The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism against viruses, bacteria and other invaders. Through a series of steps called the immune response, the immune system attacks the invaders and protects the body from diseases. It is the body’s guardian against different kind of pathogens, tumors and cancerous cells – also called the body’s natural defense shield.
What can compromise your immune system – risk factors:
– Stress – has a major influence on the immune system. Chronic stress raises cortisol levels in the body, which can make you more susceptible to colds and flues and other diseases.
– Lack of sleep – is associated with a poor immune response, as the immune system does not get the chance to rebuild, so it becomes weak. Without a good night sleep, the immune system becomes vulnerable even to common colds.
– A poor diet – can weaken the immune system and make you vulnerable to developing chronic conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, respiratory conditions and others. According to a health study, the immune system is strongly influenced by the intake of nutrients.
– Lack of exercise – regular, moderate exercise (30 minutes of walking, 5 days a week) helps the immune system perform at its best. During the physical exercise, the body circulation is improved and the white blood cells are activated to fight off infections.
– Antibiotics – excessive use of antibiotics weakens the immune system, leaving you prone to developing health conditions more easily in the future.
– Dehydration – water and sport assist in flushing out toxins out of the body. A “clean” body helps the immune system better fight off infections.
– Other lifestyle factors such as alcohol or smoking cause an excess of free radicals, leading to oxidative stress, damaging healthy cells and promoting chronic diseases.
How can you strengthen your immune system?
Making some lifestyle changes – such as the ones mentioned above are definitely a starting point. If you have already adopted the Diet of the Common Sense for a while, then you should have a cleaner body than most people and a stronger immune system. However, no immune system is out of threat, especially as we grow older and as there are factors that we can little control (stress, pollution).
Natural options for strengthening the immune system include vitamins, minerals, Omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics. Some plants and medicinal mushrooms also help improve the body defense system, modulate the immunity, reduce the disease frequency and intensity and overall, promote a good body balance.
Supplements that boost the immune system:
Vitamin C – is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the immune cells from the oxidative stress, responsible for most diseases. It helps reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune response.
According to one study, a vitamin C deficiency results in a reduced resistance against certain pathogens whilst a higher supply enhances several immune system parameters. With regard to the common cold different studies including meta-analyses underline that the prophylactic intake of vitamin C may slightly reduce the duration of the illness in healthy persons. Supplementation of vitamin C is most effective in cases of physical strain or insufficient intake of the vitamin.
Zinc – has an important role in modulating the immune response, keeping the immune system in check.
The nervous, reproductive and immune systems are particularly influenced by Zn deficiency, as well as by increased levels of Zn. The relationship between Zn and the immune system is complex, since there are four different types of influence associated with Zn, according to one study.
Another study suggests that Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and NK cells. Macrophages also are affected by zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency adversely affects the growth and function of T and B cells. The ability of zinc to function as an anti-oxidant and stabilize membranes suggests that it has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.
Selenium – antioxidants like selenium help reduce oxidative stress, by keeping free radical numbers in check. Incorporating selenium-rich foods (such as Brazil nuts) and supplements into your diet is a good way to reduce inflammation and keep your immune system healthy.
Overall, there is considerable evidence strengthening the notion that Se affects different types of immune responses in different ways.
Immune system effects of echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review. This review article examines 3 popular herbal immune stimulants.
Goldenseal is also an immune stimulant linked with the immune modulation.
The results obtained indicate that both goldenseal and Astragalus exhibit abilities to modulate macrophage responses during stimulation.
Probiotics – probiotics can help boost the immune system and ward off inflammatory responses in the gut. Specifically, probiotics activate regulatory T cells that release IL-10 and maintaining the balance of the gut, through the activation of multiple immune mechanisms, according to one review.
Medicinal mushrooms – boost immunity, suggest research.
One study explores the immunological roles of 5 medicinal mushrooms: Agaricus blazei (Agaricus), Cordyceps sinensis (Cordyceps), Grifola frondosa (Maitake), Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi), and Trametes versicolor (Turkey tail). Mushrooms were reported to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular-protective, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, and anticancer properties. Extensive research over the last 40 years has demonstrated that mushrooms have potent antineoplastic properties that slow growth of tumors, regulate tumor genes.
Supplements that boost the immune system:
Finally, this video wraps up the article How to Boost Your Immune System! Check it out!
Studies & Research: