Your immune system is in a battle every day. That’s its job. Your immune system defends you against disease-causing microorganisms, but sometimes it fails and you get sick. And, as you age, your immune response capability becomes reduced. Others with underlying health conditions – like those fighting cancer — may also have a compromised immune system.
You’re protected by a coordinated defense. Cells, proteins, and chemical signals join forces against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens. And your immune system also helps in wound healing, cellular and tissue turnover, and repair.
A healthy, functional immune system is a complex machine. It contains many layers, subsystems, tissues, organs, and processes. But a basic understanding can help you see what you need to maintain healthy immunity.
Barriers to Entry
Imagine your body as a castle to be defended. The first layer of defense are your physical and chemical barriers. They’re the high, thick walls that turn away many intruders.
Your skin is the most obvious physical barrier. And it’s a good one. Your largest organ is a waterproof covering that protects you against pathogens. Skin’s construction, substances on the surface, and other compounds in deeper layers help it provide protection.
Skin does a good job, but there are other paths into the body. That’s why other physical barriers exist.
Your upper respiratory tract has tiny hairs called cilia. They move potentially harmful material away from your lungs. Your gut barrier blocks absorption of possibly harmful substances. And your excretory (bathroom) functions physically expel pathogens.
Mucus blurs the line between the physical and chemical. Whatever category you put it in, mucus is an effective trap for invaders. It’s produced by membranes throughout your body. This thick, gluey substance is your body’s sticky trap, grabbing microbes and not letting go.
Other chemical barriers include: tears, saliva, stomach acid, and protective chemicals produced inside of cells and in your blood.
Immunity in General: Your Innate Immune System
The innate immune system is sometimes called the non-specific immune system. This subsystem of your larger immune defense is loaded into your genetic code. That’s the innate, or inherent, part. And it provides more general protection, destroying any microbes that enter your body. That’s the non-specific part.
Your cellular defenses kick in if a pathogen survives your physical and chemical barriers—which could also be considered part of the innate subsystem. That’s where phagocytes (a specific type of immune cell) come in. These white blood cells act like guards patrolling your body and destroying invaders.
These cells are found throughout the tissues of your body. They kill pathogens through a process called phagocytosis. It’s complicated, but there’s a simple way to understand it.
Phagocytes eat the invading microbes. They were named phagocytes for a reason—phago comes from the Greek for “to eat.” Phagocytes ingest or engulf the invaders. While trapped, several killing mechanisms are deployed to destroy the pathogen.
Some phagocytes have receptors that distinguish between healthy cells and potentially harmful substances. (They also deal with turnover of dead and dying cells.) Other pathogen eaters are chemically signaled to sites where they can be most useful. Phagocytes even help with the cleanup and repair after the invaders are destroyed.
Your adaptive immune system is like an immunity database. After encountering a specific pathogen, you have immune cells that can recall the best way to destroy it. That’s why it’s also referred to as specific or acquired immunity.
The original pathogen exposure can be intentional or accidental. That doesn’t matter. A normal, healthy response starts with an antigen. Think of an antigen as the bar code of each cell. Just like every item in the grocery store has a unique bar code, each cell type has a unique antigen code to identify it.
These antigens—mostly proteins—can also identify pathogens. Our immune system has learned to read these antigen codes. When they recognize something as being foreign, they initiate an immune response.
Each unique antigen triggers the creation of a unique antibody. The y-shaped antibody binds back to the corresponding antigen and marks the invader for attack by other immune cells. Some antibodies can even take care of business for themselves.
Lymphocytes (another specific type of immune cell) are the main cells involved in your adaptive immune system. Two types of white blood cells—T and B cells—are produced in your bone marrow. They can attack and kill pathogens on their own, or assist other white blood cells in the responses.
T and B cells form the basis for your body’s immunity memory bank. B cells present antigens and create and release antibodies. Memory T cells—those that survive previous attacks—quickly and effectively respond to known pathogens. Together, they help your immune system efficiently and effectively destroy known bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens.
Defend Your Immune System
Above, you’ve read about the way a normal, healthy immune system functions. But your defenses can be impacted by your environment, diet, stress, sleep, travel, and other lifestyle factors.
Healthy immune function is a whole-body effort, and maintaining it takes a holistic approach. Here’s a few things that can help:
- Get at least seven hours of sleep a night—and avoid pulling any all-nighters.
- Exercise regularly to promote memory cells, enhance skin immunity, and mobilize immune cells.
- Minimize stress as much as possible or practice healthy coping strategies, like exercise.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to provide essential micro- and macronutrients and important phytonutrients. A healthy diet (that includes healthy amounts of fiber) will also provide your microbiome with what it needs to maintain good gut barrier function.
- Practice good hygiene, including frequent handwashing, so your body doesn’t have to deal with as many pathogens in the first place.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exerted a heavy toll worldwide—especially on healthcare professionals on the front lines fighting the virus. As physicians, you are at greater risk of illness due to viral exposure and long hours caring for sick patients. Taking steps to protect yourself by boosting your immune health are absolutely warranted.
Here are some tips to boost your immune system and help battle COVID-19:
- Stay active – Exercise causes your body’s antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly. Stress hormones
- are also lowered by being active, which reduces chances for sickness.
- Watch your diet – Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds to provide your body with the nutrients your
- immune system needs.
- Keep calm – There’s a link between your immune health and your mental health. A daily exercise routine or meditation,
- reading or watching light-hearted movies may help.
- Get your Z’s – Sleeping is a natural immune system booster. If you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces stress
- hormones that can suppress your immune system. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
- Catch some rays – Sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels link to a greater risk of
- respiratory infection.
- Drink less alcohol – It may be tempting to try to lift your spirits with the liquid kind, but too much can impair the
- Get Enough sleep – Sleep and the immune system are old friends that have been linked since time immemorial.
- immune system and increase vulnerability to lung infections.
Remember, take care of yourself by following these simple tips and your immune system will help take care of you.
How to stay active ?
Physical activity can give your immune system a great boost in a myriad of ways. Researchers have shown that exercise improves the immune and metabolic systems. Regular exercise increases your body’s production of antibodies and T-cells, causing them to circulate more rapidly. Plus, it helps expel toxins from your body, which can energize your cells and metabolism. Regular exercise also lowers your body’s stress hormones—including adrenaline and cortisol—which gives your immune system added strength.
Even sweating is good for immune health. When you sweat, your body reacts much like it does when you have a fever. By raising your body temperature, you are helping your body kill pathogens.
According to a recent study, exercising at least 5 days/week reduced the risk of getting an upper respiratory infection by nearly 50% compared with being sedentary. This exercise regimen also made symptoms less severe—by 32% to 41%—depending on one’s physical fitness level.
Take a walk or go for a run–just be sure to keep that 6-foot distance. Go outside and garden. Watch and follow workout videos on YouTube. Lift weights in the basement. Find something to get your body moving and your immune system in tip-top shape.
How to watch your diet ?
One of the keys to a healthy immune system is eating right. The gut and the immune system are inextricably and symbiotically connected. When things are right in the gut, all is well with the immune system. So, it should come as no surprise that eating healthy foods leads to a healthy microbiome, which leads to a healthy immune system that can help fight off infection faster.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, may be one of the healthiest diets in the world. In a recent study, following a Mediterranean diet plus taking a daily vitamin D supplement (400 IU) for 1 year led to small increases in the number of circulating immune cells like T-cells.
Eat healthy and whole foods when you can, and try to include a “rainbow” of colors, which is a good way to ensure that you’re getting key vitamins and nutrients in your diet. It’s also a good idea to include fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, and kefir in your diet. These are prebiotic foods that “feed” the good bacteria in your gut. On the flip side, aim to limit your intake of meats, processed foods, and fried foods, which are inflammatory.
How to get enough sleep ?
Get enough sleep. Sleep and the immune system are old friends that have been linked since time immemorial. Sleep reboots your mind and your body, so it’s no surprise that it also reboots your immune system. Not getting enough sleep causes your body to increase its production of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. This elevation in stress hormones doesn’t just keep you awake—it also puts stress on the immune system.
In one study, researchers found that getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night can make you 4 times less likely to catch a cold compared with less than 6 hours per night. In another, researchers studied sleep duration among twins. and found that the twin who got less sleep had a depressed immune system.
How much sleep you need varies according to your age. The Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep for young adults and adults (18-64 years), and 7 to 8 hours of sleep for older adults (≥ 65 years).
Healthy Eating Supports Your Immune System
A variety of nutrients are essential to a strong immune system and can help fight off illness and other health problems.
Protein is especially important for healing and recovery. Some protein foods include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Foods full of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots and eggs.
Vitamin C supports the immune system by forming antibodies. Choose citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit and tangerines), red bell peppers, papaya, strawberries and tomato juice.
Vitamin E works as anti-oxidant to support immune function. Sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils (sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts and peanut butter provide vitamin E.
Zinc supports the immune system and helps wounds heal. It can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans, seeds and nuts.
Other Nutrients including vitamins B6 and B12, copper, folate, selenium and iron also play a role in a healthy diet.
More tips for better immune health
Besides exercising regularly, eating right, and getting enough sleep, here are some other tips to stay healthy while you are under quarantine or actively battling COVID-19 in the nation’s hospitals and clinics:
Practice good hygiene. Follow the quarantine protocols put into effect in your city and state. Wear personal protective equipment, especially if you’re working in a hospital or seeing patients suspected of infection, as directed by the CDC and other health organizations.
Keep your mind active. Read books, learn a new language, catch up on the latest in medical news and research that you may have been neglecting, or that stack of medical journals on your desk that have been collecting dust.
Spend at least 30 minutes per day outdoors. According to a recent study, people who spend at least 2 hours per week outdoors are more likely to report that they are in good health both physically and psychologically.
Can USANA products help me to boost my Immune System ?
Sure. You come to the right places. We have a lot of USANA products to help you to boost your Immune System. Please check following Immune Health to check our Immune products.