These days, it feels like there's a new study every week about the importance of healthy living now to ensure longevity later, but with so much conflicting information about what constitutes healthy, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Immunity is just one of these confusing aspects.
Several factors affect our body’s ability to fight disease—including genetics and lifestyle—but the easiest way to boost immunity is to provide the body with the essential vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds needed to support its natural defenses.
One of the most significant health trends of 2022 was eating for a healthy gut. Recent research suggests the gut, and the billions of microorganisms that live there, have an impact that reaches far beyond the digestive system. While we still don't know the full extent of the relationship between the gut microbiome and the body as a whole, evidence suggests it has an effect on immunity, chronic disease, and even mental health.
One way to boost gut health is through probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria that live in the intestines, making up the gut microbiome. Sales of probiotics have increased steadily over the last few years, with a market that is now worth billions, suggesting this is one health trend that is here to stay.
Probiotics are available as supplements or can be consumed through food: the best natural sources are fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
2022 saw a rise in the number of people leading "sober curious" lifestyles, meaning they cut down on alcohol or cut it out entirely. This is good news for immunity as alcohol disrupts the immune system, impairing the body's ability to fight infection and heal from injury. Social initiatives like Dry January and Sober October are good ways to experiment with cutting back on drinking for better immunity in 2023.
In light of the cabin fever born of the pandemic, there's been increased interest in the relationship between vitamin D and immunity, and it's something worth looking into further in 2023. Most of us know that vitamin D is essential for bone health, but recent research shows it also improves the body’s antimicrobial response, reduces the risk of viral infections, and supports T cells—a type of white blood cell that fights infection.
Few foods are naturally high in vitamin D, so supplementation is common. Exposure to sunlight also triggers vitamin D production, but it’s safer to get it from foods like fatty fish and fortified bread, cereal, and dairy products.
One popular trend of 2022 that looks set to continue into 2023 is immunity-boosting workouts. While no exercises can specifically target the immune system, research shows that exercise does improve the body's immune response.
Regular exercise can also help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes, inflammatory illnesses, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Gentle exercises like walking, cycling, and swimming are extremely beneficial and easy to fit into everyday routines.
We all know about the importance of getting enough sleep, but there's a new trend set to go big in 2023: sleep syncing. This involves synchronizing your sleep pattern to your circadian rhythm or internal body clock. Artificial light and the use of electronic devices have disrupted our natural sleep patterns, but returning to a natural sleep-wake cycle can improve sleep quality.
It may also have a positive effect on immunity, as research shows that disrupting the circadian rhythm increases the risk of disease.
Self-care and mental health were a big deal in 2022, and odds are they will continue to be in 2023. Mindfulness, a type of meditation practice that is easy to adapt to everyday life, was especially popular. Mindfulness reduces stress, depression, and anxiety, which in turn improves overall health and immunity. What's more, there's some evidence to suggest that mindfulness could directly improve the body's immune response.
Many supplements being marketed as immunity boosters in 2023 feature black elderberry extract—also called Sambucus nigra. While it may not be able to perform miracles in quite the way that some people claim, there’s evidence to support its use as an immunity booster, especially against respiratory illness. This is thanks to high levels of polyphenols, flavonoids, and polysaccharides that play a role in supporting the immune system.
A group of plants and fungi that help the body deal with stress, adaptogens could be the next big thing for immunity in 2023. Adaptogens promote homeostasis, helping the body to regulate itself, and could also play a role in immunity.
Adaptogens usually come in the form of a capsule, powder, or tincture, and commonly available varieties include Asian or American ginseng, ashwagandha, and Rhodiola.
Gaining in popularity over recent years, green tea is high in polyphenols—bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties—that are beneficial to overall health. Though studies on green tea are limited, there’s evidence that one compound, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), could be useful in preventing and treating several chronic diseases, so it's worth giving it a try in 2023.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.