OUR GUIDE ON HOW TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Your body's immunity is really important. When you have low immunity, you are susceptible to infections. Keeping your immune system strong is essential to protect your health and well being. The immune system is your body's main defense against diseases. When it is compromised in any way, your body is not able to recognize and fight foreign invaders effectively.
So, what wrecks your immune system? Lots of things can affect your immune system without you even realizing it. Some of these are habits that you can easily avoid and some issues are harder to address. Keep on reading to find out about some of the things that can damage your immune system and what you can do to make things better.
The food you eat will help to determine how well your immune system works. If your diet is high in saturated fats, and contains too much sugar and salt, there is a high likelihood of your immune system will be compromised. Obesity tampers with the immune system because it reduces the number and function of the white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections. That is why you need to take care of your body. Eat healthy foods and avoid overconsuming processed foods. You need to know that sugar is found in many foods that you would never expect to have sugar in them. You need to check the labeling to ensure you minimize your sugar and calorie intake.
It is normal to have stress as a result of things that are happening in your life. However, constant stress destroys your immunity and has a negative impact on your health, as far as fighting infections is concerned. That is why you need to manage your stress levels to prevent them from getting too high. Stress makes the brain increase the production of the hormone cortisol and impairs the function of T cells, which fight infection. You can reduce your stress levels by talking to a friend, taking up yoga classes or enrolling in a gym.
What Is the Immune System?
The immune system plays an important role in protecting the body against harmful substances, germs, and viruses, all of which can make you ill. It is made up of various cells, organs, and proteins that work together to protect you. There are two main parts of the immune system. This includes the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The two are linked and will work together anytime a harmful substance enters your system.
Innate Immune System
The innate immune system is also called the nonspecific immune system. It provides the general defense against any harmful bacteria that finds its way into your body. In most cases, it fights using immune cells such as phagocytes and the natural killer cells. This system is inherited and plays its role from the moment a child is born. In children, it is the one that patrols the body and responds whenever an invader is detected. The cells of the innate immune system usually surround and engulf the foreign substances, and hopefully kill the invader.
Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive immune system is responsible for making antibodies that it uses to fight specific germs, which the body has initially come into contact with. It is also called a specific or acquired immune system. Due to its ability to constantly learn and adapt, the body is able to fight bacteria and viruses that change their structure over time. The antibodies are developed by B lymphocytes immediately when your body is exposed to an invader. It takes several days for antibodies to develop. After the first exposure to a particular substance, your immune system recognizes the invader and can defend against the invader in the future. The mandatory immunizations train a child's immune system to make antibodies and protect them against infections.
How Does the Immune System Work?
When your immune system is working properly, it can distinguish between your cells and foreign substances. Hence, it can activate, mobilize, attack, and kill any foreign substances that can harm you. When a foreign substance enters your body, your immune system learns about the foreign substance. It then develops antibodies to fight that specific substance. The antibodies will fend off ailments such as a cold or the flu, and protect you against major illnesses such as cancer. Besides, your body also has another response called the cell-mediated immune system. It involves the immune system cells as opposed to antibodies. These cells help your body to create memories of past defenses against certain invaders.
Anytime your body notices a past invader, it calls up that memory, and it's able to destroy the invader before a disease develops. This concept is used to explain why we believe vaccines work for diseases such as chickenpox and hepatitis.
Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System.
If you have a habit of smoking, you should consider quitting. Just like alcohol, smoking can seriously affect your immune system. Smoking introduces toxins into your system, which can compromise your immunity. The chemicals released during smoking, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and cadmium, can interfere with the functioning and growth of immune cells such as the T cells. Smoking also worsens the bacterial and viral infections that you might already have. This means that instead of getting better, the infections get worse. If you are an active smoker you need to stop to protect your good health. Seek help when necessary. For those who don't smoke, ensure you avoid second-hand smoke, as there are many serious side effects of breathing in second hand smoke.
The other natural way to boost your immunity is by eating a well-balanced diet. Start introducing whole plant foods such as seeds, nuts, legumes, and antioxidants, which do a great job in fighting harmful pathogens. Antioxidants also help to minimize inflammation through combatting free radicals, which accumulate in your body. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as broccoli and oranges, help to boost your immunity. You may also prepare natural orange juice, but avoid adding too much sugar. Garlic is also known for its immune-boosting properties. You can either include the garlic in your meals or choose to eat a raw garlic clove daily. If you cannot take raw garlic, consider roasting it.
The other immunity boosters include probiotics. Foods such as yogurt, green banana, kefir, and natto contain probiotics which are good for your body. When this bacterium finds its way into your gut, it helps your immune cells to differentiate between normal healthy cells and harmful invaders. If you don't get access to fermented foods, you should consider using probiotic supplements. Note that gut health and immunity are highly interconnected. Don't underestimate the health of your gut.
Staying hydrated at all times is important. When you fail to consume enough water, your body may become dehydrated. Dehydration is harmful because it hinders your physical performance, causes headaches, and may interfere with heart and kidney functions. These complications may increase the chances of you getting infections. You need to drink enough water every day without fail. Tea and juice will also help hydrate your body, but you need to limit your intake due to high sugar content. Too much sugar weakens your immunity. You, therefore, need to be cautious when it comes to your sugar intake.
How Does Sugar Destroy Your Immunity?
Most people know that too much sugar is harmful to their health, but most don't understand the relationship between sugar and the immune system. Research shows that too much sugar reduces the effectiveness of the white blood cells to fight against infections. Your white blood cells become less aggressive, and hence, your body might not be able to fight against all invaders. You become more susceptible to infections. Too much sugar causes other risks such as obesity, heart diseases, kidney stones, and tooth decay. Minimize the amount of sugar you use. This also includes your intake of processed foods, which tends to contain a lot of sugar.
It is really important to remain active regardless of your age or gender. Exercising increases your resilience and helps your body to fight infections better. Bodies tend to function better when they are exposed to physical activities. This may include jogging, skipping rope, or practicing yoga. It is also important to work on strength and endurance by doing strength exercises. Studies show that active people have lower incidences of acute and chronic illnesses. Don't allow yourself to go for weeks without exercising. Physical activity makes your immune system vigilant in that it distributes the immune cells throughout the body. Apart from exercising, you should also spend some time in nature as this helps boost your mood and reduce blood pressure.
You can also choose to take supplements to boost your level of immunity and health. Supplements are helpful because they allow you get specific nutrients that you may not be able to get through your diet. Below are some of the supplements that will help boost your immune system.
Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D is known for its ability to boost your immune system. It also boosts the growth of bones and the absorption of calcium. One-way Vitamin D supports innate immunity is by stimulating the production of antimicrobial peptides, which are endogenous antibiotics. These peptides have antiviral and antimicrobial properties that allow your body to fight against germs. People with lower Vitamin D levels tend to have autoimmune conditions and respiratory infections, as compared to people who have adequate levels of vitamin D. If you are not able to get vitamin D from the sun and foods, you need to invest in vitamin D supplements.
Minimize Alcohol Intake.
Drinking too much alcohol is not recommended because it tends to lower your immune function. When you take too much alcohol, your body spends a lot of time trying to detoxify itself, and this interferes with your normal immune system. This is why people who drink too much alcohol get infections such as pneumonia and alcoholic liver disease. If you don't drink, don't start drinking because it won't do you any good. If you like to have a drink, try and limit it to one drink per day.
If you have high-stress levels, your body will produce high levels of the hormone cortisol. If cortisol levels are always high, it limits the immune system from protecting your body against viruses and bacteria. Controlling your stress levels is important to your overall health. Engage in activities that will help you relax. This could be yoga, swimming, or even interacting with nature. Physical intimacy can help you relax; cuddling is a good way to minimize stress. You could also take your pet for a walk, as this is also therapeutic.
When you don't sleep well, your body produces very few cytokines which are responsible for targeting infections and inflammation and creating an immune response. Cytokines are usually manufactured and released during sleep. If you have insomnia, it becomes harder for your body to produce cytokines, which are important in fighting infections. You are supposed to ensure that you sleep for about seven to eight hours. Sufficient sleep keeps your immune system working effectively and then the body is able to fight against all infections. If you are not able to sleep due to distractions, try to use a technic like meditation to help you fall asleep.
Aging and Immunity
As you age many changes occur in your immune system. First, the immune system responds more slowly than it did when you were younger. This slow response increases your risk of getting sick. You might also experience an autoimmune disorder whereby the immune system attacks and destroys healthy cells by mistake. Since you will have fewer immune cells, your body may not be able to heal very fast. Lastly, your immune system's ability to detect and even correct defects decline. This could increase your risk of getting cancer, among other conditions.
Your immune system plays an important role. Without it, you would not survive. That is why you need to boost your immune system; healthy eating, exercise, supplements, stress relief and healthy sleep all play a role in your good health.