Harvard experts list 8 steps to help support a healthy immune system

Fight COVID with Inner Immunity | Photo credit: iStock Images


  • Vaccines are absolutely non-negotiable, unless your doctor has ruled it out in your particular case.
  • If you want to have a healthy, combat-capable immune system, you need to work on building it.
  • Who better than the experts at Harvard Health to advise us on the steps to take to ensure better power to respond?

With the third wave of COVID-19 already here, people are banking on methods learned in previous waves to tackle the viral scourge. The availability and administration of vaccines dramatically changed the turn of events this time around. But that did not end the pandemic, only suppressed the disease in a small but significant way.

So, apart from medical intervention, this time around, people are relying a lot on their immunity, to fight off possible infection. Various reports have surfaced with some claiming that the Omicron variant causes mild (milder) symptoms compared to earlier variants like Delta etc.

What remains the baseline though, is that it’s immunity that will get us through. Take a look at these 8 steps that the experts at Harvard Health (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/) say we need to take to keep our immune system strong and in good shape of fight.

8 steps to stronger immunity:

  1. Eat a balanced diet: Include a platter of fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of rainbow-colored water. A Mediterranean diet is one option that includes these types of foods. No need to chase the exotic. The ordinary tropical fruits available in India are powerful in antioxidants. Slice them instead of squeezing them into juice, save the fibers and keep them fresh.
  2. Ask your doctor about supplements: A deficiency of simple nutrients can impair the body’s immune response. Animal studies have shown that deficiencies in zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C, D and E can alter immune responses. These nutrients help the immune system in several ways: by acting as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells, by supporting the growth and activity of immune cells, and by producing antibodies. Lack of adequate nutrient supply through diet puts us at greater risk of bacterial, viral and other infections. If a balanced diet is not readily available, taking a multivitamin containing RDA for several nutrients may be used.
  3. Don’t smoke (or stop smoking if you do): Research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352117/) shows that smoking is associated with many diseases and is a serious challenge for today’s healthcare system around the world. Smoking impacts both innate and adaptive immunity and plays a dual role in the regulation of immunity by exacerbating pathogenic immune responses or by attenuating defensive immunity. Why would you want to smoke or continue the habit if it puts you directly in the path of danger?
  4. Moderate your alcohol consumption: If you are already drinking and your doctor recommends that you continue drinking, reduce your intake. Research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/) has established that there is an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse health effects related to the immune system , such as susceptibility to pneumonia. In recent decades, this association has spread to a greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and certain cancers; a higher incidence of postoperative complications; and slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma, including poor wound healing.
  5. Perform moderate regular exercise: To research shows that acute respiratory infections (ARI) are caused by respiratory viruses and bacteria, being the most infectious disease in humans. Despite the lack of precise data on how physical activity improves the immune response against the novel coronavirus, there is evidence for lower rates of ARI incidence, symptom duration and intensity, and risk of mortality from infectious respiratory diseases in people who exercise at appropriate high levels. . In addition, different studies suggest that regular physical exercise is directly linked to a decrease in mortality due to pneumonia and influenza, improvements in cardiorespiratory function, vaccine response, glucose metabolism, lipids. and insulin.
  6. Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Try to keep a sleep schedule, waking up and going to bed at around the same time each day. Our biological clock, or circadian rhythm, regulates feelings of drowsiness and wakefulness. Working from home and the continued use of digital screens have made our boys’ clocks disturbed and out of touch with nature. A Harvard report states that if we maintain a consistent sleep schedule, it can help balance the circadian rhythm so that we can enter deeper, more restful sleep.
  7. Aim to manage stress: According to SimplyPsychology (https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html), when we are stressed, the ability of the immune system to fight antigens is reduced. This is why we are more susceptible to infections. The corticosteroid stress hormone can suppress the efficiency of the immune system (eg lowering the number of lymphocytes) and also propel us into unhealthy behaviors such as drinking or smoking. They say you have to learn to deal with stress, but frankly, that’s easier said than done. Still, Harvard experts advise trying to find healthy strategies that work well for you and your lifestyle, whether it’s exercise, meditation, a particular hobby, or talking to a trusted friend. Another tip is to practice regular, mindful breathing throughout the day and when feelings of stress arise. Learn Pranayam – the yoga of breathing techniques – available online via certified experts on videos. It doesn’t have to be too long, even a few breaths can help. If you want some advice, try this short mindful breathing exercise.
  8. Wash your hands throughout the day: Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world, most of us have adopted healthier, mindful lifestyles. Sanitize your hand with a good quality alcohol hand sanitizer prescribed by doctors if you do not have soap and water available. Otherwise, the best option is to wash your hands several times a day, especially when entering from the outside, before and after preparing and eating food, after using the toilet, after coughing or blowing your nose.

Disclaimer: The tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or dietitian before starting a fitness program or making any changes to your diet.

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