Your immune system has a key role to play in your body, keeping you safe from the micro-organisms that can cause diseases. If germs successfully invade your body, you can become sick. So, finding ways to intervene in this process and give your immunity a boost couldn’t be more important.
Without a strong immune system, the result is a disease. While some of the illnesses, such as the common cold, maybe mild and easily overcome, others can be much more serious and even life-threatening. So, how is it possible to improve your immunity?
The concept of giving your immune system a boost is an enticing one, however for generations, finding ways to do it has proved to be elusive. This is because your immune system isn’t a single entity – it’s an entire system that requires harmony and balance to function effectively. Even today, researchers still lack knowledge about how the immune response interconnects, and no direct links have been scientifically proven between enhanced immune function and lifestyle.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the effect of your lifestyle on your immunity isn’t intriguing. Researchers have been exploring the effect of a number of factors on immune responses in humans and recommend that the best line of defense when it comes to your immunity is choosing a healthy diet. This will naturally keep your immune system as strong as possible.
How Does the Immune System Work?
Your immune system is your body’s defense from infection, attacking germs, and keeping you healthy.
The immune system contains leukocytes or white blood cells, which have a vital part to play in destroying invading organisms. Whenever foreign substances known as antigens are sensed by your body, your immune system works hard to recognize them and eradicate them.
When your immune system is strong, it can identify these potential threats quickly and eliminate them rapidly before they have a chance to make you unwell. However, if your immunity is compromised for any reason, you’re at risk of becoming ill and suffering from a disease caused by the antigens your body has been invaded by.
What Affects the Immune System?
There are a number of factors that affect the immune system. These include:
- Stress – if you’re subjected to prolonged episodes of intense stress, your immunity is impacted. Stress increases cortisol production in the brain. This impairs the way that the T-cells that fight infection work.
- Loneliness – if you’re lonely, your immunity can be impaired. The increased anxiety that is caused by loneliness suppresses the immune system.
- Living a sedentary lifestyle – if you sit for too long and avoid exercise, your body struggles to combat infections.
- Excessive exercise – while a sedentary life affects your immune system, so does extreme exercise. Overtraining syndrome is debilitating and makes your body more vulnerable to diseases.
- Nicotine – exposure to nicotine, either through regular cigarettes or vaping can harm your immunity. This is due to the increased cortisol levels that nicotine creates paired with a reduction in the formation of B cell antibodies.
- UV radiation – harmful ultraviolet rays can weaken your immune system, affecting the cells that trigger immune responses and lowering your defenses.
- Diet – if you eat unhealthy foods like saturated fats, sugar, and salt, you are at risk of obesity. This impacts your immunity by reducing the function and number of white blood cells required to fight infections.
- Alcohol – excessive alcohol consumption reduces your immune response to any invading pathogens. Acetaldehyde, the major metabolite in alcohol, impairs the lungs’ ciliary function so they become more susceptible to viral and bacterial invasion. Alcohol also negatively affects the body’s process of breaking down and attacking viruses and bacteria increasing the risk of infection.
- Grief – a tragic event may weaken your immune response by boosting the hormones and nerve chemicals that put you at a greater risk of viral infections. Bereavement has been linked with immune imbalances and increased cortisol response.
Ways of Boosting Your Immunity
Modern medicine has acknowledged that the body and mind have a strong link. Many maladies have been linked to emotional stress, and stress has been shown to negatively impact immune function. Therefore, one way to improve your immunity is to try to limit the stress in your life. Practice mindfulness and stress reduction techniques such as yoga or meditation to help increase your resistance to disease. Taking regular moderate exercise will also help to naturally give your immunity a boost.
Your immune system requires regular, good nourishment to function properly. It has long been known by scientists that those who are malnourished have a greater vulnerability to infections.
Deficiencies in micronutrients like selenium, zinc, folic acid, iron, and vitamins E, B6, C, and A can alter your immune response. Therefore, ensuring you consume enough of these nutrients is imperative to boosting your immunity.
It’s possible to buy supplements that can support your immunity but it’s best to try to achieve this by eating a healthier diet.
Immunity and Your Age
Most of us are aware that, as we get older, we experience more diseases and are more at risk from any viruses that are out there. However, we don’t always recognize why this is the case.
When we get older, we experience a reduced immune response and this, in turn, leads to more infections and illnesses.
Although some people get older and remain healthy, the elderly have been shown to be more at risk of infectious diseases. In older people, a connection has been shown between immunity and nutrition. Older people often eat less food, in general, and have a less varied diet.
This can lead to micronutrient malnutrition which is known to reduce immunity. It’s therefore imperative for the elderly to ensure a healthy, balanced diet to protect themselves from illnesses. With a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients, it’s possible to enjoy a healthy lifestyle right through your later years.
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