A doctor explains the best ways to strengthen your Covid-19 vaccine

Dr. Michael Mosley shares his best tips on boosting the effectiveness of your vaccine

Covid-19 vaccine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination program already underway, many of us are finally starting to see a light at the end of this mask-filled tunnel. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his roadmap to normality this week, greenlighting plans to reopen all businesses - including reopening hair salons, gyms, shops, and pubs - by June 21. In the meantime, the British government is intent on rolling out the vaccines as efficiently and quickly as possible. 

The vaccines approved for distribution in the UK are said to be over 90% effective, but is there anything we can do to increase how well it works? While an injection is the strongest safeguard against infection, there are a number of ways to boost the efficiency of your jab. 

The Covid-19 vaccine works by warning your immune system of an incoming enemy, tricking the body to create antibodies and killer T cells against a harmless version of the virus. In the process, your body also creates memory cells that are designed to attack if they were to encounter the real virus. However, to guarantee that your body will have this radical response, you need to have a strong immune system. 

“You need a properly functioning immune system to ensure that when you are vaccinated you generate a powerful immune response,” Dr Michael Mosley explained. Founder of the Fast800 Diet, the physician turned TV producer has laid out the following tips for getting the most out of your Covid-19 vaccine. 

Strengthen your microbiome

It’s not a word you hear every day, but it’s about to make a comeback. 

The microbiome refers to the trillions of species living in our gut, which play an important role in keeping our bodies healthy with a healthy gut. These invisible critters are mainly bacteria, but also consist of parasites, fungi, and even viruses. For a person’s immune system to be considered healthy, all these bugs must coexist in harmony. “They are central to our health, our mood, better sleep, allergy prevention, and importantly at the moment – immunity,” says Dr. Mosley. 

You can achieve this peaceful environment, and thereby boost your immune system, simply by adding certain foods to your diet. A high fiber diet is your best bet at optimizing your gut health at mealtimes, as it will stimulate the good bacteria needed for a strong digestive system. Sweep up the food pyramid’s lower floors of fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, lentils, beans, and seeds to feed these friendly germs and create a thriving microbiome. 

If you’re looking to seriously upgrade your gut health, you can also add fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or kimchi, to your plate. These strong-tasting foods have fantastic probiotic properties, as well as plenty of immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C, iron, and zinc. 

 Take short walks - quickly 

Exercise is a great way to keep your immune system in tip-top shape, but it’s the quality of your workout that really counts. With gyms and swimming pools shut, many people have drastically reduced the intensity of their activities. 

Luckily, you can enhance the effectiveness of a simple walk with just a couple changes to ensure you're walking for weight loss, if that's your goal, and better overall health. Dr Mosley recommends a method called the Active 10, which involves completing three 10 minute brisk walks a day. The goal is to spike the heart rate for no longer than 20 seconds, rather than moving leisurely for hours on end. 

It also might be a good call to pump those arms on the morning of vaccine day. Studies conducted at Birmingham University a few years ago showed that people who exercised their arms before receiving their flu injection had a stronger immune response. 

Get proper sleep 

You’ve heard it a million times before, but a good night’s sleep really is fundamental to long-term health - and it's about much more than investing in the best pillow.

Insufficient and/or poor quality rest is likely to wreak havoc on your body, corrupting its ability to produce the antibodies it needs to fend off infection. Poor sleep patterns are often the result of imbalanced levels of cortisol, the infamous stress hormone. 

When cortisol spikes, it can suppress our immune system and weaken the effects of the vaccine. Tackling stress is often the first step to sleeping better. You can reduce your stress levels in a number of ways, including exercising regularly, pursuing creative activities, and talking to friends and family. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.