The immune system defends the body against infection. Although it works effectively most of the time, sometimes our immune system fails, and we become sick. Are there ways we can boost our immune system and prevent illness? Let’s find out.

The immune system defends the body against infection. Although it works effectively most of the time, sometimes our immune system fails, and we become sick. Are there ways we can boost our immune system and prevent illness? Let’s find out.

The best thing you can do to maintain your immune system is to adopt healthy living strategies that will benefit the entire body, including your immune system. (Photo: pixabay.com) The immune system is a network of special cells, tissues, proteins, and organs that work together to protect the body from potentially damaging foreign invaders and disease. When our immune system functions properly it detects threats, such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses, and it triggers an immune response to destroy them. Our immune system can broadly be divided into two parts: innate and adaptive.

Innate immunity is the natural protection that we are born with and our first line of defense to combat infection. Upon detecting an infection, our innate response acts quickly to try and flush out the invader by producing extra mucus or cranking up the thermostat to blast it with a fever.

Adaptive immunity is protection that we gain throughout life as we are exposed to diseases or protected against them from vaccinations. The adaptive system spots an enemy and produces the specific weapons — or antibodies — that are required to destroy and eliminate the invader from the body. The adaptive system can take between 5 and 10 days to identify the antibodies that are needed and produce them in the numbers required to attack an invader successfully. In that time, the innate system keeps the pathogen at bay and prevents it from multiplying. Should the immune system be boosted?

As such, innate immunity can’t be “boosted”, and you wouldn’t want it to be. If the innate response were stimulated, you would feel constantly unwell with a runny nose, fever, lethargy, and depression Depression: an underestimated illness . The efficiency of the adaptive response can be sped up with vaccinations. A vaccine contains a harmless version of the germ from which you need protection. The adaptive system remembers the invader so that the next time it comes into contact with the germ, it can act quickly to launch an attack.

While many products claim to boost immunity, the concept makes little sense scientifically. Attempting to boost cells of any kind is not necessarily a good thing and may result in serious side effects. The immune system, in particular, contains several different types of cells that respond to various microbes in many ways. Which cells would you boost and to how many? This is a question to which scientists currently do not know the answer. What researchers do know is that the body continuously makes immune cells that are called white blood cells, or leukocytes, and it generates far more cells of the adaptive system — known as lymphocytes — that mature into B cells and T cells than are needed. The excess cells destroy themselves through a process of natural cell death, called apoptosis. It is unknown what is the best mix of cells or optimum number for the immune system to work at its best.

Forms of a weakened immune system

For many people, the immune system works well to regulate itself and does not need any help. However, in some people, medications or immune system disorders cause overactivity or low activity of the immune system. Primary immunodeficiency disorders are usually present from birth and are caused by the immune system missing particular parts.

Secondary immunodeficiency disorders occur as a result of the immune system being compromised by environmental factors, including HIV, severe burns, malnutrition, or chemotherapy.

Allergies and asthma develop when the immune system responds to substances that are not harmful.

Autoimmune diseases are conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes, whereby the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s cells and tissues.

Disorders of the immune system are treated with specific medications that tackle the symptoms and associated infections. Consuming a balanced diet and eating the recommended amounts of nutrients will help maintain normal immune function. (Photo: pixabay.com) Lifestyle’s influence

The primary components of the immune system include the lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen, bone marrow, and thymus.
There remains much to learn about the interconnectedness and intricacies of the immune response, however. To function well, the whole system requires harmony and balance. The immune system is not a single entity or force field that needs patching up to work properly.

No direct links have been identified between lifestyle and enhanced immune response, but researchers have investigated the effect of factors, such as exercise, diet, and stress on the response of the immune system. The best thing you can do to maintain your immune system is to adopt healthy living strategies that will benefit the entire body, including your immune system. These strategies might include:

• eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
• exercising regularly
• maintaining a healthy weight
• quitting smoking
• drinking alcohol only in moderation
• getting enough sleep
• avoiding infection through regular hand washing
• reducing stress Diet’s influence

Consuming a balanced diet and eating the recommended amounts of nutrients will help maintain normal immune function.
Vitamins A, C, and D, and minerals — including zinc — play a role in the functioning of the immune system. If you eat a balanced diet, you will have no need to take supplements of these vitamins and minerals and taking extra will not particularly help your immune system. Populations that are malnourished are known to be more susceptible to infection, and there is some evidence that deficiencies in certain micronutrients alter immune responses.

Vitamins and minerals

For example, zinc deficiency — which may contribute to chronic diseases — has been demonstrated to negatively impact how the immune system responds to inflammation in older adults. Vitamin D supplementation has been linked with alterations in the behavior of the immune system. Taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy — a period where the immune system is in continual flux — may modify the immune system of the newborn in such a way that protects against respiratory infections and asthma. Research suggests that vitamin D activates T cells that can identify and attack cancer […]

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