How important is the immune system?
The immune system is like a quiet but extremely strong protector. It plays a significant role in your body, which is to protect it from harmful substances, germs, and cell changes that could damage and make you fall ill. It is made up of various organs, cells, and proteins. It is a silent storm in a way because when functioning properly, you won’t even notice it being there. And, well, if it doesn’t, you’ll start to feel worse and that’s when you know that something’s wrong.
Do you have a weakened immune system?
Aside from knowing how to build a strong immune system, you should also know the current condition of it. Has it weakened? How weak is it? What are the factors that contribute to the status of your immunity?1. Chronic disease or autoimmune disease. This is the most obvious sign of a weak immune system. These are diseases in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues causing illness. Some of the most common types are Type 1 Diabetes, Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple sclerosis, IBD, Addison’s disease, Autoimmune vasculitis, and more. People tend to have the following symptoms when these diseases are starting to grow in the body:
- achy muscles
- swelling and redness
- low-grade fever
- trouble concentrating
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- hair loss
- skin rashes
2. Unhealthy diet. Malnutrition or a poor diet that is lacking in one or more nutrients can impair the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies. Having plenty of refined processed carbs and sugar supply in the body can put your immune system at a marked disadvantage. Blood sugar elevation hinders the immune system by reducing the function of white blood cells. This then affects the ability to battle pathogens and T-cells which are responsible for regulating the functions of the immune system. A body fat percentage with a high level creates cells that are pro-inflammatory and drive insulin resistance which weakens the immune response.
3. Highly stressful environment. If you’re highly stressed with your job, school, or other areas of life in general, this could greatly affect your immunity as well which is called chronic stress. It reduces the action of certain immune cells and prevents the body from developing optimal antibody responses. There are excessive levels of cortisol in your system that can weaken the immune system. The IgA antibody levels are lowered, which isn’t good because it lines up all of our mucus layers through the digestive tract, which then acts as the first line of defense making it easier for viruses, pathogens, and bacteria to invade through the intestinal tract lining.
4. Poor sleep schedule. Melatonin helps you get sleepy when it is being released when dark and at the same time it is also an immune mediator. It causes certain immune cells to release cytokine to fight infections. When you don’t get enough and proper sleep, you suppress the activities of antiviral and anticancer cells, which are the white blood cells. and activity of certain white blood cells which are antiviral and anticancer.
5. Longer recovery time. Normally, it is normal for adults to experience 2-3 colds per year and that recover in 7-10 days. According to the CDC, if it takes longer for you to recover and develop antibodies to fight off illness or if you get frequent infections, your immune system is struggling to maintain proper functioning.6. Alcohol consumption. Another directly related factor is alcohol intake. It weakens white blood cells and causes inflammation of the gut which can distress the gut-immune barrier.
7. Mental health decline. Experiencing mental health issues such as dealing with depression, experiencing periods of isolation, loneliness, etc., can impair immune function, a study showed that they are linked to an acute drop in immune activity making B and T cells less responsive in periods of stress.
8. It’s all in your guts. An immunity imbalance is bound to happen when you have an unhealthy gut because 70% of the immune system is close to it. Conditions such as chronic diarrhea may indicate a weakened immune system, bring the possibility of infection or parasite that you’ll find a hard time to recover from.
Immunity and aging
Your immune system has no escape to aging, it becomes weaker and suppressed. There are two things that happen when the immune system ages, which become major drives of high risk to various illnesses. One is called immunosenescence and the other is called inflammaging.
This is a progressive decline in immune function due to aging which includes hampering pathogen recognition, alerting signaling, and clearance of the immune system. It is a state of dysregulated immune function that contributes is associated with poor response to vaccinations and increasing levels of infection, as well as diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
This is a chronic increase in systemic inflammation. Aging-related causes of this include genetic susceptibility, central obesity, increased gut permeability, changes to microbiota composition, cellular senescence, NLRP3 inflammasome activation, oxidative stress caused by dysfunctional mitochondria, immune cell dysregulation, and chronic infections.
Nutrition: A Key to Stronger Immunity
The importance of nutritional boosters
A recent COVID-inspired study talks about the importance of nutrition and digs deep into the specific effects of vitamin intake on fewer respiratory complaints.
The researchers studied 6,115 adult participants from the 2008 - 2016 National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme who completed diet diaries for three days and more. Dietary intake, supplements, age, sex, weight (BMI), smoking, household income, and total energy intake are some of the factors closely analyzed for this study. As a result, 33 cases of respiratory complaints have been reported - participants that are not diagnosed by a clinician, some are self-reported for sensing a number of familiar respiratory conditions, are older participants and less likely to say they regularly took vitamins A, E, C, D or other supplements.
According to the data analysis, vitamins A, E, C, and D aid the normal functioning of the immune system and helps it fight off respiratory infections. While this is still ongoing research, the findings are consistent with the result that having an adequate intake of vitamins A, E, C, D are linked to the lower prevalence of respiratory complaints, the researchers conclude.
Nurturing the Immune System
Experts recommend taking steps in supporting your body instead of waiting for persistent infection. Get more sleep, eat a healthy diet, and reduce stress. In addition to this, provide your immune system a boost with certain supplements such as zinc, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C.
Healthy diet. It is important to set up a diet that is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats. Low refined carbs and added sugars help to improve weight and insulin resistance which supports the immune system. A Mediterranean diet correlates with higher cognitive function, particularly one that is high in vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, according to a study.
Incorporating mindfulness exercises. Engage in mediation, yoga, and breathing exercises throughout the day to help you reduce some of the stress. Both diet and exercise may help to improve mental health and reduce emotional stress, but if you’re already struggling worse than usual, it is best to seek help from a mental health professional.
Have your guts checked out. Because the digestive system is closely linked to the immune system, such issues like Chronic diarrhea and other related infections should not be ignored. Consuming a variety of fiber-rich plant-based foods as well as pre and probiotics are also helpful to support your microbiome.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. If you have a habit of daily drinking and dependence on alcohol, you might want to reconsider that and switch on other alternatives instead, such as kombucha or a booze-free cocktail.
Take hygiene seriously. Tend to the skin and overall hygiene issues. If possible, especially if you have sensitive skin, use unscented care products, cleansers, and detergents while keeping the skin moisturized to support the skin microbiome, which supports the immune system. More importantly, in today’s global pandemic, it’s highly important to keep following the safety measures mentioned below.
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