There are many theories on how to boost the immune system to ward off diseases, particularly during cold and flu season, when people are most concerned with avoiding illness.
But is there any truth in these theories? Let’s look at a few of the most common myths about your immune system, and the facts you need to know in order to stay healthy all year round. Are they true or false?
Myth 1: Eating more fruits and vegetables can keep your immune system strong
Fact. It is not merely an old wive’s tale that eating your fruits and veggies will keep you healthy. Studies have shown that people who eat them regularly tend to be healthier than those who do not. They offer a range of nutrients that can help your immune system fight viruses and bacteria.
Try to eat fruits and vegetables of all the colors of the rainbow every day to ensure you’re consuming a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals, or plant-based nutrients, to fight off disease.
Myth 2: Vitamins and supplements can help ward off illness and make you feel better faster
This is partly true. A good daily multivitamin can help fill in any gaps in an otherwise healthy diet, but it is not a substitute for high-quality nutrition from a range of all-natural foods.
Some take high doses of Vitamin C to ward off colds, which can be of great benefit. Vitamin A is also vital to the immune system, though it’s essential not to take too much because it can be stored by the body, leading to Vitamin A toxicity in larger doses.
Many companies are selling cold prevention remedies with zinc in them, which promise to ward off colds or relieve symptoms more rapidly. These are commonly applied through the nostrils.
While some of these products have benefits in warding off colds, they have also been shown to cause potentially permanent loss of smell. Plus, not all colds and flu enter the body through the nose.
Myth 3: Getting enough sleep can boost your immune system
True. There’s a strong link between sleep and a healthy immune system. The main point to remember is that it should be high-quality sleep—that is, deep sleep that offers the body and mind refreshment and healing.
Most studies agree that the average adult needs 8 hours of sleep a night. However, recent studies have shown that sleeping too much can negatively affect one’s health.
Occasional insomnia should not be an issue, but if it becomes chronic, you should take steps to improve your sleep quality and duration. Otherwise, sleep deprivation can lead to your feeling run down, leaving your immune system weakened and vulnerable to disease.
Get into a good sleep routine of regular bedtimes and rising times, and see what a difference it can make to your health.
Myth 4: Covering your mouth when you cough can keep germs at bay
False. Covering your mouth when you cough can help you stop the spread of illness, but do little to help you ward off sickness unless everyone in your household and immediate environment does the same.
Don’t forget that viruses like cold and flu germs can also survive on a range of surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, countertops, and more. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face, especially nose, mouth, and eyes while sick and when around sick people.
Myth 5: A positive mindset can boost your immune system
True. A good outlook can improve your health. One study of law students showed that their immune system was directly affected by their thoughts about their coursework.
If they felt things were going well, they had a better immune system. When they were worried, their immune system slowed. Therefore, looking on the bright side is not just the best choice for your mental health but also your physical health.
Now that you’ve separated myth from fact concerning your immune system, you can use what you’ve learned to help strengthen your immune system and ward off disease.