In light of the COVID-19 pandemic the human immune system is under a brighter spotlight than ever. But the fact is that your immune system has to work hard all year, every year whether it’s offering protection from a virus or from an infection that could happen any time.
How the Human Immune System Works
The immune system is the human body’s natural defense system. It consists of a complicated, but efficient, network of cells, tissues, and organs that band together to defend your body against invaders, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, even a fungus, all with the potential to make us sick.
A healthy immune system protects first creating a barrier that stops those invaders, or antigens, from entering the body. And if one slips by, the immune system produces white blood cells, and other chemicals and proteins, that attack and destroy these foreign substances.
The human immune system can recognize millions of different antigens. And it can produce what it needs to combat nearly all of them. When it’s functioning properly, this elaborate defense system can keep all kinds of health problems at bay.
When the Immune System Breaks Down
Sometimes the immune system makes a mistake and identifies a substance as being harmful when it’s not – for example, pollen or pet dander. When the immune system revs up to fight these “invaders,” you have an allergic reaction. That’s how “allergies work”
Nor can your body fight off every invader, as had been the case for so many people with coronavirus. There are diseases that we have no control over yet – it is hoped that recovered COVID-19 patients do develop some immunity – but lifestyle aspects are still very important.
Not eating healthily, being too sedentary, being overweight, not getting enough sleep, and being under chronic stress can all contribute to a weaker immune system. When your immune system is depleted, bacteria, viruses, or toxins can overwhelm the body. The result? You get sick.
Building Healthy Immunity
There really is one pill or supplement you can pop to ‘magically’ boost your immune system. However, adopting these healthy living habits can help improve your immunity for a lifetime.
Sitting around not only can leave you feeling sluggish, it also can make your immune system sluggish. Exercise, on the other hand, helps boost immunity.
The good news, he says, is that you don’t need elaborate exercise programs and personal trainers. Even fast walking – getting your heart rate up for 20 minutes three times a week — is associated with increased immune function.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly how exercise helps strengthen the immune system. But studies show that people who exercise have better-functioning white blood cells (the ones that help fight off infection) than people who don’t exercise.
Good nutrition is essential for your immune system to work well. A diet full of empty calories not only leads to weight gain, but it can leave you more prone to infections. Plus, being overweight is associated with a number of health problems that can also drag your immune system down.
A diet rich in antioxidant vitamins, on the other hand, can boost resistance to infection. Think about eating in colour: dark green, red, yellow, and orange fruits and veggies are packed with antioxidants. Try berries, citrus fruits, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
Regular insomnia may not only leave you feeling fatigued during the day, but also leave you vulnerable to illnesses, viruses and infections. Long term, poor sleep also has been shown to increase the risk of other health problems, including obesity and diabetes.
Practice stress management: When your body is under constant stress, you’re more vulnerable to everything from the common cold to major diseases.
Actively Manage Stress
You may have seen a slew of articles recently about stress reduction techniques in quarantine. And there is more reason to take them seriously than you think. Stress from time to time is not necessarily a bad thing. But to be under constant stress is bad for your health.
Different people respond better to different forms of stress relief. Some people find yoga or meditation helps. Others find that exercise is great for stress relief and still others find that music is a huge stress buster.There is no one right way to manage stress, but what is universal is that you should be far more mindful about finding out what works for you and then actively using it to manage day to day stress.