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Can You 'Boost' Your Immune System?

Many products claim to amp up your immune system, but the research says buyer beware.

bar chart on white board showing immunity rising

When preparing to head back to work, school or even travel, a natural first step is to think about how to stay healthy and amp up your immune defenses to avoid catching something like the flu.

Antioxidants? Herbal supplements? An extra dose of vitamin C? Researchers say, maybe not.

“The concept that one can ‘boost’ immunity is a popular one. Although the only evidence-based approach to this is vaccination,” wrote Arthur Cassa Macedo, André Oliveira Vilela de Faria and Pietro Ghezzi in the Frontiers in Medicine journal.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that vaccines strengthen the immune system by providing the blueprints for the body to recognize and protect against infectious diseases. After being vaccinated, if the associated virus ever enters the body, the immune system will create antibodies that enable the body to fight off that illness – something that no consumer product can provide.  

While there are no scientifically proven ways to quickly improve your immune defenses other than vaccination, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to lend your immune system a helping hand. Help your immune system function properly by practicing  good hygiene and safely preparing food, according to Harvard Medical School.

“Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies,” Harvard Medical officials wrote. 

They recommend you: 

  • don't smoke
  • exercise regularly
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • get adequate sleep
  • minimize stress 

Learn more about these strategies and the reasoning behind them: How to boost your immune system