Even though flu season is beginning to taper off, you are still prone to catch an illness as the temperature fluctuates. Strengthening your immune system to fend off disease-causing microorganisms can be tough to do, as bacteria and germs are always evolving and adapting in order to survive. These are some of the steps you can take to improve your immune system and fight off illness. If a germ does successfully break through and you get sick, come to Chicagoland Complete Healthcare. We’ll help you get back to 100 percent.
-What can you do to strengthen your immune system?
As we touched upon, while boosting your immune system is an attractive prospect, it can feel like a moving target. A lot of that stems from the fact that your immune system isn’t a single entity, but rather an intricate system that medical professionals are learning more about every day. Because of how interconnected everything is involving an immune response, there are no scientifically proven direct links between changes in lifestyle and an improved immune system.
However, that is not to say that there aren’t ways that you can help your body stand up to illness a little better. As researchers continue to study how diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors affect the immune system, more is discovered about how it works. For now, sticking to general healthy living habits is your best option to give your immune system a fighting chance.
-Healthy Living Habits
When you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you establish your body’s first line of defense. Healthy habits are the best way that you can keep your immune system strong and healthy naturally. Not only will these habits improve your immunity, the effects will be felt through every part of your body. Protect yourself from bacterial invasion with these strategies:
- Don’t smoke tobacco. Even light or social smoking can cause severe damage to your cardiovascular system.
- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables in your diet. They’re packed with powerful nutrients that are vital to fending off disease.
- Exercise regularly. This ensures your body is able to properly send those nutrients to the organs and muscles that need them to operate.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- If you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation.
- Exercise safe practices such as washing hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Do your best to minimize stress, whether through meditation, massage therapy, or any other means. Stress has a greater impact on your health than you may think.
- Drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated helps all of your bodily functions work properly.
-Exercise Caution and Skepticism
There are many products on store shelves that proclaim miraculous immunity boosting powers, but with how difficult it is to pin down exact ways to strengthen immune functions, these products are hardly proven to work. It’s not something as simple as boosting the number of cells in your body, as that can have adverse effects on your health. For instance, an athlete that uses “blood doping” — pumping blood into their system to increase their number of blood cells to improve athletic performance — runs the risk of a stroke and other maladies.
Any attempt to boost the cells of your immune system becomes incredibly complicated due to the various types of cells within the system that are intended to respond to vastly different microbes in different ways. With so many different cells, which ones do you boost, and how much do you boost them? Science still hasn’t determined the answer. However, your body generates new immune cells on a constant basis, which replace old or extra cells through apoptosis. Those cells may be replaced before they are engaged or after they have fought their battle. As of now, there is no way to tell how many cells or the best combination of cells the immune system needs to work optimally.
When we get older, our ability to fight off infections and viruses is reduced. This results in many more illnesses and an increased risk of cancer. With the life expectancy of developed countries increasing, age-related disease and other conditions have also increased. Even as some people age healthily, many studies have determined that, compared with young people, the elderly are not only more prone to contract infectious diseases, their weakened immune systems put them at greater risk of death as a result.
Worldwide, people over 65 are much more likely to die due to respiratory infections, influenza, and pneumonia. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why this happens, scientists have observed a correlation between a decrease in T cell production and an increase in the risk of infection. This is possibly due to the thymus atrophying with age, which reduces the number of T cells being generated.
The function of the thymus begins to decline at one year of age, but it is still not fully understood if this decrease in thymus function is the sole reason for a drop in T cells or if other factors play a role. For instance, it is possible that bone marrow is less efficient at producing stem cells connected to the cells of the immune system. Some researchers have found a connection between nutrition and immunity in the elderly, as many older people eat less and have less variety in their diet, resulting in micronutrient malnutrition.
Regardless of age, diet plays an incredibly important role in keeping you healthy. A healthy immune system requires nutrients to stay strong. People who are malnourished are far more susceptible to infectious diseases than those that do not have any nutrient deficiencies. Researchers have found evidence that a deficiency of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E alter the immune systems of animals, though the exact effect the same deficiencies have on human immune response has been more difficult to pin down.
If you are deficient in nutrients, there are ways that you can improve that. Even if you don’t like vegetables, adding a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement can boost those numbers, which will affect the body beyond your immune system. However, this does not mean you should take a massive dose of a single vitamin, as that can throw your body’s chemistry into turmoil. Instead, discuss with your doctor any deficiencies you have to determine the best course of action.
With research ongoing and information still being discovered, there are no hard and fast rules for how you can increase your immune functions. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle and a nutrient-rich diet can help you fend off bacterial attackers better than you would otherwise. If you would like to learn more about how you can live healthily for years to come, call Chicagoland Complete Healthcare. We can help with everything from general health to sports injuries. We hope to hear from you soon!