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During times of health uncertainties like the lengthy duration of COVID-19, different health authorities have been emphasizing the very basic hygiene action taught to young kids, washing of hands, as the best way to combat this disease.
By the premise that prevention is better than cure and among the heroes in preventing diseases is our immune system.
Knowledge about the immune system and how get it stronger are among the valuable personal assets these days.
What does our immune system do?
The Harvard Medical School, in their website, gave this following description: On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes it fails: a germ invades successfully and makes you sick.
A healthy immune system can defeat invading pathogens such as when two bacteria that cause gonorrhea are no match for the large phagocyte, called a neutrophil, that engulfs and kills them.
As we age, our immune response capability becomes reduced, which in turn contributes to more infections and more cancer. As life expectancy in developed countries has increased, so too has the incidence of age-related conditions.
Improving the immune system
The Harvard Medical School says the idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that – a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony.
General healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand it said.
Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies such as these:
(1) Don’t smoke; (2) Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables; (3)Exercise regularly; (4) Maintain a healthy weight; (5) If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation; (6) Get adequate sleep; (7) Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly. (8) Try to minimize stress.
[Notice number 7. It is a time-immemorial tradition taught in elementary schools as means of taking care of our general health as well. It should be noted that this advisories were given way before the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak.]
While some people age healthily, the conclusion of many studies is that, compared with younger people, the elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases and, even more importantly, more likely to die from them. Respiratory infections, influenza, and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people over 65 worldwide.
There appears to be a connection between nutrition and immunity in the elderly. A form of malnutrition that is surprisingly common even in affluent countries is known as “micronutrient malnutrition.” Micronutrient malnutrition, in which a person is deficient in some essential vitamins and trace minerals that are obtained from or supplemented by diet, can be common in the elderly.
What can we do to make our immune system stronger?
Mila Jones of Healthcare America gave some natural ways to boost our immune system:
Reduce your stress levels
Chronic stress suppresses the immune response of the body by releasing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol interferes with the T-cells(a specific white blood cell) to reproduce and receive signals from the body. Cortisol also reduces the antibody secretory IgA, which lines the gut and respiratory tract, which are our first line of defense against pathogens. To keep your stress in check, practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing in your regular routine.
Moderate your alcohol intake
Numerous researches have shown that excess intake of alcohol can tamper with the immune system and its pathway in a complicated manner. However, moderate consumption of alcohol can be helpful to the overall health of the body.
Make sure you get your A-B-C-D-Es
The saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” can actually be true as consumption of vitamins can boost your immune system. Vitamin A, B6, C, D and E can help increase the strength of the immune system. Vitamin C is the biggest booster of all and lack of it can cause several diseases including Scurvy. You can get Vitamin C from citrus fruits like Orange, Grapefruit, Spinach and Strawberries. You can take multivitamin supplements from your doctor, however, natural intake through food is the best way.
Colostrum is the referred to the first milk from nursing mammals. The advantage of being breastfed is the intake of protective antibodies you get from your mother. These antibodies help you fight through early years of your life. These antibodies are the reason that the breastfed children are healthier and have less risk of catching a cold or allergies. We can harness the antibodies of first milk even when we are adult. In powder form, obtained from cows, goats and other mammals, these antibodies can be mixed with water, juice and shakes.
Eat more vegetables
Vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts are loaded with nutrients that are essential for our immune system. Consuming them on a daily basis boosts the immunity. For a healthy liver, cruciferous vegetables like Kale, Broccoli and Cabbage should be included in daily diet. Healthy liver ensures the body’s’ natural detoxification process.
Herbs & supplements
Herbs like AHCC, Echinacea, Elderberry, Andrographis and Astragalus can help reduce the duration and severity of illness. On top of that, using vitamin and mineral supplements provide the necessary nutrients for a strong immune system.
Get your exercise on
Working out on a regular basis has been scientifically proven to boost the immune system. Regular exercise mobilises the T cells, a type of white blood cell which guards the body against infection. However, continuous rigorous workout weakens the immune system, leaving you prone to flu and viral infections.
Get sufficient sleep
Lack of sleep can cause the inflammatory immune response to activate, reducing the activity of T cells in the body. This can weaken your immune system and response to vaccines. Try to sleep for 7–8 hours and avoid having an all-nighter. If you happen to be travelling in different time zones on a regular basis, consume 2–3mg of Melatonin to reset the circadian rhythm.
Start consuming mushrooms
Mushroom are nature’s way of breaking down the organic matters to convert it into fertile soil. One of the healthiest food on the planet, mushrooms are rich in essential nutrients and minerals. Some of the mushrooms that are really good for immune systems are — A Turkey tail mushroom, Maitake and Shiitake Mushrooms, Tremella Mushrooms.
Stop the habit of smoking
Stop the habit of smoking because not only does it increases the risk of cancer but it also impairs the immune system. Smoking is said to have a negative impact on both adaptive and innate immunity. It can also increase the chances of developing harmful pathogenic immune responses and smoking also reduces the effectiveness of your immune system’s defenses. However, if you still wish to continue, there are alternatives like the use of nicotine patches or electronic cigarettes which help to quit smoking and less harmful.
Step out in the sun
Stepping out in the natural light is one of the major contributors to the production of Vitamin D in our body. Vitamin D is essential for healthy functioning of the immune system as it helps the body to produce antibodies. Low level of Vitamin D in the body has been termed as one of the major reasons for respiratory problems. A brisk walk in the sunlight for 10–15 minutes will ensure that enough Vitamin D is produced in the body.
Some of these means are practical even during these times. It surely wouldn’t harm to try doing some of these suggestions whenever they are available.
Hey, the sun still shines on everyone, isn’t it? Time to use its power to help you avoid COVID-19.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS
Originally published March 24, 2020, updated August 7, 2021
- “Helpful ways to strengthen your immune system and fight off disease” by Harvard Medical School, September, 2014
- “For A Stronger Immunity: Natural Ways To Boost The Immune System” by Mila Jones, published January 17, 2019:
- “Does alcohol make you gain weight?” by Elliot Reimers, M.S.(C), CISSN, CNC published by Transparent Labs, a supplements company that has been reviewed by Fitness Volt