For the most part, your immune system is pretty good at defending itself and you against pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms, however, it is not invincible. There will come a time when bacteria or a virus gets through all the defenses and makes you sick. While getting sick is an inevitable part of life, there are things you can do to give your immune system an extra boost and additional strength, ensuring any pathogen that gets through, won’t be there for long.
Being healthy automatically keeps your body ahead of the curve when it comes to fighting illness. The more you nourish the body with the required nutrients and protect it from harmful substances and environmental factors, the stronger it will be. The key lifestyle changes include:
- Not smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Maintaining a balanced diet and healthy weight
- Scheduling regular medical checkups
- Getting adequate sleep
- Controlling your blood pressure
- Avoiding processed foods and alcohol (if consumed, do so in moderation)
- Protecting your skin when outdoors (sunscreen, insect repellent)
A Little Skepticism Never Hurts
It is advised to be cautious and skeptical about the products that claim to boost your immunity. Many supplements contain ineffective and potentially harmful additives, such as artificial fillers and colors. Binders, including magnesium stearate, chromium, gelatin, and silicon dioxide, are other infamous additives to avoid.
When considering immune-boosting therapies, keep in mind that 70-80% of our entire immune system resides within the gut. Opting for a complete probiotic which targets gut health, instead of a generic multi-vitamin that’s merely dispelled in your urine, can drastically affect your immune system.
Is Age Really Just a Number?
It is well known that as we age, our bodies start to deteriorate. Even though life expectancy in developed countries has increased in recent years, the breakdown of the body is still inevitable. Our immune system is no exception and with age comes more risk of infection, inflammatory disease, and even cancer.
Pneumonia, respiratory infections, and influenza are the leading causes of death for people over 65. The exact reason is not known, but researchers have found that the risk is correlated with a decreased number of T cells. The cause for decreasing T cells is thought to be a result of the thymus atrophying with age. While some people age very healthily, the general trend is that the elderly are more prone to illness than younger generations.
Studies have recently discovered a link between the diet of elderly individuals and their immunity. A deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals, known as micronutrient malnutrition, is prevalent among the aging population. This is mostly associated with a lack of appetite and less variety of foods which occurs with old age. One direction for future research is to determine if the use of supplements to overcome these deficiencies will help maintain a stronger immune system.
You Are What You Eat
At the most basic level, you have to think of your immune system is constantly waging war on pathogenic materials. To adequately defend them, it needs to be nourished.
You were always told as a kid not to do anything ‘on an empty stomach,’ and there is a lot more to this than people realize. Research has shown that malnourished individuals, such as those from developing nations, have a higher risk of disease and illness. A malnourished body cannot function at an optimal state, and this applies to every organ and system contained within.
Just Breath….and Relax
There was a time when modern medicine would not acknowledge the connection between physical health and emotion. Over the course of time, studies have shown that upset stomachs, hives, and even heart disease are linked to emotional stress. Mental health professionals continue to research the connections between stress, emotions, and our physical health.
The biggest challenge is that stress is different for every individual. Stress has a very subjective meaning, and our experiences cause us to feel and react differently than another person. Typical factors are those that contribute to chronic stress such as relationships, work, and finances. The idea is to determine what impact repeated stress has on the body. The best scientists can measure symptoms that are related to high-stress levels, such as elevated heartbeat and perspiration.
Another contributing factor is the hormone cortisol, which increases when a person is stressed. This hormone is produced as a natural response to stress, preparing us for ‘fight or flight.’ Repeated or extended exposure to high levels of cortisol causes physical and mental fatigue. It is often easier said than done, but you should always make time to relax in your life and find activities to enjoy, allowing you to let go of some of the daily stresses of life.
Stay Moving, Stay Strong
Regular exercise provides multiple benefits to our bodies. It improves cardiovascular health, helps us maintain a healthy weight, keeps blood pressure in check, and protects us from diseases. There is no direct link between exercise and the immune system, but better physical health keeps all our systems in optimal shape.
Exercise additionally, improves circulation allowing cells to move quickly through the body, carrying out their jobs more efficiently. The stronger and more efficient the internal components of our bodies are, the better equipped we are to fight off germs and microbes. You don’t have to go run a marathon each week, but keep yourself moving, and pathogens will know better than to mess with you.
The important thing to remember is that our immunity does not stem from one organ. It is a system, as the name implies. Optimal function, therefore, depends on harmony and balance of all the system’s components. Scientists have not yet been able to gain a full understanding of the intricate workings of our immune system, so there are no definite links between lifestyle changes and enhanced immunity. As research continues in this field, it is highly recommended to incorporate healthy-living strategies to keep your body in top form because you are your immune system’s best support in the war against disease.