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Five Ways to Improve Your Vaccine Response

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

A properly functioning immune system will ensure that when you are vaccinated you generate a powerful immune response, say the experts.

Dr Michael Mosley, the TV medic and creator of the 5:2 diet, gives his top 5 tips for preparing your body for optimum results for your jabs.

Sleep: Researchers from the University of California found that healthy volunteers who had the least sleep the night before having a flu jab produced the lowest level of antibodies to the flu in the months afterwards. “As you sleep, your body produces many important components of your immune system, such as antibodies and killer T cells,” explains Dr Mosley, who says that sleep effectively acts as an “internal handyman” helping your body to repair itself.

Gut: One way to strengthen your immune system is to bolster your microbiome, which are the microbes that live in your gut, says Dr Mosley. “These microbes are central to our health, our mood, better sleep, allergy prevention, and importantly at the moment - immunity."

One review of studies published in the journal Nutrients found that consuming prebiotics and probiotics before being vaccinated nearly doubled the number of people who subsequently developed protective levels of antibodies.

One of the best ways to improve the “good” microbes that live in our guts is through eating a Mediterranean diet because its high fibre content supercharges your microbiome. Other foods that are beneficial for our microbiome include live yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut or kimchi, and sourdough bread. Green tea, mushrooms, garlic and citrus fruits are probiotic rich foods which offer the added benefit of vitamin C – also important for the immune system.

Alcohol: The alcohol charity Drinkaware says that while there is no published data about the specific effects of alcohol on the body’s response to the Covid-19 vaccination, Dr Mosley says:

“Alcohol impacts on immunity and I try to drink within the recommended guidelines of seven medium glasses of wine a week. I also follow the principles of 5:2; having a drink five nights a week and not drinking for two.”

Exercise: Whilst overall fitness defintely helps, “a study from the University of Birmingham showed that people who exercised their arms for a few hours before a flu jab developed a stronger immune response,” says Dr Mosley. “It’s not clear why, but I’ll certainly be doing some press-ups and other arm workouts before my jab next month.”

Relax: A study from the University of Pittsburgh found that people who described themselves as cheerful or relaxed produced a 73 percent greater antibody response to the hepatitis B vaccination than those who described themselves as nervous, tense or angry. So, the advice is to talk to friends, enjoy a walk, and do whatever you need to do to get yourself into a relaxed frame of mind.


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