or negate that effect.
Regular exercise helps, as does mindfulness meditation that focuses your thoughts on what’s going on immediately around you instead of letting you keep worrying.