Taking care of our Immune system is more important than ever. With Winter upon us and so to, the high risk of various viruses spreading, we need to be doing all we can to keep our bodies fit and healthy and in the best shape to fight off unwelcome diseases.
WHAT IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Your Immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins, and the first line of defence against infection (microbes) and disease. When working well it can respond appropriately to infection and heal and repair damage that may occur.
The main parts of the immune system are:
- white blood cells
- complement system
- lymphatic system
- bone marrow
The immune system keeps a record of every microbe it has ever defeated, in types of white blood cells (B- and T-lymphocytes) known as memory cells. This means it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again, before it can multiply and make you feel unwell.
Some infections, like the flu and common cold, have to be fought many times because so many different viruses or strains of the same type of virus can cause these illnesses. Catching a cold or flu from one virus does not give you immunity against the others.
BUILDING A BALANCED AND ROBUST IMMUNE SYSTEM
As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, which in turn contributes to more infections and disease. As life expectancy in developed countries has increased, so too has the incidence of age-related conditions.
However, here are some common dietary and lifestyle changes you can adopt to strengthen your body’s natural defences and maintain a balanced and robust immune system-
- Limit and Manage Stress – Chronic stress can make you susceptible to illness and disease as it weakens the immune system’s ability to combat infection. Try meditation, mindfulness, exercising, listening to music or seek a licenced counsellor or therapist.
- Move Often – Moderate to intense physical activity reduces stress, fights inflammation and increases blood flow which keeps immune cells circulating. Try brisk walking, steady bicycling, jogging, swimming, and light hiking. Most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
- Make Sleep a Priority – Good quality and quantity of sleep is crucial so your body can produce proteins and white blood cells that regulate the body’s immune response. Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.
- Improve your Gut Health – Gut health and immunity are deeply interconnected. Fermented foods and probiotics may bolster your immune system by helping it identify and target harmful pathogens. Eat more Fiber rich and Fermented foods and less processed foods to improve gut flora or gut microbiota.
- Balancing your Diet – A varied diet ensures you receive the recommended dietary allowance for all essential nutrients like Protein, fiber, vitamins A,C, D, E, and micronutrients like Iron, Zinc, Selenium and B6 and B12. It’s also really important to reduce your sugar intake and eat more healthy fats and whole plant foods.
- Stay well Hydrated – The mucus in the mouth, nose and respiratory tract is on the front line when it comes to protecting your body against foreign invaders. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll make less mucus and this means you’ll be less protected. Water also supports the fluid in your circulatory system called lymph, which carries important infection – fighting immune cells around your body. An average adult should consume at least three liters of fluids per day.
- Increase your Vitamin C – When you are sick, your body uses more Vitamin C, so it’s important to keep the body topped up. Vitamin C helps support the production and function of the special types of white blood cells that attack bacteria and viruses and ensuring you get at least the RDA is essential for an efficient immune system.