The immune system is a complex defense system the body has put in place to fight and destroy disease causing micro-organism, or anything foreign such as toxins. It will also destroy any normal cell in your body that is misbehaving such as cancer cells. In order words, the immune system provides immunity by distinguishing between the body’s own cells and foreign cells, between live, faulty and dead cells. A strong immune system has the ability to take out any pathogen, misbehaving cells or foreign agents. However for it to achieve this you will first have to train it and secondly you will need to keep it healthy or boost it.
How to Boost your Immune System?
There are two major strategies you can use to boost or keep a healthy immune system: First protect yourself from environmental attacks and secondly maintain a healthy living style. In summary, here is what you need to do or avoid.
- Avoid stress and depression
- Sleep at least 7-8 hours per day
- Exercise regularly
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables or plant-based meals. Most fruits contain vitamins and vitamins are a great way to boost the immune system. Plants generally are medicinal in nature and will assist your immune system.
- Never smoke
- Drink alcohol only in moderation
- Sit under the morning sun (9 to 11 am) for about 15 to 20 minutes
- Observe healthy eating habits. For more on healthy eating habits and how to stay healthy click here.
How to Train your immune system?
There are two ways you can train your immune system. Both ways are equally important and none should be neglected. This can be done naturally or using a vaccine. The principle in either case is similar in that once your immune system encounters something foreign to your body, it strategize on how to kill it. If the same or similar foreign agent comes the second time, then the immune sytem will already have the skills to destroy it.
The natural way
You have to be dirty once in a while. This is how our immune system trains itself naturally. Many of you have probably heard of the 5 seconds rule. If something falls on the ground, you can still eat it. As long as it doesn’t stay on the ground for more than 5 seconds. This way, you immune system gets expose to little dangers here and there and when a bigger danger comes then the immune system might be very strong or experienced enough to take it out. Have you not heard of some people who are naturally immune to certain infections? No matter what the bacteria or virus does it just cannot infect them.
This is how our kids develop immunity. When they are born they have no immunity however the mother’s breast milk contains antibodies that help them but as they grow they develop immunity on their own and this is thanks to their careless playing habits, habits of playing with dirt and through interaction with other kids. The immune system also gets stronger as you interact with people. So, too much self-isolation can put your immune system at a disadvantage.
A vaccine is a weakened version of a bacteria or virus. It is so weak that it cannot reproduce or cause harm but yet it gives your immune system the opportunity to study it and helps it develops ways to kill it. It is like going through a training program. Once you are vaccinated and if a pathogen or disease enters your body, the immune system (now well trained against it) will act swiftly to take it out before the disease or pathogen have time to established itself. This is however possible only if you take the vaccine before the pathogen gets to you. Otherwise the pathogen may outsmart your immune system.
Vaccines don’t exist for every disease causing organism. Hence you will need to practice the natural way as well. Similarly, it is not every pathogen that you encounter everyday but when they come, your immune system might take longer to eliminate them causing you to be ill for a longer period of time or the immune system might just not have the capacity to eliminate them at all. That is why you need to practice effective vaccination as well.
What happens to your immune system as you get older?
From childhood until adulthood, your immunity gets stronger. At adulthood, your immune system is at its peak since it must have encountered several pathogens or challenges and hence adults have the stronger immunity. However, as our body ages, so too is our immune system. It becomes weak, imbalance, deficient and responds more slowly. The elderly are at risk of contracting more diseases such as cancer, covid-19 or influenza because of this. Furthermore they are also susceptible to chronic inflammation and their bodies repond very slowly to vaccines.
All these are attributed to the fact that there is a drop in the production of immune cells necessary to produce an immune response as we grow older. Secondly, the elderly eat less. This means they are not taking in sufficient nutrients or vitamins necessary to maintain a healthy immune system. Lastly, physical or anatomical barriers such as the skin and its underlying tissues becomes weak and can no longer protect.
Luckily these ills can be controlled using immune boosters or dietary supplements in consultation with your doctor. Most importantly regular exercising is very important not forgetting frequent check ups with your doctor.
Immune System Disorders
The immune system is a complex system involving several cells or responses. Because of this it has the potential to fail or crash.
Immunodeficiency or immunosuppression occurs when the immune system is compromised and does not work properly anymore. These will expose your body to all kinds of diseases and illnesses. This is how the HIV virus kills his host. It fights your immune system and once it defeats it, you develop the disease called AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Once you get AIDS your immune or defense system is down and as such any kind of pathogen even the small players in the arena will infect you and cause diseases and off-course this will be your end if care is not taken. Nevertheless there are individuals whose immune systems are so strong that they will cause the HIV virus to self-quarantine for fear of the unknown. From this, you hear about people who have been infected by the HIV but never developed AIDS.
Apart from AIDS, immunodeficiency can also be caused obesity, alcoholism, aging or malnutrition. It can also be inherited.
This is when the immune system fails to distinguish between the body’s own cells and foreign or faulty cells. As a result, it unintentionally attacks healthy cells. Example of autoimmune diseases include type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Graves’ disease.
Here, the immune system abnormally overreacts to a foreign substance. Such an abnormal response can be life threatening. Example of hypersensitivity is anaphylactic shock. This can be cause by certain foods or by medication.