With our lives becoming more and more stressful and physical activity taking a back seat, the resultant weakened immune system is pretty natural. When we abuse our body, we cannot really expect anything better in return.
We all are aware of the fact that a person with a weak immune system is more prone to diseases and infections. That is why strengthening the immune system is a pre-requisite to keeping various ailments at bay. Before moving on to discuss ways of improving or rather strengthening our immune system, let us first understand our immune system better.
How Does the Immune System Work?
Our immune system is directly related to our body’s immunity against diseases. In other words, our immune system performs the function of defending our body against the disease causing micro-organisms. Failure of the immune system to perform its function effectively results in increased susceptibility to diseases and infections.
Most of us frequently complain of cold, flu, indigestion while increasing number of people are affected by diabetes and heart diseases. All these health problems are repercussions of a weakened immune system. The immune cells play a major role in preventing the entry of pathogenic bacteria and viruses into the body. These cells comprise of lymphocytes or T-cells which directly fight invading molecules and B-cells which produce antibodies that respond to harmful molecules, facilitating their removal by other immune cells.
The immune system also contains phagocytic cells such as macrophages and neutrophils, which eliminate the debris created from the destruction of harmful cells and tissues at the site of infection. Impairment of any of these functions can weaken your immune system.
How to Improve Immune System?
As we all know, prevention is better than cure. The best way to prevent these diseases is to address their root cause. This is only possible by maintaining a strong immune system. Now the question arises as to how one can build a strong immunity. Our immune system requires balance and harmony to function efficiently. It can only be improved by incorporating a few changes in your lifestyle. Nutrition also plays an important role in this regard. Given below are a few tips for a healthy immune system by which one can boast of having a healthy immune system.
A. Healthy Diet:
Our immune cells are like warriors, which need regular nourishment to perform their functions. It is pretty clear that nutrition and immunity are directly related to each other. Given below is the list of foods that can really boost immune system.
1. Oranges, Lemons and Guavas:
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It enables the white blood cells to perform their function of quickly responding to infections. Fruits like oranges, lemons and guavas are the richest sources of vitamin C. Besides, guavas are loaded with fiber, which protects against high cholesterol and heart disease.
Garlic is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It can effectively fight bacterial, fungal and viral infections. It provides protection against heart diseases and high blood cholesterol levels. Recent studies have proved that garlic can play an important role in preventing cancers of different kinds. It is advisable to incorporate crushed garlic in your cooking every day. It also contains allicin, which keeps your immune system in perfect condition.
If you are suffering from weak digestion or are prone to bacterial and viral infections, then yogurt can be quite helpful. It contains probiotics, which can prevent such infections. It also possesses the ability to stimulate the production of interferon, a component that improves your immune system functioning. Certain studies have proved that consuming yogurt daily reduce the risk of developing vaginal yeast.
4. Green Leafy Vegetables:
Green leafy vegetables often elicit wrinkled noses from most of us. But they are super food to boost immune system. They are loaded with folic acid, which improves the functioning of your immune system. Deficiency of folic acid lowers the secretion of necessary quantities of antibodies that possess infection fighting properties. These are particularly beneficial for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Deficiency of vitamin E can adversely affect your body’s ability to fight infections. A recent study has proved that taking a daily dose of 200 mg of vitamin E improves antibody responses to hepatitis B and tetanus after vaccination. Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E. All you need to do is chew a handful of almonds to keep your immune system running in smoothly.
Flaxseeds are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens called lignans that play an important role in modulating the response of the immune system, keeping infections and autoimmune diseases at bay.
Deficiency of vitamin B6 adversely affects different aspects of immune response such as lymphocytes’ ability to mature and convert into various types of T and B-cells. Turmeric contains vitamin B6 as well as minerals like potassium, manganese and iron that are important for the functioning of different body systems. It also contains curcumin, whose antioxidant action improves the functioning of the immune system.
8. Green Tea:
Green tea is a rich source of antioxidants called the polyphenols, particularly catechins. Research has proven that they can destroy influenza and common cold virus. However, to reap its benefits, it is advisable to have it without milk as the proteins in milk bind with the catechins, causing it to lose their antioxidant properties. You can try adding lemon juice and honey to improve palatability.
Being a storehouse of amino acids, healthy fats and antioxidants, avocados help balance your hormones and adrenals as well as support the immune system.
These blue-green algae are a wonder-food in terms of its various health benefits. They stimulate the immune function and possess anti-cancer properties too. They are packed with iron and selenium, which can replenish the RNA in one’s brain, improving brain performance. You can add some of it to your green smoothie to obtain its healing benefits.
A portion of oatmeal at breakfast can greatly benefit your immune system. The soluble fiber contained in it can reduce LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.
12. Olive and Canola Oils:
These oils are a source of healthy fats which are a lubricant for your cells. They strengthen your immune system by improving flexibility and communication between the cells. However, excess consumption of omega 6 fatty acids can increase the risk of inflammation and immune system problems.
B. Healthy Lifestyle:
Apart from adequate nutrition, a healthy lifestyle also plays a crucial role in the maintenance of healthy immune system. In fact, in the present scenario, unhealthy lifestyle is one of the major causes of the increase in incidence of diseases and infections. Know how to improve immune system through lifestyle changes. A healthy lifestyle should incorporate the following:
13. Avoid Stress:
Stress is a part of life and is experienced by everyone. But prolonged stress can make you more susceptible to ailments ranging from colds to serious diseases. Chronic stress can expose your body to stress hormones, which adversely affect the immune system functioning. High levels of stress increase the production of cortisol which harms your immune cells. It is not possible to get rid of stress completely but with a little effort, stress levels can be lowered significantly. You can do so by doing things and meeting up with people that make you happy. Yoga or meditation is a great way to deal with stress. You can also try working out as this will divert your mind, causing you to take less stress.
14. Have Proper Sleep:
Lack of sleep is one of the major factors contributing to stress and in turn weakening the immune system. Besides, insomnia can cause a rise in inflammation as well as increase cortisol levels. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation lowers your T-cell count, reducing your body’s ability to fight off disease causing pathogens. Adequate sleep not only improves your mood and energy levels but also prevents strokes and helps manage your weight. Ensure to get at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
15. Have at least Five Servings of Fruits and Veggies:
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C and E. Vitamin A present in carrots, sweet potatoes and dark green leafy vegetables enable white blood cells to fight off infections more effectively. Vitamin C found in citrus fruits as well as bell peppers, papayas and broccoli improves the absorption of iron from plant based foods, thus protecting immune system against disease. Vitamin E in nuts and turnip greens can combat flu and upper respiratory infections. So ensure to have at least five servings of these fruits and vegetables to meet your daily nutritional requirements. You can also consider taking a multivitamin or mineral supplement to fulfil the deficiencies. However, high doses of minerals can cause imbalances and suppress the immune system.
16. Avoid Alcohol:
Consumption of alcohol can greatly suppress your immune system. A research conducted at Brown University proved that excess consumption of alcohol is toxic to a particular immune system cell called dendritic, which plays a crucial role in destroying invading microbes. This not only increases the vulnerability to cold and flu virus but can lead to serious and even life threatening infections.
17. Restrict the Consumption of Simple Sugars:
Excess consumption of sugar suppresses the immune system cells, which are responsible for attacking the disease causing bacteria. Consumption of 75-100 grams of this sugar significantly lowers the ability of the white blood cells to fight and destroy bacteria. Always go for natural fruit juices, water and teas to stay hydrated, cleanse your immune system and boost it with vitamins and minerals.
18. Drink Plenty of Water:
Water plays an important role in balancing the body’s fluid levels as well as energizing your muscles and improving bowel function. This is one of the best tips for a healthy immune system. Ensure to drink at least 8 glasses of water every day. So replace your soda, tea, alcohol, or coffee with water.
19. Check your Vitamin D Levels:
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, can greatly boost your immune response. Deficiency of this vitamin is associated with seasonal colds and flu. Vitamin D deficiency is quite common as this vitamin is only available from the sun and very few foods. You require at least 50 nmol/L of vitamin D to maintain overall health. If you are prone to diseases, get your vitamin D levels checked. Get proper exposure to sunlight. You can also take a supplement to make up for the deficiency.
20. Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Being overweight increases your risk of developing diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Besides, too many fat cells trigger the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body, causing chronic inflammation. This inflammation can damage your tissues, leading to a weak immune system. So always have a balanced diet to maintain your ideal weight.
21. Exercise Regularly:
Exercise is a part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle. Though it doesn’t help your body fight infections, but it definitely improves your cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of diseases like osteoporosis and cancer. If you find it difficult to indulge in a full-fledged work out, you can try having a 20 minute walk every day. This will strengthen your body’s disease fighting capabilities.
- Children and teenagers should indulge in 60 minutes of exercise per day that should incorporate aerobic activities and muscle toning activities.
- Adults should have at least 150 minutes of exercise comprising of aerobic exercise each week and muscle strengthening activities like weight lifting at least twice a week.
- Elder people above the age of 65 years and not suffering from any medical issues should indulge in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking and muscle strengthening exercises twice a week.
22. Keep Smiling and Be Happy:
As we all know, laughter is the best medicine and this medicine is also effective in improving your immune system. A simple smile can make things better. It can make your body happy and boost your mood and immune system. A hearty laugh decreases the amount of stress hormones in the body and increases white blood cells that fight infection. So indulge in laughter and allow your stress hormones to drop and your endorphins and growth hormones to rise!
Simple steps to improve immune system—yet following them can lead you to a healthier body, a body that can keep diseases at bay. Who wouldn’t want that?
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