Lifestyle Tweaks to Boost Your Immune System

Experts advise what you should do to give your immune system the best chance of fighting Covid and the omicron variant.

Lose weight: If you’re overweight, it’s a good idea to try to reach a healthy weight. Except for getting vaccinated, it’s perhaps the most important thing you can do to support your immune system.

Brush your teeth: A study of 568 Covid patients published earlier this year by researchers at McGill University in Canada found that poor oral health makes you more likely to become severely ill after contracting the virus. Patients who suffered from periodontitis (known commonly as gum disease) were 3.5 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care after testing positive for Covid, 4.5 times more likely to need a ventilator, and 8.8 times more likely to die.

Prioritise sleep: In recent years, doctors have become more and more interested in the restorative, healing powers of sleep. Now, some experts believe that a good night’s sleep can boost your immune system. For adults, the UK's National Health Service recommends between six and nine hours per night. With this in mind, you may like to check out 5 Sleep Tips From Olympians

Hydrate: “Hydration is critically important but vastly overlooked, so many metabolic functions rely on it,” Dr Ross Walton, a viral immunologist at Imperial College London, told The Telegraph earlier this year. Our respiratory tracts are lined with a layer of mucus, which contains disease-fighting antibodies. If you are dehydrated, this mucus layer is depleted and damaged temporarily, meaning fewer antibodies to fight an infection.

Get your 5 a day: It's important to think of food and drink as the fuel we use to power our body’s immune system. Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist at the University of Sussex and author of Immunity: The Science of Staying Well, says it’s important to avoid deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals, and to eat enough protein, the “building blocks of antibodies of immune cells”. She also advises an intake of plenty of healthy fats like omega-3, which “make up the immune cell membranes”; and fibre-rich carbs like wholewheat pasta and wholegrain cereal, which feed our gut microbes.

Others say the best option is a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The more colours you include on your plate, the more nutrients you will get. This should give you a wide variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients – helpful for fighting infection, says Dr Claire Bailey, GP and author of Clever Gut and Blood Sugar Diet.

For more ideas, see the Anti-Covid Diet.

Keep moving: Exercise helps to maintain our immune strength, experts say – even if it’s just a walk near your home each evening. “Regular and often is the key for exercise and immunity,” says Macciochi. “Movement throughout the day is essential for your lymphatic system, which relies on movement and muscle for stimulation. It’s essential to helping your immune cells perform their surveillance function of moving around the body, fighting germs that might be trying to get inside your tissues.” If you're struggling with motivation, check out these two key successful strategies.