A good offense is a good defense! Have you ever heard that saying before? If you’ve ever played a sport or watched a sporting event, you’ve heard the coach or broadcaster say something similar.
Today, more than ever before, it’s important for you to have a good defense. What does that mean exactly? With so many viruses and illnesses going around, it’s important for you to build a strong immune system – your body’s defense.
What is the Immune System?
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explains the immune system as “The overall function of the immune system is to prevent of limit infection.” Spread throughout the body, the immune system is comprised of many different types of components including: cells, organs, proteins, and tissues. It’s purpose is to identify foreign tissues and respond to them appropriately.
A key component of the immune system is the white blood cells, also called leukocytes. These leukocytes circulate throughout the body and “patrol” looking for pathogens. They are stored within the lymphoid organs: spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and thymus. The two main types of leukocytes are phagocytes and lymphocytes.
Phagocytes – These cells are responsible for surrounding and absorbing the pathogens.
Lymphocytes – These cells are responsible for identifying, recognizing, and attacking previous invaders.
Each person’s immune system behaves differently. As we age and have more exposure to different pathogens, our body’s immune system improves therefore helping us overcome illnesses. Once our body produces what is referred to as an antibody, it retains a copy so the body can respond more quickly if encountered. A prime example of this is children with chickenpox.
How to Boost Your Immune System
Now that we understand the role that the immune system plays in each of our bodies, what are some ways that we can boost our immune systems naturally?
Sleep - Most people need 7-9 hours and studies are showing that it’s deep sleep or the slow wave sleep where our immune system heals/recovers. An article published by Healthline states there have been multiple studies done on the importance of sleep and the immune system. Researchers have found that immune cells referred to as T cells are improved during sleep. These cells help to fight virus-infected cells like herpes and cancer. Additionally, according to Heathline, "Poor sleep can increase inflammation, blood pressure, insulin resistance, cortisol, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease, as well as decrease blood sugar regulation."
Exercise - It’s ingrained in our minds from a young age to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in every day. But why? Regular exercise can promote a healthy immune system. Exercise helps to promote good circulation which enables white blood cells, as well as other nutrients, to move freely around the body.
Eat your fruits & veggies - Scientists continue to study the effects nutrients have on the immune system. However, according to the US National Library of Medicine, “of the micronutrients, zinc; selenium; iron; copper; vitamins A, C, E, and B-6; and folic acid have important influences on immune response.”
Practice good hygiene - Wash your hands regularly, especially if you’ve been out in public places. Our skin may be our first line of defense, but foreign bodies can be contracted easily out in the public. You’d be amazed at how many times you touch your face without even knowing it. With unwashed hands, these foreign pathogens can easily enter the body leading to possible illness or infection.
Minimize stress - Stress has an effect on many systems of the body including the digestive system and circulatory system. High levels of stress can cause increased heart rate and even constipation. It comes as no surprise, then, that stress can impact the immune system. Find ways to minimize stress like meditating and exercise.
Limit alcohol consumption
These are just some of the ways that you can help your immune system fight off illness and viruses that are all around us. It's easy to get started and make these things a habit.
What are you going to start doing today to help improve your immune system?
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, "Overview of the Immune System," https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/immune-system-overview
Healthline, "How Sleep Strengthens Your Immune System," https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-sleep-bolsters-your-immune-system#Why-people-dont-get-enough-sleep
US National Library of Medicine, "Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction," https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9250133