Ways to Boost Your Immunity During BA.5 Surge — Eat This Not That
BA.5 has become the dominant subvariant in the US, causing a surge of COVID-19 cases across the country. “I think there’s a worry about there being a perfect storm over the autumn, winter with new variants, which are almost inevitable, of Covid, flu and other respiratory infections,” says Professor Lawrence S. Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick. Here are five ways to boost your immunity during this surge, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Exercise—especially post-vaccination—is a great way to support your immune system. A recent study from the University of Iowa found that people who exercised for an hour and half after getting vaccinated produced more antibodies compared to people who resumed their normal routine. “Our preliminary results are the first to demonstrate a specific amount of time can enhance the body’s antibody response to the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine and two vaccines for influenza,” says Kinesiology Professor Marian Kohut, lead author of the paper published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. “A lot more research is needed to answer the why and how. There are so many changes that take place when we exercise – metabolic, biochemical, neuroendocrine, circulatory. So, there’s probably a combination of factors that contribute to the antibody response we found in our study.”
Getting enough sleep is essential for helping optimize your immune system. “Prioritizing sleep and allowing your body to rest can stabilize your mood, energize you and fuel your resilience, especially during these challenging times,” says Jennifer Rose V. Molano, MD, UC Health neurologist and associate professor in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Eating a healthy diet is one of the most effective ways to support your immune health. “Malnutrition or a diet lacking in one or more nutrients can impair the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies,” says Harvard Health. “Examples of nutrients that have been identified as critical for the growth and function of immune cells include vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein (including the amino acid glutamine). They are found in a variety of plant and animal foods.”
“There are two types of white blood cells – lymphocytes and phagocytes. When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections,” says Saul McLeod, PhD. “The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes). Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system as a person may use unhealthy behavioral coping strategies to reduce their stress, such as drinking and smoking.”
Vaccination is still the most effective way to boost your immune system and avoid serious illness, doctors advise. “Vaccination, skepticism of any other products claiming immune benefits, and staying away from places without universal masking are the best strategies,” says Michael Starnbach, PhD, professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School. Don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.