Swallow This to Help Your Body Fight Germs Better as You Age

Growing older often comes with a weakening immune system, but did you know that a simple pill available at supermarkets and drugstores could help restore some of your immune system’s youth and strength? A study conducted at The Ohio State University discovered that taking ibuprofen could assist immune cells called macrophages in more effectively responding to microbes invading the lungs while reducing inflammation.

Ibuprofen and Macrophages

The research conducted at Ohio State University showed that macrophages in older lab animals struggled to fend off tuberculosis infections. However, when the animals received ibuprofen, these cells could mount more decisive attacks against the pathogens.

Macrophages are a vital component of the immune system. They can consume cellular debris and pathogens like bacteria and viruses, preventing them from causing illness. Macrophages also send out signals to other immune system cells, letting them know when there’s an invading microorganism or a damaged cell.

Unfortunately, as we age, the efficiency of our macrophages diminishes. This decline results in a slower immune system, taking a more extended time to recognize and eradicate foreign pathogens. Consequently, older people tend to experience infections and other health issues more frequently than younger individuals.

Decreasing Inflammation to Boost Immune Function

One intriguing finding from the Ohio State University research is that ibuprofen can help strengthen the immune system by reducing inflammation. “Inflammation in old age can have significant consequences on immune function,” says Joanne Turner, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the study. Decreasing inflammation can potentially “reduce or prevent some diseases in the elderly,” she adds.

This finding is especially relevant when considering the key role that inflammation plays in many age-related conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some cancers.

The good news is that inflammation reduction doesn’t have to rely solely on ibuprofen. You can also decrease inflammation through diet, exercise, and other drugs. Here are some additional methods to help you improve your immune function and overall health:

Anti-inflammatory Foods

One way to decrease inflammation in the body is by incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. Foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains can significantly reduce inflammation. Some of the best options include:

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are all rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, and collard greens are packed with antioxidants and other immune-boosting nutrients.

  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are rich in healthy fats that help reduce inflammation.

  • Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, and other berries are full of antioxidants that fight inflammation.

Regular Exercise

Another way to stave off inflammation and improve immune function is through regular exercise. Physical activity can lower inflammation by promoting blood circulation and reducing body fat, which is a significant source of inflammatory molecules. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep is also vital for proper immune system function. When you sleep, your body works to repair damage caused by stress, inflammation, and other factors. Aim for seven to nine quality hours of sleep per night to help keep inflammation in check.

Manage Stress

Lastly, it’s essential to manage stress to reduce inflammation and protect your immune function. Chronic stress can lead to prolonged inflammation and weaken your immune system. Practice mindfulness, deep breathing, or other stress-relief techniques to maintain a healthy, balanced body and mind.

A New Perspective on Over-The-Counter Remedies

The connection between ibuprofen and improved immune function in older individuals highlights the potential value of common over-the-counter remedies. According to John Wherry, Ph.D., deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, this research shows that such remedies “may have broader value than usually appreciated, including by affecting immune functions that change with age.”

While we can derive many benefits from over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, they shouldn’t be the sole solution. A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, proper sleep, and stress management, is crucial for maintaining a strong immune system and reducing inflammation as we age.