Myths: Boosting Your Immune System

The phrase “Boosting your immune system” is often commonly used, but what does it actually mean?

If it is a reference to you receiving a vaccine, then yes, that will indeed alter your immune system. You are receiving an active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. If it is a reference to anything else, then it is simply meaningless marketing hype.

Why is the term used?

Two words – it works.

People buy into a concept that is clear, and supposedly beneficial. It is however akin to other popular marketing phrases such as “Natural”, a term that conjures up things that are direct from nature and unadulterated with chemicals. The flaw is that everything is a chemical, see if you can name something that is not.

Things that are wholly natural and don’t contain any of those supposedly scary E numbers includes a rather long list of substances that will kill you within minutes. The mistake is to assume that everything “Natural” is good for you.

Boosting Your Immune System” feels healthy and positive.

If you exercise and are more active, then that is truly beneficial.

It is perhaps “natural” to extend this thinking to your immune system and to assume that you can top it up by consuming extra supplements and vitamins. If via exercise an athlete can run for longer and run faster, then “boosting your immune system” means that you can fight off infections more effectively … right?

No, that is not right, it is not how your immune system works.

What is true is that sleep deprivation and/or a poor diet can compromise your immune system.

What is not right is treating it as if it was a muscle that you can strengthen.

Either it is functioning as it should, or it is not.

If indeed your really did boost your immune system then you would be in serious trouble. Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriasis, and Multiple Sclerosis and conditions that relate to your immune system being boosted and overactive.

  • Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means your immune system (which usually fights infection) attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake, making the joints swollen, stiff and painful.
  • Psoriasis occurs when skin cells are replaced more quickly than usual. It’s not known exactly why this happens, but research suggests it is caused by a problem with the immune system.
  • Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, which means your immune system mistakes part of your body for a foreign substance and attacks it.

If you truly did boost your immune system, then your overactive immune system would result in one or more of the above.

In other words, hearing the phrase “Buy product X to Boost your immune system” can theoretically be translated to “Buy product X so that you can enjoy Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriasis, and Multiple Sclerosis“.

What does it mean?

Let’s be clear about this term. “boosting your immune system” is medically meaningless.

Anybody selling you something that makes this claim is conning you with marketing hype that does not actually mean anything at all.

One variation you might come across is that a product is offered with the benefit of being able to “support a healthy immune system”. That claim is true about almost anything you eat. You can also claim that breathing does this for you as well.

What should you do?

Selling people the idea that their immune system is compromised and that this can be fixed with some supplement or vitamin is an easy sell, it plays to our fears. The reality is that we don’t generally have this issue. For most, their immune system is just fine. Those selling you a solution are attempting to fix a problem that does not actually exist. They are not doing this for your benefit, but to simply make some money.

In the US, the economic impact of the supplement industry (in 2016) was $122 billion.

If buying into the idea that some supplements or vitamins can fix a poor diet, hit pause on that and fix your diet. There are no magic pills.

If you are truly concerned about your health then what should you do?

What can you do that has been scientifically proven to be truly beneficial?

Basically pay attention to these 5 things and you will harvest some real benefit …

  • healthy diet
  • regular exercise
  • lean body mass
  • not smoking
  • limited alcohol use

… and I’m not making that up, there is good solid robust evidence that those five really do work and are highly effective.

For reference, here is the latest of many studies that confirms that these five basic lifestyle factors really do have a dramatic impact on longevity and the risk of death from heart disease, cancer, or other causes.

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