The human body can withstand different dangers thanks to a wonderfully made immune system. Immunity is the mechanism by which the body recognizes threats when they are introduced into the body, and deals with them so that they cannot cause any damage or disease in the body.
The robustness of the body’s immunity system comes from the different organs involved working together to identify and eliminate threats. These organs are;
This gland is functional in childhood. It makes T-cells which are responsible for identifying malfunctioning cells and destroying them. This eliminates cells infected by pathogens and stops spread of the threat.
These organs act as filters of bodily fluids other than blood. These are the fluids that keep body tissues hydrated and functioning. The lymph nodes trap pathogens.
This is the organ that makes blood platelets which clot when the skin is wounded, to make it harder for pathogens to get through.
These act as early signalers of threats to the body.
This tissue in the bones makes defense cells actively in childhood. It acts as a store and multiplier system later on.
Functions of the immune system
The immune system protects the body against harmful foreign bodies. It reacts against threats like viruses, bacteria, and parasites. An active immune system is capable of handling most common threats like common colds.
Taking care of the immune system gives it a boost in developing a better capability to handle threats. Through nutrition and lifestyle habits, it is possible to keep the immune system functioning at high levels.
Immune system and cold
The immune system needs regular boosting to function properly especially during the cold season. Many people develop colds and flu during the cold season due to suppressed immunity. Production of Vitamin D is suppressed during the cold season due to the reduce sunlight hours. Usually, the body can make Vitamin D after exposure to the sun.
Research has shown that a daily dose of 300 units of Vitamin D given to children in cold climates can cut cold infections by half. In the absence of the sun, Vitamin D can be obtained by dietary means. Food rich in Vitamin D includes Fish and dairy products. Direct supplements of Vitamin D pills can also be taken to boost Vitamin D levels.
The functioning of the Immune System is affected by several factors:
- Natural exposure – cold and wet conditions are immune suppressors
- Nutrition- a balanced diet gives more nutrients such as Vitamin D that help the body build immune systems. A lack of protein can deprive the immune system of the important building blocks it needs to function optimally.
- Age – very young children and very old people are observed to have lowered immunity. It is highest in teenage and young adult years.
- Physical stress- wounding and injuries make the body more susceptible to entry of pathogens, while the body is distracted in dealing with the physical stress.
- Emotional stress – can cause the release of excess cortisol, which is immunosuppressive.
- Poor Digestion – can cause dysbiosis and inflammation which impacts the absorption of the nutrients the immune system needs
- Lack of exercise/ movement- impairs lymphatic drainage.
Also, some conditions and habits suppress immunity. Examples include malnutrition, diets high in fats and sugars, smoking, alcoholism, drugs, constant travel, and emotional stress. These factors suppress immunity by exposing the body to pathogens, encouraging the growth of these pathogens in the body or weakening the body’s ability to produce the immune cells necessary to fight the threats.
How to Improve Immune Function:
A balanced diet is essential for good immunity. Below are food sources for immune supporting nutrients:
- Vitamin C foods: papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, oranges, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower and kale
- Vitamin A foods: sweet potato, carrots, spinach, kale, mustard/ collard & beet greens, winter squash, romaine lettuce and bok choy
- Vitamin E foods: sunflower seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, asparagus, beet greens, mustard greens, chili peppers, almonds & broccoli
- Vitamin B6 foods: tuna, spinach, cabbage, bok choy, bell peppers, turnip greens, garlic, cauliflower, turkey, beef, chicken
- Vitamin B12: Sardines, Salmon, Tuna, Cod, Lamb, Scallops, Shrimp, Crimini mushrooms, Eggs, Yogurt
- Selenium: Tuna, Shrimp, crimini & shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, mustard seeds, turkey, cod
- Zinc: Beef, spinach, asparagus, shitake/ crimini mushrooms, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, garbanzo beans, lentils, cashews
- Folate: lentils, asparagus, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, beets, romaine lettuce, bok choy, cauliflower, parsley, pinto & garbanzo beans
Other Immune Supporting Tips:
- Get Moving. Walk inside on a track, go for a swim, or try an exercise class. Try and move every day.
- Get lots of rest. Ensure your body gets the sleep it needs. Attempt to get in those 8 hours during the winter months
- Improve digestion and beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can involve slowing down and chewing your food, do not eat while driving, and take probiotics as required.
- Address mental and physical stress by including self-care into your daily routine. To learn more check out the article on Self-Care and 8 Ways to Reduce Stress.
- Explore the world of essential oils. Many people have discovered relaxing and health supporting benefits with oils.
- Add Vitamin C, Vitamin D, or a good quality Multi-Vitamin during the winter to give your immune system extra support.
- Dr.Rhead, Brenda. (2015), Nutritional Pathology.