What Can Women Do to Help Support Their Immune Systems?
Some of your genes are working all the time, and some of them only function when necessary.1 Genes that are related to the functionality of your immune system tend to go back and forth between actively working and remaining at rest more frequently than some of your other genes.1 One of the most important factors in how and when your immune system genes work is based on your sex.1 New research shows that immune system genes work differently in men and women.1 Keep reading to find out how your immune system works, what women can do to help support their immune system, and what vitamins or dietary supplements can support women’s immune health.
How Does Your Immune System Work?
Your immune system is what keeps your body healthy.2 It’s made up of two parts that work together: your innate immune system and your adaptive immune system.2
Your innate immune system is made of cells that work together and already exist when you are born.2 Some parts of your innate immune system are:3
- Stomach acid
- Sweat and tears
Your adaptive immune system works closely with your innate immune system, is acquired over time and develops antibodies that support your body.2 Your adaptive immune system changes over time.2
Your body’s organs develop the cells that make up both parts of your immune system. Some of these cell-producing organs include your:2
- Bone marrow
- Lymph nodes
- Lymphatic vessels
- Peyer’s patches
Things Women Can Do to Support Their Immune Systems
Your lifestyle factors can play a role in your immune system’s health and daily functioning. Some of these factors include how much sleep you’re getting, how many essential nutrients you’re feeding your body, and whether or not you’re consuming all of the nutrients needed to keep your body at its best.3 Keep reading to discover changes women can make in their daily lives to support their immune systems.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
A lack of quality sleep can be detrimental to your immune system.3 When you sleep, your body releases immune cells called cytokines.3 Cytokines play an important role in how your immune system functions. If you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t give your body enough time to produce more cytokines.3 You should try to get between six and ten hours of sleep each night, depending on your individual needs.6
High stress levels can also weaken your immune system.4 Practicing meditation and other breathing exercises are simple ways to help reduce your stress levels in a tense situation.3
Doing a mixture of cardio and strength training for at least 10 to 30 minutes each day can help keep your body moving and support your immune system.5
Eat Nutritious Foods
If you have a poor diet, you might not get enough of the nutrients that help support your immune system.3 Some nutrients that play an important role in your immune system are vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein.3 Consuming the following foods can provide necessary nutrients and help support your immune system:3
- Whole grains
There might be times when you still aren’t getting enough of the nutrients needed to support your immune system. In those cases, vitamins and supplements can help.3
Take Vitamins or Dietary Supplements
Taking the right supplements can help support your body’s immune system. Taking a daily supplement, like vitamin D, can help you even if you’re not getting enough vitamin D from spending time in the sun.
Vitamin C has also been shown to be a great way to support your immune system.5 Taking dietary supplements, like Emergen-C, can be a way to increase how much vitamin C you’re getting.
For women, increasing the amount of sleep you’re getting while maintaining low stress levels can help support your immune health. Exercising, making sure you’re eating foods that provide the proper nutrients, and considering a dietary supplement can all help support a woman’s immune system.
- Women’s immune system genes operate differently from men’s. Stanford Medicine News Center. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/07/womens-immune-system-genes-operate-differently-from-mens.html. Accessed 6/29/21.
- The Immune System. John Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/the-immune-system Accessed 6/29/21.
- Nutrition and Immune Health. Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/ Accessed 6/29/21.
- Stress Weakens the Immune System. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune Accessed 6/29/21.
- Strengthen Your Immune System With 4 Simple Strategies. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/strengthen-your-immune-system-with-simple-strategies/ Accessed 6/29/21.
- American Sleep Association. How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need? https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/how-many-hours-of-sleep-do-i-need/. Accessed 4/11/22.