Do You Know what Affects Your Body's Ability to Fight Sickness? Here's How to Strengthen Your Immune System
“How to strengthen immune system response?”
A question in pretty much everyone’s mind during the winter months, the beginning of spring and those few weeks when the weather remains ‘undeclared’ between changing seasons.
It’s not hard to see why:
Considering the rapid changes in temperatures that we’re experiencing, the number of coworkers falling ill, the stranger coughing on the bus, and the kids bringing in their own seasonal cold, it seems we’re now more susceptible than ever to colds, bouts of flu, and stomach bugs.
And it’s not our imagination! According to the CDC:
- Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year in the US, taking 7 to 10 days on average to recover
- Outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) increased to 4.3% in 2018
- 900,000 people were hospitalized between 2017 and 2018 for influenza-related issues, with 2018 being the deadliest recorded in the last decade.
- 5 to 20% of the American public gets the flu each year
With those statistics in mind, it’s natural that you’d want to boost immune system cells and do it stat! However, as attractive as that concept is, “boosting the immune system” is not as straightforward as is it might seem.
In this post we’ll cover:
- The immune system definition
- How the immune system keeps you healthy
- Things that positively and negatively affect the immune system
- How to strengthen immune system response
What is the Immune System?
The immune system definition is in its name: it’s a system, not a single unit, cell, or organ. You can definitely boost immune system efficiency, but it’s not a single cell matter.
If you want to know how to strengthen immune system “cells”, you’ll have to first understand the immune system as a number of parts working together in balance and synchronicity. The immune system is a network of cells, organs, and tissue that act as the body’s defense against infectious organisms that may result in infection or release harmful toxins.
Additionally, the immune system definition includes the processes that resist those infections and toxins, also known as “the immune response.” What we want to learn is how to strengthen immune system response.
The Organs, Vessels, Tissue, and Cells of the Immune System:
The lymphoid organs produce, release, transport, and activate “lymphocytes” a particular type of white blood cell that does most of the fighting when infectious microorganisms are detected. Learning how to strengthen immune system response, is learning how they work together.
Adenoids: two glands at the back of the nasal tunnel, mostly made of lymphocytes, they come in contact with pathogens quickly and sound the alarm to activate the whole system.
Tonsils: between the throat and palate, they work with the adenoids to determine foreign bodies.
Blood vessels: capillaries, veins, and arteries that transport blood.
Bone marrow: soft tissue inside bone cavities where blood cells (including white ones) are made.
Thymus: small organ located in front of the trachea, only in children. It evolves into fat tissue in adults. It releases hormones that regulate the maturation of defense cells in lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes: bean-like organs located all over the body, in charge of the exchange between blood and the surrounding tissue for defense purposes.
Lymph vessels: carry lymphocytes (white blood cells) through the blood to the necessary organs.
Spleen: in adults, it stores and releases defense cells like B-lymphocytes (produce antibodies) and macrophages, removes red blood cells where needed, and aids in blood clotting.
Bowel: more than half of the antibody-generating cells are found in the bowel, which seek and destroy non-self cells. Additionally, the gut flora -when healthy- makes it hard for pathogens to settle.
Mucous Membrane: many pathogens are stuck to the mucous membranes in the nose and bronchi and then flushed out by the hair-like structures called ‘cilia’.
Skin: a surprising member of the team to most, the skin is the largest human organ and one of the most effective protective barriers against foreign bodies. It hosts harmless bacteria that also make it hard to harm the body.
The immune system definition you knew probably didn’t include such a detailed account of these lymphatic organs, but now that you know them it’ll be easier to figure out how to strengthen immune system cells and tissue.
How the Immune System Keeps You Healthy
If you want to learn how to strengthen immune system organs and cells, it’s good to know how they work to keep you healthy:
Creating a protective barrier: skin, mucous membranes, the cilia, and automatic defense responses (like sneezing) create a “wall” that keeps harmful bacteria, viruses, and pathogens out.
Sounding an Alarm: tonsils, adenoids, join the protective barrier of the skin and mucous membranes to alert the body of undesirable agents.
Seeking, Marking and Destroying: free radicals, pathogens, and foreign cells/are quickly marked and attacked by lymphocytes created in the bone marrow (phagocytes, T cells, and B cells) transported by blood and lymph vessels, ultimately activated by lymph nodes and other tissue.
- Flushing Out Toxins: the gut, adrenal glands, liver, and kidneys, take the waste and eliminate it after the system has singled out and attacked the cells it deemed harmful.
Now let's look at how to strengthen immune system response mechanisms, and boost immune system efficiency:
What has a Positive Impact on the Immune System?
A healthy balanced diet: including all important micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients. High in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plus lean protein.
- Exercise: especially cardiovascular exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week of physical activity for adults.
- Healthy weight: obesity may be linked to lower immune efficiency.
- Quality Sleep: the body requires sleep and rest to replenish the cells that attack an infection, recover from illness, and to restore the system to its natural balance. Don’t skimp on sleep.
- Proper Sanitation: a 2018 USDA study found that over 90% of Americans either don’t wash their hands or don’t do it properly. Adequate hand and food sanitation lower the risk of compromising the immune system.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C, E, A, B6, B12, D, Folic Acid, Iron, Selenium, and Zinc -among others- have multiple antioxidant properties, help reduce inflammation, and may be one of the easiest how to strengthen immune system cells.
What has a Negative Impact on the Immune System?
If you’re interested in how to strengthen immune system response, avoid:
- Stress: Elevated cortisol levels decrease lymphocyte levels, keep chronic inflammation from going down, and in general create a hostile environment for recovery. Depression has also been linked to a suppressed immune system.
- Lack of Sleep: consistently sleeping less than seven hours a day may cause your immune system to fail progressively. Research finds that sleep and the circadian system regulate immunological processes.
- Poor Diet: a diet containing more than 10% of the total daily calories from saturated fat and processed sugars may slow down immune responses, weakening the whole system. Similarly, vitamin deficiency may negatively impact health.
- Sedentarism: lack of exercise leads to poor circulation, weakened phagocytes and T cells, which do not boost immune system response. Additionally the body produces antibodies during exercise.
- Alcohol: excessive alcohol consumption may reduce white blood cell count and their abilities to attack pathogens.
- Smoking: cigarettes are highly toxic and studies show that smoking inhibits T Cells, B Cells, macrophages, and NK Cells - all necessary and active agents in the elimination of foreign and damaging agents.
- Dehydration: drinking enough water is good for the whole body, and it helps boost immune system response enabling quicker and more efficient toxin elimination.
How to Strengthen Immune System Response in 9 Actionable Steps
Drink enough water! Eight 8-Oz glasses of water are recommended a day, but you may need more if you exercise, live in a hot climate, or have been under the weather.
Catch More Zees: a regular sleeping schedule where you can get 7 to 9 hours of sleep is ideal to boost immune system strength.
Eat a balanced diet: probably the hardest thing to do nowadays, but not impossible. Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. If you’re looking at how to strengthen immune system response, just feed your system “soldiers” the best natural and whole foods possible.
Take Vitamins: if you’re not a fruit and veggie lover, make life easier for you and take vitamin-rich supplements that help you reach the daily intake recommendation. Try our sunrise to sundown superfood power pack, or the new immune system boosting powerhouse XYZ
Don’t Smoke: smoking is linked to cancer, a suppressed immune system, and bad breath. Spare yourself the health issues and quit smoking.
Cut Down on Alcohol: a boozy brunch or glass of wine every once in a while won’t hurt you, but if you want to know how to strengthen immune system cells and organs, then cut back on any excess you may notice. Your body will thank you in no time.
Reduce Stress: pick up a yoga practice, regular meditation, visualization, and unplug from your work and phone. You don’t need high cortisol levels when you’re looking into how to strengthen immune system response.
Listen to Your Body: when tonsils, adenoids, skin, or gut sound the alarm that something feels off - pay attention and boost immune system cells with diet and supplements.
Wash Your Hands! The right way, and don’t abuse hand sanitizer either as excess sanitation has the contrary effect on your system and weakens it as well.
As you can see, knowing how to strengthen immune system response is not really hard, it just requires consistency, daily practice and self-control. Giving your body the right tools, you’ll boost immune system cells and organs in no time, as the body craves that balance that keeps it all in order.
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