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Traveling with you and the tens of millions of other people expected to pack into bustling transit hubs and other large gathering places this holiday season will likely be some straggler pathogens. What’s the best way to protect yourself from an untimely ailment? One method popularized by wellness influencers and drug companies is to start popping supplements that promise to “boost your immune system.”

But for immunity, like in other facets of life, you can have too much of a good thing. While a weak immune response can leave you vulnerable to illness, an overactive immune system can itself cause disease. Tinkering with your immune system beyond lifestyle improvements and up-to-date vaccines might not necessarily lead to the health benefits you seek.

We asked immunologist Aimee Pugh Bernard of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to explain the concept of immune balance and what you can do to help your body achieve a “Goldilocks” level of immunity that’s just right.

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Vivian Lam

Associate Health and Biomedicine Editor

When immune cells become overactive, your immune system itself can cause disease. NIAID/Flickr

Immune health is all about balance – an immunologist explains why both too strong and too weak an immune response can lead to illness

Aimee Pugh Bernard, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Dietary supplements claim to be able to ‘boost your immune system’ to combat disease. But attaining immune balance through a healthy lifestyle and vaccination is a safer bet to keep in good health.

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