Tips to help your immune system

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This is quite an apt topic considering we are in the midst of a COVID 19 pandemic.

I purposely called this article how to help your immune system as opposed to boosting your immune system. The idea that you can boost your immune system is tempting but the immune system is a system and not a single entity. Like most system in our body it needs balance (homeostasis) and harmony to function to its optimal level

Currently there is no scientifically proven direct link between lifestyle and enhanced immune function. But general healthy-living strategies are a good start in giving your immune system the upper hand

Having a healthy lifestyle and nutritious food is one of the best ways of strengthening your immune system

  • Don’t smoke – smoking Smoking weakens your immune system. Thechemicals in cigarette smoke are an ongoing source of damage to cells throughout the body, and your immune system must continually work to fight off this damage. … So smoking cigarettes could simultaneously cause lung cancer and weaken your body’s ability to fight it.
  • Eat a diet high in fibre (fruit, vegetables & nuts): Our immune systems need enough energy to make immune cells,which act as building blocks, and our enzymes, which need vitamins and minerals to work effectively. This means we need to make sure we’re eating all of our body’s requirements for macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and D, as well as B6, B12 and folate, zinc, copper, iron and selenium, as well as essential amino and essential fatty acids.
  • One of the best immune – boosting foods is fruit, due to their high content of polyphenols, especially flavonoids. Studies have found that eating fruit before exercise helps to reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and immune dysfunction in the body after exercise. Polyphenols are also found in nuts and vegetables, tea and coffee.

Feed your gut: a healthy gut can help contribute to a strong immune system – and the key to a healthy gut is a healthy diet and fiber, which organisms in the colon feed off. Stock up on gut-friendly, polyphenol-rich, vitamin-full fruits and vegetables.

Exercise regularly Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness. Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease.

Maintain a healthy weight Maintaining a healthy weight can also benefit the immune system. Obesity has been linked to increased risk for influenza and other infections such as pneumonia.

It appears that obesity may increase risk for bacterial and viral infections. Severe obesity, in and of itself, has also been named a risk factor for increased severity of infection and death from the H1N1 influenza strain. Those affected by obesity may also be at risk for viruses like H1N1 because of less of an immune response to vaccinations, although it has not been studied to date. The body is less effective against vaccines

  • Drink alcohol in moderation: There are a number of ways alcohol impairs your immune system, making you more likely to get sick. First, it’s important to know that the microbes living in your intestines, your gut’s microbiome, plays an important role in fighting diseases. This happens in many ways that we’re just beginning to understand. When you drink a lot of alcohol, it has many negative effects on your digestive system. It damages the epithelial cells in your intestines, making it harder to absorb many nutrients. It also severely disturbs your gut’s microbiome, significantly altering the balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria. Alcohol affects the way health gut microbes interact with the immune system. Alcohol also disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood. These rogue bacteria can cause inflammation in the liver and may lead to liver damage. Alcohol doesn’t just affect the function of the digestive tract. It also affects the respiratory system. Excessive drinking may impair the function of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, leading to increased risk for pneumonia, tuberculosis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. Because the immunity of the mucus is impaired in both the lungs and digestive tract, any disease can become more severe. Studies have even found that heavy drinking increases your risk of contracting HIV. Excessive drinking reduces the number and function of three important kinds of cells in your immune system–macrophages, T and C cells.
  • Sleep – aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, sleep deprivation can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Sleep improves cells known as T cells, T cells play an important part in the body’s immune system. Our body needs to rest and recharge; Sleep deprivation according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), can increase our risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.