How to Boost your Immune System

How to Boost your Immune System

Do you want to understand more about immunity but feel a little overwhelmed by all the complexity of the subject? It’s time to understand what the immune system is, how it works and some things you can do to boost your immunity.

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What is the Immune System?

In a nutshell, the immune system is an extensive network of organs, tissues, cells and proteins produced by the body to fight diseases and infections.

Your immune system is your body’s natural defence that protects you from pathogens such as parasites, bacteria, viruses and other organisms that can be harmful to your health.

Imagine this system like a computer anti-virus, which makes constant scans to detect the presence of strange microorganisms – in addition to dead and defective cells- to combat them and eliminate them quickly.

How Does the Immune System Work?

There are two key concepts you need to understand:

The first is known as innate immunity, which is genetically inherited and activated as soon as you are born. Innate immunity is responsible for responding quickly to the presence of pathogens, and that’s why you can get fever or inflammation when you start to get sick.

The second key concept is acquired or adaptive immunity, which concerns the immune system’s ability to improve itself to fight a pathogenic agent. This means that, when exposed to a new virus or bacteria, your immune cells will try to fight it – which can cause a reaction like fever – and, after that, it will store the invader’s information to fight it more efficiently the next time who finds it.

Parts of the Immune System

Here are some of the main components of the immune system:

1. White Blood Cells

White blood cells, or leucocytes, can be considered the cells of immunity. They are constantly produced by your bone marrow and stored in your lymphatic and blood tissues.

In a nutshell, white blood cells circulate through your bloodstream to fight viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms harmful to your health.

There are 5 major types of white blood cells: basophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes (B cells, Natural Killer cells, and T cells), monocytes and neutrophils.

2. Antibodies

Antibodies, or immunoglobulin, are proteins produced by white blood cells (B cells) to react to the presence of foreign microorganisms – or antigens.

Antibodies neutralize antigens by binding to them so that they alter their chemical composition, paralyzing or preventing them from penetrating the body’s cells.

Once antibody production starts, it can continue for days or months – until all the antigen molecules are eliminated.

3. Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system also has vital functions for the body, absorbing fats and proteins during the digestive process and transporting them to the bloodstream.

Furthermore, the lymphatic system is responsible for maintaining adequate fluid levels in the body and protecting it from harmful microorganisms through the production of lymphocytes (white blood cells) and other immune cells.

4. Complement System

The complement system is a complex network of more than 30 proteins produced mainly by the liver. This system fights infectious microorganisms through the explosion (lysis) and ingestion (phagocytosis) of foreign or infected cells and particles.

5. Thymus

The thymus gland is essential before birth and during your infancy as it starts to shrink after puberty – being replaced by fat.

While active, this gland located between the lungs is responsible for producing and maturing T cells (a type of white blood cell), protecting the body against bacteria, viruses and infections.

The thymus will produce all the T cells you need by your puberty, and they will be responsible for helping you maintain your health over the years. It will lose its function over time so that it practically becomes fatty tissue at the end of our lives.

6. Bone Marrow

In a nutshell, the bone marrow is essential to the immune system because all the body’s blood cells originate in it.

7. Spleen

The spleen plays a fundamental role in the immune system, as it helps to filter pathogens and abnormal cells in the blood so that your body can fight infections.

Which Vitamins Boost the Immune System

According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, some vitamins and minerals are essential for the development and functioning of immune cells, such as:

  • Iron: It’s essential for immune cell function. Some of the best sources of iron are red meat, liver, beans and nuts.
  • Vitamin A: It helps your body protect itself from infections by keeping your skin and tissues of various organs healthy. Some food sources rich in vitamin A are sweet potatoes, carrots, beef liver and cod liver oil.
  • Vitamin C: It stimulates the production and proper functioning of antibodies and white blood cells. Some foods rich in vitamin C are broccoli, chilli peppers, lemon and orange.
  • Vitamin D: It helps regulate specific proteins (antimicrobials) that can eliminate pathogens – harmful microorganisms to your health, such as bacteria. Some sources of vitamin D are cheese, egg yolks and fatty fish, although the most effective ways to raise your vitamin D levels are sun exposure and supplementation.
  • Vitamin E: It has antioxidant properties that protect the integrity of cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress can damage DNA, cells and proteins, favouring infections and severe diseases like cancer or diabetes. Some of the best sources of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts.
  • Zinc: It helps with the immune response, in addition to being essential for wound healing. Some of the best sources of zinc are meat, hemp seeds and cashew.

How to Strengthen the Immune System

According to Harvard Medical School, there are important points you should consider to boost the immune system. In summary, all of these immune system boosters are related to a healthy lifestyle, so here are some of the habits that can improve your immunity:

  • Avoid drinking and smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet – rich in vegetables and fruits.
  • Good nights sleep.
  • Be up to date with your vaccinations.
  • Avoid stress.

Disorders of the Immune System

Diseases related to the immune system are caused by the malfunction of the body. Most of the time, they result from failures in the immunological process. In these cases, the immune system cannot kill the invading microorganism or respond excessively or disorderly to a given situation.

These disorders can cause autoimmune diseases, as the immune system fails to differentiate invading cells and reacts to the body’s own cells and molecules. Although some autoimmune diseases can develop by genetic predisposition, environmental factors can trigger them.

That’s why you should avoid drinking, smoking, eating poorly, or any other activity that can destroy or disrupt the work of cells – such as white blood cells. Maintaining healthy habits and avoiding destructive habits is what will avoid weakening the immune system.

Symptoms of Weak Immune System

Some of the signs of a weak immune system are:

  • Easy fatigability.
  • Frequent cold and other infections.
  • Delayed wound healing.
  • Skin infections.
  • Organ inflammation.
  • Blood disorder.
  • Digestive Problems.

It is important to remember that you should never self-medicate or seek any solution to your health problems without consulting a doctor or specialized professional. If you suspect something or just want to improve your health, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Don’t play with your health!

4 thoughts on “How to Boost your Immune System”

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