How to Build and Support a Strong Immune System

Avoid stress, eat well and be well

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

The pandemic has brought greater attention to the importance of maintaining a strong immune system. While receiving vaccinations helps improve immune response to communicable illnesses like the seasonal flu and COVID-19, supporting immune system health is also important for lowering risk for these and other illnesses.

Here’s what area experts recommend:

• “Supplements are important, but I focus on food and the way of living. Food I recommend you should try taking every day is turmeric. Take it every day, as much as you can tolerate. Garlic, ginger, cinnamon and blueberries, you should have every day. Fiber is very good. Fiber helps the immune system and reduces inflammation. Some people may be sensitive to fiber. Mushrooms are good to eat.

• “Drink water regularly. Not just taking too much at one time, but all day, drink water. The one simple indicator is when you go to the bathroom; the urine should look like water.

• “Olive oil should be part of a healthy diet. Use olive oil as a condiment. Sautéing is good. Frying isn’t and sugar isn’t good.

• “Stress damages the immune system. Some people think negative things about the future, like something bad is going to happen. But no one has seen the future. Always have positive thoughts that good things are going to happen. Others think about old lies about the past. The past is gone. Dragging through the negative parts of the past causes stress. Control the thoughts. It can be difficult, so we can think good things and bad things. If any negative thoughts come, think of good things.

• “Go walking to help manage stress and think happy thoughts. Take a deep breath.

• “See a professional if you cannot control thoughts.

• “The home environment: make it like a temple, mosque or church: clean and relaxing. Use as few chemicals as possible and keep it dust-free.

• “Supplements can helpful. Some people ask, ‘Why supplements?’ They’re concentrated nutrients from food. Vitamin D has shown good effects at boosting the immune system. Even at hospitals they use vitamin D. Vitamin C is known for many years and zinc has shown as an important supplement. Echinacea has shown to improve the defense.

• “If someone has a chronic problem, it needs to be stabilized, like high blood pressure or diabetes or autoimmune conditions. Chronic conditions, if not taken care of, can damage the immune system. These are the most important things regarding what we’re facing right now.

— Physician Az Tahir, practicing holistic, natural and functional medicine in Rochester and Syracuse

 

• “Especially with COVID, you want to make yourself as strong and durable as possible so your body is more resilient in fighting off viruses. A lot of variables go into a strong defense system.

Exercise is definitely a very important variable.

• “You also want to make sure your nutrition is adequate.

• “Stress and sleep are other parts of the balance equation to build a strong immune system. The more beaten down you allow yourself to get through stress and lack of sleep and not exercising makes you vulnerable. Your body gets worn down from that. You want the sleep, the nutrition, exercise and hydrated, along with managing stress.

• “There’s no guarantee that even when you take these precautions you won’t get sick, but you’ll recover faster.”

— Randy Sabourin, certified personal trainer, medical exercise specialist and post rehab conditioning specialist and owner of Metro Fitness, Syracuse and Fayetteville

 

• “Some good ways to support a healthy immune system is a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, lean meat and whole grains.

• “Limit highly processed, high in fat and processed foods.

• “Avoid smoking and things that increases environmental toxins.

• “Get adequate sleep. Rest decreases the stress hormone cortisol, which increase inflammation.
• “Make sure your chronic illnesses are well managed.

• “Get your annual physical, take medication as prescribed and visit your primary care provider. Many people may forget that keeping their diabetes and high blood pressure under control is really big in promoting health. They put extra stress on the body that can lower the immune system.

• “Stress is bad in a lot of ways. It releases hormones like cortisol. Inflammation is the first line of your body’s immune system. The white blood cells don’t work as well as they should. Mental health goes along with stress. Get in touch with counselors. There are a lot of resources in the community to help with stress reduction and mental health care.

• “Getting vaccinated is very important. It helps the body prepare in the event someone is exposed. It also helps control the spread. It builds up herd immunity for those who can’t get their vaccination for whatever reason. Vaccination won’t cause the diseases they’re designed to prevent. They contain either a dead or weakened strain of the virus that they’re trying to prevent.”

— Alison Fluman, master’s trained nurse, director of Community Health at Oswego Health