A weak immune system shows itself in many ways.
If you feel like you always have a cold or flu, suffer from tummy troubles, regularly fight with infections and take longer than usual to heal injuries, then your immune system might be weakened.
But before we dive into why your immune system may not be functioning at its best and how to strengthen the immune system, let’s get into how this natural defence mechanism actually works.
The immune system is our body’s natural response against pathogens aka harmful substances that invade our bodies. This defence mechanism consists of some organs, cells and chemicals and is based on three lines of defence.
A bacteria or virus has to fight through all three of these in order to be able to develop an infection in our body.
Coronavirus (image credit: Unsplash.com)
The first line of defence is known as ‘Innate Immunity’. This is the type of immunity that we’re born with.
Innate immunity includes physical as well as chemical barriers to help trap and destroy any harmful substances that our body comes across. Physical barriers include skin, hair and nails, whereas the chemical weapons of defence can be found in sweat, saliva, tears, and mucous (secretions from inside our bodies).
Any pathogen that can’t be stopped and destroyed by the first line of defence then encounters the second one. This second line of defence comprises of protein cells that trap any pathogens and break them apart for good.
The third line of defence in our immune system is known as ‘Adaptive Immunity’ and can be thought of as the ‘big guns’. These are called out when the Innate response fails to contain a pathogen.
Now these are the smart guys in that they’re mainly composed of B cells and T cells that help create a memory of the pathogen that the body encountered previously. So the next time this pathogen comes around, these cells recognize the intruders and eventually get rid of them.
The immune system is one of those things that, as long as it’s running smoothly, you don’t even notice it’s there.
For instance, did you know that fever and inflammation are signs that your body’s defence mechanism is working just fine? These are immune responses to kill microbes and trigger the body’s natural repair system to fight against viruses, bacteria and other harmful substances.
White and yellow thermometer on white surface (image credit: Unsplash.com)
But once the immune system gets weak, you can notice some obvious signs. A person with a weak immune system can encounter frequent and prolonged health problems, including chronic infections and allergies, that they just can’t overcome.
Those with a weak immune system are also more likely to experience autoimmune disorders, digestive issues, inflammation and blood disorders such as anaemia.
But what causes the immune system to get weak?
The immune system can get naturally weakened as a person ages. It is also affected by certain lifestyle habits such as leading a stressful life, having inadequate physical activity, eating processed food and not getting enough sunlight and sleep.
Certain medications aimed to suppress the immune activity in diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis can also weaken the body’s immune response. Moreover, some infections like flu and measles also weaken the immune system temporarily.
A strong and healthy immune system can’t be achieved with a single diet or lifestyle change. Rather it requires an all-round approach to your health and wellbeing.
We talked about some easy steps to boost immunity in a previous post as well.
Here are some other simple and easy tips to help your immune system help you.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto contain prebiotics that are a bunch of good bacteria found in our gut. These friendly bacteria not only help with digestion and absorption of food but also protect us against infections.
Studies show that having a healthy balance of good gut bacteria helps the immune system differentiate between normal body cells and pathogens thus helping to get rid of the bad guys.
Person standing on white digital bathroom scale (image credit: Unsplash.com)
Scientists have observed that even modest weight loss reverses many of the damaging changes often seen in the immune cells of obese people.
Excess body fat, particularly abdominal fat, triggers the production of 'pro-inflammatory' immune cells, which circulate in the blood and can damage our bodies. Such chronic inflammation has been linked with coronary artery disease and other health problems.
Good news: losing as much as 13 pounds can bring the level of pro-inflammatory cells down to the levels found in lean people.
Relaxing and getting your stress levels down is vital to help your immune system work at its best. Prolonged exposure to stress increases inflammation in the body and causes imbalances in the immune system.
Lowering your stress levels may seem difficult but it isn’t impossible. Get yourself a furry friend if you like animals, try to be more social and strive to have a positive outlook on life. Such activities not only reduce stress levels but are also good for your overall health and help your immune system work better.
Some of the most important vitamins that your immune system requires to function properly are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, folates and Vitamin B12.
Additionally, you also need to load up on minerals such as Zinc, Iron, Selenium, Copper and Magnesium to help your immune system be the defence mechanism your body requires.
Immunity boosting supplements contain vitamins and minerals that may help strengthen a weak immune system. These also cover up for any deficiencies that a poor diet may cause and can help you get any important nutrients that you may be missing out on.
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