One of the most common questions that I’m getting right now is how to boost the immune system and it makes sense. People want to know how to protect themselves from infection. I want to share with you today four powerful ways to do that but boosting your immune system is not the best way to get there.

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If you think about it what are autoimmune diseases? That’s an immune system that’s cranked up and targeting the wrong things. What are allergies? That’s a hyper-responsive immune system to things in the environment that aren’t real threats. What’s chronic inflammation? Inflammation is a part of the immune response and if it’s turned up too much chronic inflammation is bad for you.

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So how would I suggest protecting yourself? Making your body more resilient against infection!

[Today I’ll share] four ways, plus a bonus. Number one is actually the opposite of boosting your immune system. It’s “dialing back the immune response” to things that are appropriate — to quit crying wolf [to] triggers that could make your immune system distracted and aiming at the wrong things.


Don’t boost your immunity! Dial it back.


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If you do have an autoimmune illness, an allergy, or chronic inflammation work with someone to get those under control best as possible. But as far as things that falsely alert your immune system, those triggers get into our bodies only through what we eat or drink, through the air that we breathe, and through what goes on our skin.

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When it comes to what we eat or drink, this is the time to eat or drink things that your grandparents would have recognized as real food — eat real and avoid the recently invented chemicals, artificial colors, artificial flavors, ultra-processed snack foods, added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, in what you eat or drink.

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As far as what we’re breathing in, probably the biggest thing is to avoid smoke. [Aviod] cigarette smoke, second hand, third-hand smoke, and vaping at this time, as well.

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As far as what goes on the skin, notice that your personal care products are sometimes laden with chemicals, that are recently developed, that are absorbed into the skin. There have been recent studies showing that sunscreen, for instance, those ingredients end up in your blood.


Don’t Boost Your Immunity! There are three areas to concentrate on.


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So, the first one is to dial back the immune system so it can focus on the things that really matters. Number two, is “provision the system”. You want to provide the supplies for the immune system to work well. And again those only get into our body from what we eat or drink, the air that we breathe, and what goes on our skin, When it comes to what we eat or drink, it’s the same thing — eat real and you want to make a point of getting on average at least

five servings of a variety of different produce every day. They have the core nutrients that you need for the immune system to be optimized, and a wide variety of healthy real food. I say on average because on the first one [dial back the immune response] intermittent fasting is one way to help dial down and focus the immune system. But when you are eating, eat real.

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When it comes to the air that you breathe, this one is a more recent science but out of Japan, there’s been a series of studies looking at something called forest bathing. When we are in nature — in the woods — there are signals that trees put out that it turns out both smell good to us and helps optimize the natural killer cells in the body. So being in nature would be part of provisioning the system.

As far as the skin, the most obvious thing is vitamin D from being in the sunshine. It’s a really important part of the immune system. Less obvious, we make CoQ10 when we’re out in the sun if we’ve recently eaten green leafy vegetables in the last couple of hours before that. So, number two provision the system.

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Number three is to cultivate and nourish the beneficial bacteria in and on our bodies. The microbiome is a really amazing ecosystem that’s the front lines of our immune system. You’ve heard the adage that when you’re on an airplane, in an emergency [when] the oxygen mask falls, you first put it on yourself and then whoever you’re traveling with because you’re better able to take care of the other if you do that. Well, this is a situation where that adage does not apply. In the event of an emergency, first, take care of the bacteria in your body because they will help take care of you in a really powerful way. So how do you do that?

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Again, it comes down to what we eat or drink, the air that we breathe, what goes on the skin. You want things that cultivate a wide variety of great bacteria this is going to be primarily eating real produce, lots of fiber, and it’s going to be avoiding things that are toxic to the beneficial bacteria, such as unnecessary antibiotics, cigarette smoke, again any kind of toxin that’s not going to help these bacteria thrive.

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And then the fourth — one was “dial it back”, number two “provision the system,” number three “cultivate the beneficial bacteria” — and the fourth one is sleep. Sleep is extremely powerful for resetting, refocusing, and optimizing your immune system. It’s one of the reasons we get tired when we’re sick, so that we’ll rest more, and we can focus on healing.

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The fifth one, the bonus, is physical activity exercise and exercise is great because it helps all four of the others. When you exercise it helps calm your immune system and calm inflammation. When you exercise it helps provision the system, in part by moving your lymph vessels. Those don’t have a pump like the heart, but they’re moved by muscle contraction

and that’s part of what gets immune system where it needs to be. Exercise helps your microbiome and vice versa. And finally exercise helps you have better, deeper, higher quality sleep.

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So, [don’t boost your immunity], optimize your immune system. And stay well.

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Alan Greene MD DrGreene.com contributor

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