It is common for media to market products that claim to “boost” the immune system. While this sounds like a good thing, in fact it may be just another ploy to make you spend money on stuff that you don’t need. Because of these products, people seem to think that the immune system is like a muscle, meaning that by using it and giving it supplements, you are making it stronger and more effective. However, the immune system is actually a very complex interconnected network of systems including organs, cells, tissues, and biomolecules that all work together to prevent your body being invaded by hundreds of thousands of pathogens every single day. Here are five reasons why you should be skeptical of any product that claims to “boost” your immune system.
The immune system cannot be “boosted.”
While there may be no harm in taking vitamins and supplements, this does not mean that they are actually doing anything beneficial. If you are otherwise healthy, there is nothing that will make your immune system function any better than it is already.
There is no evidence that any of these products work.
A report published by Harvard Medical School in 2010 takes a look at some of the products that claim to boost your immune system. About vitamins they say: “So far, there is no evidence that taking extra amounts of any vitamin will boost the immune response or protect against infection in any way.” About probiotics and prebiotics they say: “A direct connection between taking these products and improving immune function has not yet been made scientifically.” And finally, about herbs and supplements they say: “Thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where they protect against infection and disease.”
Vaccinations are a better bet.
Instead of wasting money on products that claim to be quick and easy ways to improve your immune system, invest in the proven way to better protect yourself against infectious diseases: vaccinations. So far, this is the only established and scientifically proven way to better equip your immune system to fight certain diseases.
A generally healthy lifestyle will be more beneficial.
If you eat an unhealthy diet, never exercise, and are in general poor physical shape, then your immune system may not be working at the best capacity. However, if your body is in the best shape it can be in, so is your immune system. So, while a healthy diet and exercise may not improve an immune system in someone who is already healthy, it certainly can benefit someone who isn’t living a very healthy lifestyle.
There are other things you can do.
Rather than take unnecessary vitamins, probiotics, or supplements, experts recommend other steps you can take instead to better protect yourself against diseases. These include: practicing good personal hygiene, not eating food that may be undercooked, not drinking water that may be contaminated, using insect repellent when outdoors, and practicing safe sex. And, of course, be current on vaccinations for any disease that you may be at risk for based on your age and location.