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During the midst of a global pandemic, our immunity is at the forefront of our minds. Whilst there is a lot of conflicting advice around immunity, there are certain behaviours that we know will have a beneficial impact on preparing the body to cope with exposure to viruses and diseases. 

In this article we are going to cut through the anecdotal information and provide you with scientifically robust tools and advice to help boost your own immune system. The advice you’ll pick up here will be relevant long after the current situation ends.


Time to read: 5 minutes

Level: Intermediate

Key Points:

  • Immunity - An Ever Changing Picture
  • Lifestyle Factors that Weaken Immunity
  • Stress
  • Dietary Deficiency
  • Excess Alcohol Consumption
  • Sleep DeprivationÂ
  • Boosting Immunity
  • Exercise
  • Dietary Advice
  • Sleep More
  • RELAX!
  • Reduce Viral Load

During the midst of a global pandemic, our immunity is at the forefront of our minds. In this article we are going to cut through the anecdotal information and provide you with scientifically robust tools and advice to help boost your own immune system.



Immunity – An Ever Changing Picture

What we know to be true is that our immune response to disease fluctuates depending on a number of factors – the viral ‘load’ (frequency and duration of our exposure to infection), the state of our immune system and the time of year. 

Whilst there are undoubtedly seasonal variations in illness, the reality is we’re exposed to a lot of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses all year round. 

We tend to experience ‘seasons’ of viruses due to other factors. Take ‘flu season’ for example. In the winter we have closer contact with others through being indoors more, which increases frequency and duration of exposure to bugs. We’re also likely to have lower vitamin D levels during the winter, reducing immune function. Finally, lifestyle factors over the winter such as Christmas parties, higher stress levels and reduced sleep can also make us more vulnerable generally.

What we should be looking to do is maintain a highly functioning immune system all year round, making us less vulnerable generally. 

Lifestyle Factors that Weaken Immunity

The first step to boosting immune response is to reduce the factors that weaken it. By giving our bodies at least a fighting chance, we’re already on the path to enhanced immune function. Here are the fundamental aspects of reduced immunity…

Stress

Your exposure to stressful situations can have a marked effect on your immunity. In this meta-analysis of 30 years of research on the topic [1], the conclusion that stress and exposure to stressful situations reduces immunity and disease resistance was clear. There is no doubt that based on the overwhelming body of evidence, long term exposure to stress will reduce immune function.

At a cellular level, all stress looks largely the same. Taking steps to actively reduce stress, whether that is through meditation, time with friends, counselling etc will certainly be helpful.

Dietary Deficiency

Anecdotally there has been a lot of advice around diet and disease for millennia. Thanks to more modern approaches to research, we can be far more specific. Where many people advise a blanket approach to vitamin and mineral supplementation, what research [2] is showing is that Vitamins A and D are particularly useful when it comes to supporting immune function.

Where there is a lack of clarity nutritionally, it’s still sound advice to take a broad-spectrum multivitamin supplement, mostly because of the minerals which have been shown to boost immunity [3].

Excess Alcohol Consumption

Whilst this one isn’t going to be a surprise to many, it still has to be noted. Excess alcohol consumption has a negative effect on immunity and recovery rates from illness, so not only are you more susceptible in the first place, you’re also less likely to recover quickly from the diseases you catch.

It’s important to note also that it’s not just chronic alcohol consumption that affects immunity – binge drinking can do just the same. [4]

Sleep Deprivation

Again, this one is unlikely to surprise many, but the evidence around sleep deprivation and reduce immunity is simply too powerful to ignore. Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown across multiple studies to have an immediate and significant impact on immunity, making us more susceptible to infection. 

Sleep deprivation can also reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, so there really isn’t a get out here. We have to sleep effectively to have any chance of maintaining a healthy and effective immune system. [5]

Boosting Immunity

There is a lot of advice around boosting immunity, much of which is actually fairly robust from a scientific standpoint. There’s also a lot of nonsense, one of the most famous being to drink a ‘hot toddy’ to see off a cold. What we’re going to do here is look at how we can boost immunity with practical tips.

Exercise

Add this one to the ‘obviously’ column. There are very few physiological processes that aren’t enhanced by exercise [6]. There is a word of caution here though – prolonged exposure to extreme training loads have been tentatively linked to compromised immunity, so whilst exercise is great, manage your training loads and don’t overtrain. 

Dietary Advice

Here you have to follow the obvious advice – plenty of good quality protein, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, a lot of water and little booze. Nothing mind-blowingly new to report. What is important (and possibly new to you) is that if you live in an area with low winter sun exposure (basically anyone in northern Europe), vitamin D supplementation has been shown to boost immunity [7].

Sleep More

If you’re not achieving a solid 7 hours most nights, it’s time to address your sleep habits. Reduce exposure to bright light before bed, cut down caffeine consumption, don’t exercise too late and try not to go to bed straight after a large meal. All the obvious tips, but make sure you follow them!

RELAX!

We know stress is a huge factor when it comes to immunity, so incorporate some kind of stress-reduction practice to your life. Whether that’s an exercise, a hobby, a mindfulness practice or even buying a pet, do something to reduce your stress levels. Doing so will keep you healthier.

Reduce Viral Load

This one is a huge step to avoiding illness. Viral load is essentially the amount of exposure you have to a virus – the higher the viral load, the more likely you are to pick up a bug. 

A good analogy is the candle one - you can run your hand through the flame of a candle quickly and not suffer any damage. Hold your hand immediately above the flame for a while and it’s a completely different story. Viral load is a similar thing.

By wearing the KYMIRA Mask you will dramatically reduce your exposure to any virus – it has been designed and engineered by the KYMIRA team and has a 99.6% viral filtration rating, which is incredible. Wearing it in public spaces will almost certainly prevent high exposure to any potentially harmful viruses.

You can pick up a K-Mask here


Boosting Immunity – Concluded

Where there’s a lot of nonsense around immunity, by following a few practical and simple tips you can reduce your chances of catching a virus or disease dramatically. At a time when health and disease is at the forefront of our minds, maybe now is the time to start boosting your immune function.


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