How not to boost your immune system

(image credit: kidspot)

It's getting cold in Sydney.

So it won't be long until magazines and media to start talking about "boosting your immune system".

But do you really need to?

Boosted means overactive.

Allergic reactions result from an overactive immune system.
Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis are also due to overactive or dysfunctional immune system where the system attacks your own healthy tissues.

You can probably see then, that, we don't want to "boost" our immune system really.
Rather we want to keep it in a healthy balance.
Like a well balanced see-saw

So what can you do if we wanted to stay away from cold and flu?


Chronic stressors can suppress immunity.
The immune changes can be negligible in otherwise healthy individuals, whilst a minor change can cause greater impact in susceptible or already compromised individuals.

Get regular good-quality sleep

Evidence shows that poor poor sleep efficiency can increase one's susceptibility to the common cold, while sleep enhances one's adaptive immune response against antigens.
Sleep deprivation, especially for a prolonged period, can be seen as chronic stress for the body. It is linked to production of pro-inflammatory particles and also produce immunodeficiency.
What strategies can you think of to help yourself fall asleep at night?

(I have written an article for Bupa about how the Non Diet Approach can help the relaxation process to prepare you for a good night's sleep. It'll probably be out next month so stay posted x)

Enjoy food and eating - variety is great

Nutrient deficiency - of any nutrient - can impact one's resistance to infection.
Although an "if you eat this food you're guaranteed of health" statement sounds convincing, the act of eating a variety of foods without unnecessary restriction is much more powerful in the long term.
Allow your body the opportunity to be exposed to different macro- and micro-nutrients.

Need a tiny bit more of a guidance? Well... this is what we know from research:

Adequate protein and energy are required for healthy immune system, both for protecting the body from pathogens and fighting off infections.
Adequate energy comes from enjoying a variety of staple foods, from grains, rice, and bread for carbohydrate; meat, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, fish, and dairy for protein; and fish, nuts, dairy, avocado, fats and oils for fats.

Fruit and vegetable intake has protective effect against either systemic or airway inflammation.
There's no need to look for particular fruit or vegetable; go for what's in season and enjoy a variety.

Probiotics offer anti-infection effects via several mechanisms such as producing antimicrobial substances, stimulating mucus secretion, strengthening gut barrier function, competing for adhesion sites, and stimulating specific and non-specific immune responses.
Probiotics are found in fermented foods. Also note that these bacteria needs to feed themselves in the gut. The foods that the bacteria eats are called prebiotics. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, are all excellent prebiotic sources.

For further readings and references:
Hosseini B., Berthon B.S., Wark P., & Wood L.G. Effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on risk of asthma, wheezing and immune response: A systematic review and metaanalysis. Nutrients (2017) 9,341.
Besedovsky L., Lange T., & Born J. Pflugers ARch - Eur J Physiol (2012) 463: 121. doi:10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0.
Scrimshaw N.S. & SanGiovanni J.P. Synergism of nutrition, infection, and immunity: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr (1997) 66:2. 464S-477S.
Bresnahan K.A. & Tanumihardjo S.A. Undernutrition, the Acute Phase Response to Infection, and Its Effects on Micronutrient Status Indicators. Adv Nutr November (2014) 5: 702-711. doi:10.3945/an.114.006361.
Marcos A., Nova E., & Montero A. Changes in the immune system are conditioned by nutrition. Euro J Clin Nutr (2003) 57:Suppl1, S66-S69. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601819.
Gill H.S., & Guarner F. Probiotics and human health: a clinical perspective. Postgrad Med J (2004) 80:516-526. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2003.008664.