5 Common Immune Health Myths Debunked | 1MD Nutrition™

5 Common Immune Health Myths Debunked

A doctor separates fact from fiction and debunks 5 of the most common immune system myths that can get in the way of your health goals.

By Dr. Brian Greenberg

7 minute read

Last Updated November 16, 2021

5 Common Immune Health Myths Debunked

Your immune system is always working to keep you healthy, and chances are good that you’re seeking ways to support your immunity. Unfortunately, there are a lot of immune system myths out there that can get in the way of your health goals. It is important to separate fact from fiction, and by learning the facts about immune system health, you can take the next steps to stay healthy year-round.

Myth 1: Exercising Can Weaken My Immune System

When you are under the weather, you want to rest your body, so that energy can be focused on recovery. While vigorous exercise can drain the body’s energy sources, developing a habit of moderate daily exercise is a reliable way to prepare your body for any germs that might come along. 

White blood cells flourish when you work out, and regular exercise will help increase cell turnover in your body and support the production of these important immune cells. To promote overall health, keep your routine simple with walking, jogging, or swimming, and make sure to move your body every day. 

In addition to moderate exercise, certain nutrients can help promote your immune health. Chromium is an essential micronutrient that helps support immune cell activity to promote strong immune responses. Because the bacteria in your gut make up 70% of your immune system, it is also important to maintain a healthy gut microbiome for efficient immune activity. Mother and daughter jogging up some stairs in winter

Myth 2: Cold Weather Makes You Sick

Catching a cold or the flu appears to be more common when the weather is cold, so it is a common misconception that the weather is the cause. While there is a link between cold weather and increased risk of illness, this is not a causal relationship. The cold weather forces people to spend more time indoors, in closer proximity to others. 

The coldness of the air is not the direct cause. More time indoors means more frequent exposure to germs and an increased risk of getting sick. Keep your defenses strong with some daily zinc to support strong immune cell function, reduce the risk of infection, and shorten the duration of the common cold. The powerful botanical African geranium can also help you get some natural relief from respiratory symptoms.

Myth 3: Allergies Are a Sign of a Weakened Immune System

The opposite of this is true. Allergies are not triggered by bacteria or viruses but rather harmless molecules like dust, pollen, and pet dander. The presence of an allergen triggers an immune response, despite being harmless. Allergies are not a sign of a weakened immune system but rather an overactive one. 

Allergies can trigger respiratory symptoms similar to a cold, such as cough, headache, congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, or sore throat. Sustain immune system function for relief from these symptoms with L-cysteine, which is known to support lung tissue function and normal mucous thickness, and vitamin D3, which supports respiratory functions.

Myth 4: “Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever”

This is one myth that has stood the test of time and has been circulated through generations. However, it is just a myth. Your body needs adequate fuel to fight off infections of any kind. The activation of an immune response increases the body’s caloric demands, so you will need fuel to maintain optimal defenses. 

Nutrition rich foods

Your immune system needs energy from your diet to increase the body’s temperature as part of the defense against invading microbes. This increase boosts your metabolism, and a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is the best way to ensure your body and immune system get the fuel and support it needs. 

In addition to a healthful diet, the additional support of certain nutrients can boost immune function. Vitamin C helps maintain epithelial health, which is the first line of defense. It also helps recycle vitamin E, which naturally diminishes with age but is essential for immune health. Finally, vitamin E supports T-cells which help remove pathogenic invaders. 

Myth 5: Hand Sanitizing Is More Effective Than Hand Washing

The alcohol in hand sanitizer deactivates viruses to prevent them from transferring from your hands but is not as effective at removing microbes as hand washing. Using sanitizer is a practical and convenient way to clean your hands on the go but should never replace hand washing. However, when hand washing is not available, hand sanitizer is a good backup option. 

Handwashing with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. You can also boost your immune system with natural ingredients like elderberry berries, which protect against oxidative damage, L-lysine to reduce stress and anxiety, and marshmallow root, which encourages immune cell activity. 

Final Thoughts

Knowledge is power, and when you can differentiate between fact and fiction, you have the power to promote strong immune system health. Your overall health depends on the defenses your immune system can provide, and with a healthy routine and immune-boosting nutrients, you can take on environmental threats and immune health with confidence. 

Dr. Brian Greenberg

Dr. Brian Greenberg is an immunologist, allergist, and pediatrician who received his medical degree from the University of Florida, and completed his residency and fellowship at UCLA. He has practiced medicine in Southern California for almost 25 years.