Winter is coming – and so is the common cold, among other ailments that we don’t want to catch. Check out some tips from Kanad Mukherjee, DO, sports and family doctor at Rowan | Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, to help boost your immune system this season. 

It’s time to quit

There are a number of harmful effects that come with smoking, including the fact that it weakens your immune system. When you quit, your immune system is no longer exposed to nicotine and tobacco residue, and it has a chance to get stronger and fight off infections better.  

Blueberries aren’t magic – but they’re not poison 

When it comes to eating, there isn’t a secret list of foods that you can eat to automatically boost your immune system. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them. 

“Blueberries and other antioxidants aren’t going to immediately boost your immune system,” says Mukherjee. “But they could be somewhat beneficial and definitely won’t hurt.”

Instead of focusing on one food, aim for a balanced diet, he says. Hit all your food groups and try to stay away from foods that are highly processed. 

Speed up

That leisurely stroll around your neighborhood won’t cut it for your weekly exercise. The recommended amount of exercise is 22-30 minutes each day of moderate aerobic activity, which might be more vigorous than you think. “It’s called the talk test, you should be working at least at a pace where you could hold a conversation, but not sing your favorite song,” says Dr. Mukherjee. 

“While any movement is better than nothing, you want to aim for that moderate aerobic activity. Long-term, steady exercise is proven to reduce inflammation and some exercises, like brisk walking, are known to increase immunoglobulins, which are our body’s first line of defense. 

Get some sleep 

You might be saying, “apparently every problem I have can be cured with sleep.” Well, it really is that simple. Sleep is the time when our bodies reset and restore, says Dr. Mukherjee. While you sleep, your body breaks things down, and when you take time away from that, your immune system takes a hit. 

And remember, the recommended amount of sleep is 7-8 hours for adults, longer for teens and children. 

Some not-so-natural tips

One of the best things you can do to help your immune system, says Dr. Mukherjee, is to wear a mask when you’ll be in a close space. “The masks do a decent to very good job at keeping particles of a certain size from going in and out of the nose and mouth,” he says. “It will limit your risk of exposure.” 

You should also be aware of what medications you’re taking. First, make sure you’re up-to-date on all your vaccines, says Dr. Mukherjee, those are very important. But also, some meds and treatments – like steroids, chemotherapy or immunotherapy – can suppress the immune system, and you’ll want to take extra precautions.  

October 2023
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