Steps to strengthen your immune system
As well as looking after you body physically its important to look after the things you may not see, like your immune system. Especially with COVID-19 around its important that our immune system is kept strong so it can fend off any harmful diseases and viruses we may contract. Like any other parts of our body there are certain things we can do, and lifestyle changes we can make to strengthen and maintain the state of our immune system.
Firstly, we need to go over what your immune system actually is and what’s its purpose. Well your immune system is your body’s defence mechanism against from outside invaders for example, bacteria, viruses, and toxins. There are many different parts to your immune system, and they all work together to keep you healthy, its made up of different organs, cells and proteins. So, to simplify it you could think of your immune system as an army and the intruding diseases as invaders. If you would like to read in more detail about the immune system, then check out this article by Hopkins medicine
. In this article we are going to be going over ways we can boost our immune system so we stand the best chance of fighting off and viruses that may come our way.
Getting enough sleep
As you may know sleep plays a key role in many of our bodily functions. As you may have guessed the amount of sleep you get can have a big effect on the health of your immune system. It is proven than an inadequate amount of sleep is linked to being more susceptible to illness and infections. This is due to antibodies and cells that fight infections being produced when we sleep. Its recommended that adults get around 7 to 10 hours of sleep every day so your immune system isn’t at risk of being compromised. When sleeping your body also produces proteins called cytokines, these are needed to increase when you have an infection so not getting enough sleep reduces the number of cytokines produced.
Physical activity has also seen to boost your immune system. Working out can flush out bacteria from your lungs and airways which can reduce your chances of getting a flue. Also, white blood cells circulate quicker meaning that they could detect an illness earlier. The rise in body temperature caused by exercise can also be beneficial as it can prevent bacteria from growing and aids the body in fighting off infection. There is also less stress hormones produced when exercising regularly, stress hormones can increase the chance of illnesses so keeping these low is a good thing.
Although regular exercise is good for your immune system some forms of training can actually harm it. Overtraining can harm your immune system as it can deplete nutrients and fatigue cells. A study
was done that compared immune systems of elite athletes and recreational. It showed that the elite athlete where more likely to get a raspatory disease than the others. Overtraining can also cause immune system suppression that decreases your effectiveness against fighting disease.
Drinking and Smoking
Habits like drinking alcohol and smoking can have negative effects on our immune system. Excess alcohol can suppress a wide range of immune responses. Alcohol cause a illnesses like liver disease and can cause you to be less effective at fighting off illnesses like pneumonia. Although alcohol can be damaging to the immune system a moderate amount has been shown to influence immune response. This is due to alcohol being able to alter cell populations involved in immune response.
On the other hand, smoking has no positive effects on the immune system and makes the body less successful in fighting disease. Smoking alters the natural equilibrium for the immune system which increase the chance of immune disorders. Smoking can also cause auto immune disorders which is when the immune system attacks the body’s healthy tissues. An example of one of these disorders is arthritis. T – cells (T lymphocytes) are a major component of your immune system and play a role in killing infected cells. Smoking and consuming an excess amount of alcohol are shown to reduce the production of these cells in your body.
Change your diet
A healthy immune system needs nutrients to be effective. There are certain foods we can eat that will boost our immune system and make us less likely to catch a virus or disease. Your immune system relies heavily on vitamins and micronutrients (zinc, copper etc…), to maintain a healthy state. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin c. This key vitamin helps us overcome colds and flues. Also leafy green vegetables are recommended as these are high in essential nutrients and antioxidants. Nuts are also good as they contain a lot of good fats, vitamin E and fibre. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel are a rich source of omega- 3 and fatty acids that can improve your immune response to pathogens. Some types of fish can also decrease the risk of immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
There are also some foods that are harming your immune system. Food high in salt can lead to immune deficiencies and a high caffeine intake can also be harmful as they can keep you awake. Sugar is also harmful to your immune system as it makes it harder for your immune cells to absorb vitamin c. Also, a lot of harmful bacteria thrive in sugar and it allows them to grow. Sugary foods can also cause obesity which can be a risk for suppressed immune function.
Your body is mostly water, so it comes to no surprise that staying hydrated is going to help bodily functions like your immune system. A fluid called lymph that carries infection fighting cells around your body, is largely made of water. Being dehydrated also leads to lymph being slowed down in the circulatory system which means that immune responses will be delayed.
It is very important that you take these steps into consideration as now more than ever. With the current outbreak of COVID-19 its very important to keep your immune system in optimum condition so you are ready to fight off whatever the world might throw at you. A strong immune system will also decrease the chance of you getting a cold, flu or infection.