- It is the ability of an organism to resist a particular infection or toxin by the action of specific antibodies or sensitized white blood cells.
- In simple terms the body is naturally supposed to fight against disease causing micro organisms to keep us healthy and strong.
- But sometimes the body fails to do this function due to poor immune system, hence allowing the micro organism to invade into the body and thus making us sick.
What can you do to boost your immune system?
- Your body (including your immune system) runs on the fuel you put into it. That’s why eating well, along with several other good-for-you behaviors, is so important.
- It’s our immune system’s job to defend your body against illness and disease. The complex system is made up of cells in your skin, blood, bone marrow, tissues, and organs that — when working the way they should — protect your body against potentially harmful pathogens (like bacteria and viruses), and limit damage from noninfectious agents (like sunburn or cancer), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- To best protect your body from harm, every component of your immune system needs to perform exactly according to plan. The best way you can ensure that happens is to practice the good-for-you behaviors every day that your immune system runs on. Here are few.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
- The nutrients you get from food — in particular, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices — are essential to keeping your immune system functioning properly. Furthermore, the zinc, folate, iron, selenium, copper, and vitamins A, C, E, B6, and B12 you get from the food you eat are the nutrients your immune system needs to do its job.
- Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that may give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens.
- The antioxidants in these foods help decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body in high levels.
- Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.
- Meanwhile, the fiber in plant foods feeds your gut microbiome, or the community of healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract .
- Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of the common cold.
2. Eat more healthy fats
- Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and salmon, may boost your body’s immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation.Although low-level inflammation is a normal response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system.
- Olive oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory, is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties may help your body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses.Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in salmon and chia seeds, fight inflammation as well
- Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which populate your digestive tract.These foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto.
- Research suggests that a flourishing network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms.
- Protein is also critical for immune health. The amino acids in protein help build and maintain immune cells, and skimping on this macronutrient may lower your body’s ability to fight infections.
- When it comes to a diet that supports good immune health, focus on incorporating more plants and plant-based foods. Add fruits and veggies to soups and stews, smoothies, and salads, or eat them as snacks, Lin says. Carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, citrus fruits (such as oranges, grapefruit, tangerines), and strawberries are all great sources of vitamins A and C, while seeds and nuts will provide protein, vitamin E, and zinc. Additional sources of protein and zinc include seafood, lean meat, and poultry.
3. Keep Stress Under Control
- Long-term stress leads to chronically elevated levels of as the steroid hormone cortisol. The body relies on hormones like cortisol during short-term bouts of stress (when your body goes into “fight-or-flight” response); cortisol has a beneficial effect of actually preventing the immune system from responding before the stressful event is over (so your body can react to the immediate stressor).
- But when cortisol levels are constantly high, it essentially blocks the immune system from kicking into gear and doing its job to protect the body against potential threats from germs like viruses and bacteria.
- There are many effective stress-reduction techniques; the key is to find what works for you.an internal medicine physician at Orlando Health Medical Group Internal Medicine in Florida, recommends meditation, journaling, and any activity that you enjoy (such as fishing, playing golf, or drawing). Try to do at least one stress-reducing activity every day. Short on time? Start small. Set aside five minutes at some point each day for fun and increase it when you can.
4. Get Plenty of Good Quality Sleep
- Your body heals and regenerates while you sleep, making adequate sleep critical for a healthy immune response. More specifically, sleep is a time when your body produces and distributes key immune cells like cytokines (a type of protein that can either fight or promote inflammation), T cells (a type of white blood cell that regulates immune response), and interleukin 12 (a pro-inflammatory cytokine)
- When you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system may not do these things as well, making it less able to defend your body against harmful invaders and making you more likely to get sick. Sleep deprivation also elevates cortisol levels, which of course is also not good for immune function.
- Our immune system wears down as a result, and we tend to have [fewer] reserves to fight off or recover from illness.To ensure you get quality sleep, prioritize good sleep hygiene: Turn off the electronics at least two to three hours before bed, and avoid violent or stressful books or conversations.
5. Exercise Regularly (Outdoors, When Possible)
- Regular exercise lowers your risk of developing chronic diseases (like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease), as well as viral and bacterial infections.
- Exercise also increases the release of endorphins (a group of hormones that reduce pain and create feelings of pleasure) making it a great way to manage stress. Since stress negatively impacts our immune system, this is another way exercise can improve immune response.
6. Stay hydrated
- Hydration doesn’t necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, but preventing dehydration is important to your overall health.Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These complications can increase your susceptibility to illness.
- To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluid daily to make your urine pale yellow. Water is recommended because it’s free of calories, additives, and sugar.
- While tea and juice are also hydrating, it’s best to limit your intake of fruit juice and sweetened tea because of their high sugar contents.
- As a general guideline, you should drink when you’re thirsty and stop when you’re no longer thirsty. You may need more fluids if you exercise intensely, work outside, or live in a hot climate.It’s important to note that older adults begin to lose the urge to drink, as their bodies do not signal thirst adequately. Older adults need to drink regularly even if they do not feel thirsty.
7. Don’t Smoke Cigarettes
- Like alcohol, cigarette smoking can also affect immune health. Anything that’s a toxin can compromise your immune system. the chemicals released by cigarette smoke — carbon monoxide, nicotine, nitrogen oxides, and cadmium — can interfere with growth and function of immune cells, like cytokines, T cells, and B cells.
- Smoking also worsens viral and bacterial infections (especially those of the lungs, like pneumonia, flu, and tuberculosis), post-surgical infections, and rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints).
- Avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible.If you currently smoke, there are many resources available to help you kick your habit, including counseling, nicotine replacement products, prescription non-nicotine medications, and behavioral therapy
- You can make several lifestyle and dietary changes today to strengthen your immune system.
- These include reducing your sugar intake, staying hydrated, working out regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing your stress levels.