5 Ways You Can Boost Your Immune System
The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. The immune system keeps a record of every detrimental micro-organism it has ever defeated, so it can recognise and destroy the micro-organism quickly if it enters the body again.
The immune system can be weakened by certain medications or drugs, such as drugs used to treat cancer or medicine used to prevent organ rejection after an organ transplant. Various infections including the flu virus, mononucleosis, and measles can also weaken the immune system for some time. HIV, and acquired viral infection which causes AIDS, destroys important white blood cells, consequently weakening the immune system. Moreover, various ill-health habits can also weaken the immune system. This includes smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition.
Nevertheless, there are some strategies we can implement into our daily routine to help strengthen our immune system. Below are 5 ways you can boost your immune system.
- Consume a healthy diet
A healthy balanced diet, that consists of a variety of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, is fundamental for a strong immune system. A well-balanced diet will provide the body with sufficient amounts of micronutrients, such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E, that play a key role in immune system maintenance, as well as the energy it needs to function appropriately.
- Supplement with probiotics
Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts (a type of fungi) that are naturally found within the body. They are part of the human microbiome, the collective of micro-organisms found within the human body.
Supplementing with probiotics help colonize the gut with good microorganisms. This benefits the body as they fight off detrimental micro-organisms by preventing them from over growing by competing with them for space and nutrients. While we can tolerate a certain percentage of harmful micro-organisms within the gut, having too much can potentially cause disease. Even having just an imbalance of harmful bacteria in the gut can cause the immune system to get confused and begin attacking its own cells, even if it is healthy cell, making it a lot easier for the body to get sick, and a lot harder to recover.
- Regularly exercise
Research suggests that those who exercise on a regular basis tend to get sick less often. Carrying out regular moderate-vigorous exercise can stimulate your natural immune response. This is because the body perceives exercise as a physiological stressor, as it raises the body’s heart rate for an extended period. When you exercise, immune cells from different parts of the body that can destroy detrimental micro-organisms flood your blood stream at a higher rate than if you were not exercising. As a result, detrimental micro-organisms are more easily detected and destroyed. While this immune stimulation is only temporary, it can last for approximately 3 after completion of the exercise.
- Drink plenty of water
Keeping the body hydrated can help enhance its overall immunity. This is because water can assist the body’s natural elimination of infection-causing bacteria and toxins, which can have a negative impact on your immune system. Moreover, water assists in the distribution of water and nutrients throughout the body. Water helps transport oxygen to bodily cells, resulting in properly functioning systems.
- Ensure that you are getting an adequate amount of sleep
The immune system requires sleep to function properly. Studies suggest that during periods of sleep, certain components of the immune system are stimulated. This stimulation during sleep reinforces the immune system’s ability to remember how to recognize and react to detrimental micro-organisms if they were to enter the body again.
- Reduce stress
The immune system's ability to fight off a foreign invader is harmed when we are stressed. As a result, it can increase our likelihood of illness.
When we are stressed, our bodies can release a cascade of chemicals and hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. This causes pulse and breathing rate to increase, to allow more oxygen to be transported to the brain, as a means of preparing the body to respond appropriately to an intense situation, if one were to occur. The response also provides the immune system to be stimulated, though it will return to normal after the period of stress is over. However, if the stress continues for a prolonged period, the body will not receive the signal to return to normal function, causing the immune system to tire out and ultimately weaken, and leave you more vulnerable to viral infections and illness.