If it seems like you’re always catching a cold or frequently getting sick, you may want to consider your immune health. The immune system is responsible for fighting off harmful bacteria and infections that cause sickness, and it requires proper care and essential vitamins and minerals to function smoothly. Fortunately, there are several simple actions you can take to boost your body’s defenses.
The Immune System, Inside and Out
A complex network of chemicals, cells, and organs make up the immune system, which protects the body from outside invaders called pathogens.
The main actors of the immune system include:
Immune Organs/Tissues– Skin, tonsils, mucous membranes, lymph nodes, thymus, spleen, bowels, and bone marrow
Immune Cells– Various white blood cells such as lymphocytes
Attacks and Self-Defense
When harmful viruses and bacteria come in contact with the body, the organs, tissues, and cells listed above work together to fight or prevent infections, ensuring you don’t get sick. For example:
Skin secretes oils that have properties known to kill bacteria.
Mucous catches and traps harmful bacteria and viruses, which the body then disposes of.
The digestive system includes microbes and acid that help to fight off harmful bacteria.
Different types of lymphocytes (white blood cells) produce antibodies which attack bacteria or help to destroy cancerous cell.
The immune system can trigger a fever that not only wakes up the body to start fighting infection but also raises the body’s temperature and kills off harmful bacteria.
Elements of Immunity
By identifying the factors that impact immune health, you can help prevent frequent sickness. While some elements, like genetics, are out of your hands, you can still take action in other areas and boost your immune system.
1. Hygiene– Your skin serves as the immune system’s first line of defense. It acts as a barrier between your internal systems and outside contagions. To keep bacteria and viruses from ever entering the body, practice good hygiene habits like regularly washing your hands.
2. Vitamin and Mineral Intake – Taking vitamins like C, A, E, B12, B6, and zinc all provide the nutrients your body needs to keep your immune system running strong.
3. Vaccines– Vaccines are essential to help your immune system build up strength and resistance to certain viruses. Make sure you’re up to date on all required vaccines, as well as the annual flu shot.
4. Exposure and Antibodies– Complete isolation from bacteria and viruses is detrimental because some functions of the immune system are adaptive. When you get sick, the body products sickness-specific antibodies which will know how to fight off the specific microbes in the future.
5. Gut Health– Trillions of microbes within the gestational tract contribute to the immune system’s functions. You can eat a diet full of healthy probiotic foods to help keep your gut health in check.
6. Genetics– Some immune disorders are inherited, so understanding your genetic history may help you identify issues within the immune system.
7. Exercise– Exercise is the key to overall health and well being. Regular exercise helps keep your blood flowing, ultimately helping to boost your immune system.
8. Sleep– The body does most of its healing while you sleep. For optimal immune health, try to get the recommended eight hours of sleep every night.
9. Stress– High levels of stress can lead to poor immune system response. To decrease your chances of getting sick, exercise, meditate, and employ other wellness practices to reduce stress.
By understanding the nine factors mentioned above, you can actively work on improving your immune system. Ultimately, the fastest way to get rid of a cold or to prevent getting sick in the first place is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
When trying to maintain a healthy immune system, the best thing you can do is actively focus on balancing your life. Eat healthily, maintain good hygiene, get good sleep, strive to lower your stress levels, and make sure you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals. Together, these actions should keep your immune system in top shape.