Your weapon against illness
Our immune system is our strongest weapon against bacteria, viruses, diseases and other outside invaders. It is what protects us from harmful substances and chemicals that can severely harm us.
To strengthen the immune system, it is key to understand that it is not a single entity that operates on its own. No! It’s a network of cells, tissues, organs and others that work together, they are interconnected and interdependent. And when one part of the body is not functioning well, the whole body suffers; hence taking care of our overall self is crucial.
First, eat properly!
But what does that mean? Some believe that vitamin C helps the immune system fights viruses but, in fact, it just reduces the severity of the symptoms. In general, taking in plenty of fruits and vegetablesis what is advisory as your body will get a wider variety of vitamins.
Truth is that there aren’t some magical superfoods that will boost your immune system and prevent illnesses. On the contrary, eating well (or healthily) is all about consuming diverse foods that will provide us with various vitamins, minerals and amino-acids all of which are needed for a wide range of functions in the body.
Also, eat regularly! Having breakfast, lunch and dinner is essential. That way the body will not have to worry about starvation, and you will not get into that cranky mood when you’re hungry. Nevertheless, keep an eye on the amount of food you take in as too much is not too good.
Second, love your gut flora and feed your gut bacteria!
This may sound a little extraordinary but your gut bacteria help your body fight off harmful microbes as they release anti-microbial compounds. Taking antibiotics can damage your gut flora and can leave you prone to bacterial infections hence nurture your gut buddies. You can do that through taking in some probiotics, yoghurt for instance.
Third, take care of your psyche!
The psychological well-being as well as the level of stress, hugely impact our immune system even though we don’t really pay much attention to that. The reality is that the stress hormones (cortisol and noradrenalin) react with some immune cells and interrupt their ability to respond to anti-agents which means that this makes us predisposed to infections.
Luckily, you are in charge of your consciousness and when you feel that you’re under pressure, try to relax. Breathe, talk to someone, sincerely smile or have a laugh with a pal, go for a run or just do something that will make you feel at ease.
Fourth, get some proper sleep!
Simple as that. Sleep is also key in keeping your immune system strong. A research has shown that people who have less than 7 hours of sleep a night, are three times more likely to catch a cold. Also, the quality of your sleep matters as well. Make sure your room is cool, dark and quiet, as the opposite will put your brain in an active state as if you are awake even though you are asleep.
Fifth, be Active!
Very simple again. Regular and moderate exercise will improve your blood circulation which means that the cells that sometimes get stuck on the walls of your blood vessels will be washed away and will do what they are programmed to do. In addition, it will make your heart stronger and will make you feel happier.
Sixth, go get some Sunshine!
Vitamin D (or as some call it the sunshine vitamin) is the result of the reaction when thesun rays meet the skin. Vitamin D has been found to keep the immune system in check and makes sure it doesn’t react to things inappropriately; it can also reduce the risk of various types of cancer (apart from skin cancer). Just make sure you don’t have too much exposure to sun because too much of it, like anything, has its negative aspects.
Last but not least, the immune system weakens with age!
There is still no way we can avoid aging but we can do our best to persevere in having a healthy lifestyle in order to maintain the strength of our immune system for the long term.
In conclusion, no matter whether the topic is how to reduce the risk of cancer or heart attack, or how to boost your immune system, it all comes down to one thing – leading a healthy lifestyle! In other words, keep a balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and have enough sleep! And don’t forget, the mind is also part of your immune system, and anything that affects your psychological well-being, affects your overall well-being.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan
1. Hamzelou, J. Re-tune Your Immune System, New Scientists, vol.214, issue 2859, 2012
2. The Immune System, Harvard Health Publications (Harvard Medical School), 2000
3. Hinton, L. National Association of the Nutrition Professionals, Empower Your Immune System: Take back control of your health, 2013