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Medica Superspecialty Hospital

Immunity and Supplements

Walking through the aisles of a local food shop, 28-year-old Sreyashi spotted some pots of echinacea supplements that promised to ‘support the immune system’ and ‘restore its healthy function’. She came home and looked up the product on some blogging sites and found some posts mentioning how several supplements such as, Echinacea, wheatgrass juice, etc can make individuals less likely to get ill.

Sreyashi made a wise decision to discuss this with her dietician who, to her surprise, informed that even though these products appear to be tempting, they are foiled by an inconvenient truth: there is no evidence that they actually work. He further added that the idea that any dietary supplement can boost your immunity makes little or no scientific sense. And here’s why…

Why you can’t boost your immune system with supplements

Many products on store shelves claim to support immunity. But the concept of boosting immunity makes little sense scientifically. Boosting the quantity of cells — immune cells or others — is not necessarily a good idea. For instance, athletes who engage in blood doping — pumping blood into their systems to increase the number of blood cells to enhance performance — run the risk of strokes.

Attempting to boost the cells of the immune system is complicated as different kinds of cells respond to different microbes in multiple ways. Which cells should you boost, and to what number?

So far, scientists do not know the exact answer. What is known is that our body continually generates immune cells. It certainly produces more lymphocytes than it possibly uses. The extra cells remove themselves through apoptosis, a natural process of cell death. No one knows how many cells or what the best mix of cells helps our immune system function optimally.

Improving immunity with herbs and supplements

Online shopping sites, as well as brick and mortar stores, are flooded with bottles of pills and herbal preparations, claiming to support immunity or boost your immune system health. Although some preparations are found to alter some components of immune function, there is no evidence so far that they enhance immunity to the point where you are better protected against infections and diseases.

The role an herb or any other supplement plays in enhancing immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter. It is unknown whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.

Healthy ways to strengthen your immune system

Our immune system is not a single entity, it is complex system that involves different cells and organs in our body. To function perfectly, it requires both balance and harmony.

Your first line of defense should be choosing a healthy lifestyle. Abiding by good-health guidelines is the best step you can take towards keeping your immune system naturally healthy. Every part of the body, including the immune system, functions significantly better when bolstered by healthy-living tips such as the following:

  • Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Don’t smoke
  • If you consume alcohol, drink in moderation
  • Take steps to avoid infections – washing hands frequently and consuming well cooked food, particularly meats, is the basic requirement
  • Try minimizing stress

Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, stress, and other factors on the immune response. Meanwhile, following general healthy-living strategies are a good way to give your immune system the upper hand.

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