Think of your immune system as your body’s protective shield: It’s a wildly intricate system of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to keep you safe from bacteria, viruses, and other potential bad guys that can make you sick. So it only makes sense that you’d want to do everything you can to keep it in good shape during the thick of cold and flu season—especially if you live with a chronic condition (say, an autoimmune disease or immunodeficiency disease) that affects your body’s ability to fight germs.1
You’ve probably heard of various immune system boosters and wondered whether taking a trendy supplement or drinking green smoothies will actually give you an illness-fighting edge. But when you consider how the immune system actually does its thing, the idea of giving it a boost doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, Alice Knoedler, MD, an asthma, allergy, and immunology specialist in St. Paul, tells SELF.
Simply put: “No, it’s not possible” to rapidly boost your immune system, Mark H. Kaplan, PhD, the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, tells SELF. But there are things you can do to support this crucial part of your health—and it’s all pretty basic stuff. Here’s what the experts say.
First, it’s important to have a general idea of how the immune system works.Your body’s defenses fall within two categories: innate and adaptive. The first line of protection is the innate immune system, which is a series of barriers that prevent intruders from setting up shop in your body, Dr. Knoedler explains. This generally includes things like your skin and mucous membranes that act as a physical barrier, and cells and proteins that spring into action if germs happen to wiggle their way past these blockers.1,2
The adaptive immune system is more specific, Dr. Knoedler explains; it uses specialized defensive cells and antibodies to mount targeted attacks on invaders that the innate immune system couldn’t stop. It also develops “memory cells” that remember the substances it’s targeting so it can fight them off more quickly and effectively the next time it encounters them.2
A lot of how your immune system behaves today depends on what happened in your past. While the basics of your body’s functional defenses are universal, the strengths and vulnerabilities of any one individual’s immune system depend on factors that are out of your control, Nicolai Van Oers, PhD, a professor in the department of immunology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, tells SELF. Some of this comes down to genetics, Dr. Van Oers explains, while a lot of it is influenced by what kinds of viruses and bacteria you are exposed to during your life (naturally and via vaccination), and therefore, the memory cells that your adaptive system has created. That’s why some people are just better at fighting off certain kinds of infections than others.
The idea of boosting your immune system doesn’t make sense for lots of reasons.Your immunity isn’t one single thing that you can pump up on demand—again, it’s a highly evolved and complicated system. “The immune system is amazing,” Dr. Knoedler says, and it really knows what it’s doing. “There are so many types of cells involved,” she explains. “That’s one of the things that is hard [to make sense of] with immune boosters. What is it specifically supposed to boost? It’s an entire system, it’s not one cell.”
Source : Self.com