As we continue to deal with seasonal colds and unfortunate COVID-19 spikes, people are on the hunt to find ways to boost their immune systems. But what if there were ways to build up such a strong defense that it could be possible to live to 100 (and beyond)? That’s what Dr. Robert G. Lahita (aka Dr. Bob) argues is possible in his new book Immunity Strong.
Lahita, the Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health in Paterson, New Jersey, walks readers through how the immune system works and what makes it implode or keeps it safe. Plus, he explains what modern science reveals about how the immune system connects to every part of the body to keep it alive. And if you can focus on a few key things to keep your system in tip-top shape, you could live into the triple digits.
What are those important tasks? We tapped Dr. Bob to get his expert insight on five ways to live to 100.
Take Pre and Probiotics
More from SwimLife
“Prebiotics and probiotics are very important to keep your microbiome normal," says Dr. Bob. "These nurture the population of organisms there in your bowels, which inform your immune system. The health of the immune system really depends on your gut, brain, and skin microbiomes."
Engage in Moderate Exercise
"Marathon runners and triathletes stress the immune system; it's not happy with extreme exercise," he continues. "It can become unhealthy because, remember, stress is bad for immune function. However, an exercise like taking a bike ride every day is great for immunity. I think people should exercise every day—I certainly do. One of the first things I do when traveling is find the hotel gym and spend 30 minutes in there. Dedicate yourself to this practice and you'll feel so much better. Don't let your treadmill become a coat rack! Meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, etc., are also amazing ways to de-stress and keep the body moving."
"The truth is, anything that relaxes you has its benefits," says Dr. Bob. "But there is hard evidence that the following activities, all of which can be performed in public or private, connect strongly to immunity: meditation, tai chi, qigong, acupuncture, yoga. I'm a big supporter of mindfulness meditation, which focuses your attention and decreases your reactivity to stressful stimuli. This relaxation response enhances the tone of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve carries signals from the brain to the heart, lungs, digestive system, other organs, and vice versa. If sitting still and meditating is not for you, try tai chi or qigong."
Avoid Overuse of Antibiotics
"Any use of antibiotics upsets the gut microbiome. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend taking antibiotics for a common cold. That is inappropriate treatment,” he says. “Pneumonia, strep throat, Lyme disease and other severe infections and conditions would, however, respond to antibiotics."
Eat Chocolate and Garlic
"You are what you eat, so ensure you have a balanced diet. This should include yogurt, cheese and fresh vegetables," he says. "Plus, foods like sweet potatoes, dark chocolate and berries of all sorts provide antioxidants that the body uses to keep the immune system healthy and fend off diseases and infections. Garlic is also a powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial, antiviral and some say antibiotic properties."
He adds, "And elderberry is packed with quercetin, an antioxidant with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects; a teaspoonful of elderberry syrup is used to combat flu symptoms and help people with sinus pain or chronic fatigue find relief. Spices such as turmeric, ginger and garlic have major antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, too."
More on staying youthful: