What is the immune system?
Imagine a nation that lacks a capable army to defend itself against interlopers and invaders. Or think of what could happen to your important documents and files if you left your computer without any competent shield against malwares and viruses. In almost any imaginable scenario, we know all too well that keeping things defenseless is like walking on a tightrope of doom.
The same holds true with the human body, a system that is so fundamental yet at once complex in its workings. Without our body’s built-in system of protection against germs, viruses, bacteria and other foreign bodies, our organs and essential bodily functions could very well be just time bombs waiting to explode. But thanks to our immune system, our body’s crucial line of defense against infections, diseases and other ailments, we are protected against invaders that threaten the daily functioning of our bodily system.
Our immune system is key to maintaining health and vigor and intermittent bouts of colds and flu throughout our lifetime reminds us of how our daily functioning is affected when we let our body’s defenses down. Worse, a weak immune system makes us susceptible to attacks of more potentially damaging bad cells such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.
When our immune system is compromised, whether through genetic predisposition or due to the environmental risks that we encounter on a daily basis, our body’s natural ability to ward off the bad guys wanes and we are left defenseless against a host of infections and other ailments. Because not all immune systems are created equal, maintaining an immune system boosting approach to health will help us through and beyond the challenges we face.
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and nuts
Adopting a diet that is rich in beta carotene, zinc and vitamins C and E found in fruits, vegetables and nuts aids in replenishing white blood cells, hence strengthening the immune system.
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, chard and kale enhances the liver’s immune function by boosting its ability to clean out toxins.
- Brightly colored fruits and vegetables like carrots, citrus fruits, apples, berries and onions are rich in antioxidants that eliminate free radicals and improve the immune system.
- It is also helpful to make a dietary habit of incorporating certain foods that are known to boost the immune system.
- Examples of such foods are: raw garlic (a great antibacterial and antiviral compound), ginger (cleanses the lymphatic system, lungs and sinuses), avocado (rich in amino acids and a good source of antioxidants) and mushrooms (contains beta glucan, a complex carbohydrate that increases immunity against infections, allergies and cancers).
- Whenever you can, avoid refined sugars and complex carbohydrates found in sodas and sweets because they suppress the ability of white blood cells to ward off bacterial attacks.
- Drink water, teas and fruit juices instead to boost your immune system.
Catch a good dose of Zzzs
When you sleep, your body repairs itself and restores its ability to function properly. When we are sleep deprived, our body is unable to function optimally not only in terms of physical and mental alertness. Not having enough restorative sleep also compromises the ability of cells to regenerate, decreases the body’s immune function and raises the level of inflammatory chemicals in the body, which in turn causes us to become ill.
This is why we may feel like we are likely to catch an infection or a cold when we are not getting enough sleep. This is supported by the results of an experimental study done by the University of Chicago which found that subjects who were restricted to only four hours of sleep during a weeklong trial produced only half of the normal level of antibodies when they were given a flu vaccine.
In order to maintain a healthy immune level, always try to get a regular dose of uninterrupted sleep of seven to nine hours daily. Avoid chronic sleep deprivation at all costs as this would impale the body’s ability to heal from daily stresses and function properly.
Keep a daily exercise routine
We might have heard it all too often: The human body was not created to endure long hours of inactivity. Being stuck behind a desk for hours, lounging on a couch in front of the TV, or just plain avoiding the need to exercise reduces the efficiency of the systems of our body, including the immune system. Moving or exercising not only increases oxygenation at the cellular level; it also stimulates the body’s lymphatic system (which flushes out toxins) and promotes the reproduction of leukocytes (cells that fight infection).
Maintaining an exercise regimen to keep your immune system going does not even require you to be a hard-core exercise buff. A daily dose of 30 minutes of moderate movement through walking around the block, running after your child or taking the stairs instead of riding a lift can already do wonders to help keep your immune system up and about.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that stress has become a normal part of our daily lives. We are exposed to stress at work, at home, even in our social interactions. Stress seems so omniscient that some have opted to develop adaptability to it, acclimating to chronic stress until they burn out or fall sick.
Stress is a part of life and we need to manage it properly, just like any other challenge we encounter. Keep in mind that stress is a condition that could be overcome by learning a few tricks to keep it at bay.
Learn to meditate, slow down once in a while, strike connections and develop deeper relationships with people, find a way to work out to blow off some steam, laugh every once in a while—whichever route you decide to use, remember that you are making not just your immune system but your whole being better by learning to overcome stress.