In a hurried pace of life, you might consider your immune system for granted. Our immune system fends off the diseases and protects from all kind of infections. A strong innate immune response can considerably reduce the odds of getting sick. Nutritionists and health experts often points out how important is to maintain a good immunity. Let’s understand, how the immune system works.
How does the immune system gets activated?
An immune system gets activated by numerous substances but the body doesn’t recognize it. These can be understood as antigens. Antigens are substances which cause an immune response in the body by identifying substances in or markers on cells. In turn, your body produce antibodies to fights against these antigens, or harmful substances and tries to eliminate them out. Few antigens are proteins on the surface of bacteria, fungi or viruses. When the antigens attack the body, they get attached to special receptor cells in the immune system resulting a whole series of processes.
The cells in your body also has certain proteins on their surfaces. But those proteins generally don’t trigger the immune system to fight the cells. Sometimes the immune system mistakenly identifies the very own cells as foreign bodies. It further attacks healthy and harmless cells in the body and this response causes auto-immune diseases.
Immune structure has two subsystems namely innate and acquired (adaptive) immunity. Both of them are closely linked and work together to protect the body from harmful pathogens. The innate immunity provides self-defense against germs and substances, so it’s also known as non-specific immune system. It fights using natural killer cells and phagocytes in the body. Main function is to fight against germs that may enter through the skin or digestive system.
The acquired or specific immunity creates antibodies and uses them to specifically fight certain pathogens that the body has previously encountered with. This is also known as learned or adaptive immune response. Because the immune system is learning and adapting, how the body can fight against bacteria or viruses that changes over time.
How to Boost Immune System Naturally?
Recent studies from Harvard Medical School suggest, immune system needs a balance and harmony to function well. Even though majority of the individuals consult a doctor for health concern, when it comes to easing the sniffles and preventing illness on a day-to-day basis, most of them depends on natural or home remedies. These natural treatments not only help to feel better, but have also been proven to boost the immune response of the body. Here let’s see few ways to promote immunity through diet, exercise, and other healthy-living strategies.
- Always remember your A-B-C-D-Es
Lack of Vitamins is said to drastically affect the immunity. Along with healthy diet rich in natural sources, one need to be very particular about intake of micro-nutrients. Any of these deficient in the body can easily weaken the immune activities.
Vitamin A – For optimum amount of Vitamin A, go colorful. Foods that are high in carotenoids like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, watermelon, papaya, guava, and passion fruit are the best options. The carotenoids are then transformed to Vitamin A by the body. They possess antioxidant effect and helps to strengthen immune response against infections.
Vitamin B – These vitamins helps to produce energy, create new blood cells and is a key factor to determine the growth. B vitamins that make up the B complex are present in variety of foods like whole grains i.e. brown rice, barley and millets, legumes like lentils and beans, eggs, dairy products, dark green vegetables, citrus fruits, avocados etc. Sun flower seeds and almonds are also rich sources of vitamin B. These B complex vitamins play a pivot role in biochemical reactions in the immune system.
Vitamin C – You probably would know Vitamin C is a store house of antioxidants and the biggest immune boosters among the other vitamins. Lack of Vitamin C, make you more prone to get sick. Daily intake is essential, since the body doesn’t store it. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C includes Indian gooseberry, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green leafy veggies like spinach, bell peppers, sprouts etc.
Vitamin D – Also called as sunshine vitamin as the body can absorb and make Vitamin D from exposure to sun. In the recent times, researches have confirmed Vitamin D has strong interaction between the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin D is a promising nutrient which prevents and help in treating diseases caused by impaired immune system. It accelerates immunoglobulin secretions in the body. Food sources that supplement Vitamin D comprises mushrooms, egg yolk, dairy products like milk, cheese, paneer, yogurt, soy milk, and orange juice. Fatty fishes like tuna, mackerel and salmons are good choices for non-vegetarians.
Vitamin E – A very powerful antioxidant which fight against the infections in the body. It has a critical role in normal functioning of immune system. Vitamin E plays an essential part in the formation of red blood cells. It facilitates the body to use Vitamin K. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, Nuts like almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts are rich in E vitamin. Vegetables oils like Sunflower oil, olive oil, wheat germ oil, soybean oils are also best options.
2. Micromanage your minerals
In addition to a range of vitamins, it is very important to get enough minerals for managing good health. Essentials minerals for immune health includes Iron, Zinc, Selenium, Calcium etc. These minerals have a powerful effect on the immune system including the potential to slow down body’s over-active responses to certain aggressive forms of cancer cells.
3. Be active – Keep moving
Regular exercise contributes to overall health in various ways, and a healthy body means a smoothly functioning immune system. Exercise, Yoga, Pranayama, Meditation are particularly suited for reducing stress and improving the strength, balance and flexibility that often gets weakened as age progresses. Try to maintain a healthy weight.
4. Eat healthy and fresh foods
Vegetables, as well as fruits, nuts, and seeds, are loaded with nutrients which can keep your immune system intact. Green leafy veggies and citrus fruits improves the self-defense from any kind of infections. They not only protect the body but also supports natural detoxification of the body. Avoid the habit of taking stale or refrigerated food items.
5. Spice up your cooking
Include spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, black pepper in your daily diet. These not only takes care of the gut health but also stimulate the immune system of the body. They are rich sources of antioxidants and possess great healing powers.
6. Stay hydrated and cool
Hydrating the body doesn’t prevent from infections or germs, but improves overall health of an individual. Appropriate water intake checks the symptoms of dehydration. As a general instruction, water should be taken whenever you’re thirsty. More fluids should be taken after intense exercise or activity and in hot climates. It is more important for the older adults to drink water regularly and hydrate themselves.
7. Get enough and sound sleep
Sleep has a close relation with immune of the body. Getting adequate sleep and rest will strengthen the immune system. A disturbed sleep may disrupt body’s circadian rhythm. Other tips for proper sleep includes – sleeping in a completely dark room or using a sleep mask and going to bed at the same time every day. This can regularize the natural wake-sleep cycle and helps the body to function actively.
8. Stress free Mind
Like the physical well-being, the mental fitness is also a very important aspect to keep your body healthy. When you’re stressed, the immune system fails to fight off the antigens is the body and the body is more susceptible to infections. Also studies have proved that stress hormone corticosteroid may suppress the activities of immune system. Regular practice of dhyana (meditation) and moderate exercise can help
9. Quit smoking and alcohol
Habits like regular smoking and consumption of alcohol can compromise the immune activities of the body. These can even can interfere with growth and function of immune cells, like cytokines, T cells, and B cells.
Remember, it is always best to consult a qualified physician before implementing major changes in routine practices, particularly with herbal medicines or dietary intervention which may go for a toss with traditional medications.