Our immune system does not get the respect it deserves. It works tirelessly to curb and fight foreign invaders (viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.) trying to get into our bodies; and keep infections at bay. Basically, anytime you have recovered from an illness or got rid of an infection, it was your immune system that did the heavy lifting.
How The Immune System Works
When the immune system registers an invader, it sends white blood cells to the scene of the crime to take care of business and overtake the bad guy. This is all well and good when there is only one battle to win and the immune system can send it biggest and best star players, but when your body is fighting multiple issues: a viral threat here; a chronic illness there; the side effects of a highly-processed diet, it can become too much for the immune system to handle. An overload of issues and not enough soldiers to wage war is a recipe for disaster. The immune system gets overwhelmed and cannot find available white blood cells to battle that bacteria that made its way into the system or heal the cut on your hand fast enough. It struggles to keep up with the incoming demand.
Although the immune system is a fighter, it wears down when faced with too much. Once we start piling on other factors such as lack of sleep; the unexpected stressors; the lack of movement; the granola bar for breakfast and sandwich for lunch situation, it becomes a lot to bear, and illness can come of that. The over burden on the system can lead to an imbalance in the body and this imbalance can make it hard for the immune system to do its job correctly.
That’s why it’s important to make sure we keep it in tip top shape. Keeping our immune system from needing to put out fires means it is ready to fight the big fight when it comes across a serious enemy. That’s why we need to make sure we are helping our immune system and not burdening it with an overload of issues to conquer.
Areas of Focus
Any help is better than no help at all. If boosting your immune system sounds irrational or too difficult to do, focus on making changes to these three areas. Even small steps can reap big rewards:
What You Eat
Sugar and processed foods can cause inflammation. Why? Because our bodies are not accustomed to eating red dye no. 4. Our white blood cells seek out to destroy these weird additions that the body does not register as food. As mentioned before, if the immune system is busy battling the unfamiliar red dye, it makes it easier for another invader – like a virus — to slip right in and attack.
A lack of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can also cause issues. Our body uses vitamins and minerals to help develop cells – including immune-functioning cells. A lack of micronutrients may mean less cells which lead to poorer cell function. Ensuring an adequate amount of micronutrients are consumed daily can boost the immune system greatly. So add more veggies to your plate to improve your immune system. Although any additions are beneficial, aim to get a variety of colors daily. This ensures you are consuming a variety of nutrients.
How You Move
Movement and the immune system go hand in hand. Not only is it a key component of overall health, but physical activity whether it be walking, biking, or even cleaning the house also gets the blood circulating, helping the immune system take care of business. Moving more doesn’t mean you must run a marathon (but if you must, you must!). Simple things like stretch breaks during the day or walking instead of driving to run errands can be enough to boost your body’s immune system.
How You Manage Life
Stress can affect the body in many, many ways and it has been shown to deplete immune function. Cortisol, one of the stress hormones can lower the amount of certain white blood cells, leading the body to have less soldiers in the war against invaders. Remember that we cannot changes a situation, but we can change how we react to it. You can work on looking at things from a new perspective, or try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing to ward off stress. Next time you find yourself stressed opt to change your thinking or habits in hopes of destressing – your health depends on it.