Throughout the span of modern history, no invention has surpassed the incredible efficiency of the human body with its intricate configuration of cells, tissues, organs, muscles, chemicals and the remarkable power of proteins. Immunoglobulins or antibodies are specialized proteins produced by the immune system in response to the presence of specific antigens, which they either neutralize or destroy. The intelligence that brought us into existence sent us with an internal blueprint of natural defences—the immune system being one of the most powerful, helping us to maintain optimal health, naturally. That is the subject of this article.
Your immune system isn’t located in one part of your body. As in all other systems, it involves many other parts, which need to be in balance to present a proper immune response to fight invading organisms called pathogens. Current research is inconclusive about any direct link between lifestyle and enhanced immune function, but scientists continue to study the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other healthy living strategies because they likely provide help in immune function.
According to scientists, immune cells or lymphocytes are continually generated by the body. This is a type of white blood cell produced in the bone marrow, and it’s responsible for recognizing and targeting abnormal cells like cancer, and pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
One of the most important strategies to improve our immune system is to consistently eat a diet rich in nutrients. Good nutrition provides the foundation or building blocks of a strong immune system. It is crucial to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in our daily diets. Focus on foods high in vitamins A, C, E, and D, as well as minerals like zinc and selenium that play a vital role in supporting immune function and can be found in foods such as citrus fruits, berries, spinach, almonds, seeds, and fish.
Another proactive step we can take to boost our immune system is to get regular physical activity. “Exercise not only boosts the immune system, but is also essential for maintaining a healthy body weight and cardiovascular health. Engaging in moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling for at least 150 minutes per week may have significant immune-boosting benefits.” Exercise improves circulation, which enhances the production of antibodies and white blood cells, thus reducing stress, which then aids in strengthening the body’s immune defences.
When we’re stressed our bodies activate the flight-or-fight response. This is good for us to escape predators in the short term. When sustained, it becomes chronic or long-term stress, which can cause a breakdown in our immune system. Bad relationships, family and work-related stresses or any other challenging situations that we have difficulty addressing can take a toll on the immune system, making us more susceptible to illnesses.
There are many stress management techniques that can be incorporated into your daily routine to reduce stress levels. We all have different stress thresholds and a situation or environment that is stressful for one may not be for another. So also are the techniques to reduce stress, but whether it’s a yoga class, listening to music, reading, dancing, or engaging in a hobby you enjoy, all will help to reduce chronic stress.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for immune system optimization. During sleep, the body repairs and rejuvenates itself. We should try to get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. Establishing a regular sleep schedule creates a conducive sleep environment, and practicing meditation and deep-breathing exercises will help to relax the body and ensure a better-quality sleep. Keep your room dark and do not sleep with your digital devices next to you.
Supplementation through natural or medicinal means, be it multivitamin or mineral support, may bring health benefits to the immune system. You should guard against taking too many supplements for long periods of time and if using medications, you should get your doctor’s approval, especially if being treated for a disease. Supplements like Omega 3 essential fatty acid, if from a reliable source, will help in the body’s immune defence, as it does not naturally produce it in the body.
Proper hydration is vital for optimal immune function. Drink when thirsty and drink more during hot weather or physical activity. Additionally, certain beverages, like herbal teas or tisanes can provide immune-boosting benefits because they are rich in antioxidants or may have anti-inflammatory properties. Incorporating these beverages into your routine can support your immune system.
Your immune system encompasses the whole person, so it pays dividends when you live holistically. Your mental, physical, and emotional health all play a part in how well your immune system operates. To avoid getting sick, listen to your body. It is smarter than you think. COVID-19 taught us to wash our hands, isolate when sick, get lots of rest, and be mindful of our personal and environmental interactions.
Implementing strategies to restore your mind and spirit will fortify your immune system for years to come, especially as we age and natural immune functions decline. Celebrate the extraordinary protective powers of our health and well-being: our immune system.
Janet Cox | Contributing Writer