A person with a strong immune system may fight infections more easily than others. We could all do with being as fit and healthy as possible at the moment, and a strong immune system would be a good place to start. So how do you boost your immune system? Express.co.uk has put together a list of ways.
What is the immune system?
Patient.info is a reliable and trusted clinical information site put together by a network of doctors and healthcare professionals.
The site has provided the public with a leaflet that gives a brief overview of the immune system and how it works.
It says: “We are surrounded by millions of bacteria, viruses and other germs (microbes) that have the potential to enter our bodies and cause harm.
“The immune system is the body’s defence against disease-causing microbes (pathogens).
“The immune system is made up of non-specialised defences such as your skin (acting as a barrier) and strong acid stomach juices.
“However it also has some highly specialised defences which give you resistance to particular pathogens.
“Another name for this resistance is immunity. These defences are special white blood cells called lymphocytes.
“Other types of white blood cells play an important part in defending your body against infection.
“The lymphatic system is also part of the immune system.
“The lymphatic system is made up of a network of tubes (vessels) which carry fluid called lymph. It contains specialised lymph tissue and all of the structures dedicated to the production of lymphocytes.”
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How does the immune system work?
According to the website, the first line of defence against infections is your body’s skin and mucous membranes.
It explains: “If pathogens manage to get through these barriers, they encounter special white blood cells present in your bloodstream.
“There are different types of white cells, called neutrophils (polymorphs), lymphocytes, eosinophils, monocytes, and basophils.
“White blood cells travel in your bloodstream and react to different types of infection.
“These might be caused by bacteria, viruses or other pathogens.
“Neutrophils engulf bacteria and destroy them with special chemicals.
“Eosinophils and monocytes also work by swallowing up foreign particles in your body. Basophils help to intensify swelling (inflammation).
“Inflammation is part of your body’s immune response.
“Damage to your tissues causes the release of different chemicals into your blood.
“These chemicals make blood vessels leaky, helping specialised white blood cells get to where they are needed.
They also attract neutrophils and monocytes to the site of the injury.
“This helps to protect against a bacterial infection developing.”
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How to boost your immune system
An article by Harvard’s Medical School was updated on April 6, 2020, in light of the recent situation.
It essentially says that the idea of boosting your immune system hasn’t fully been proved.
It explains: “The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons.
“The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity.
“To function well, it requires balance and harmony.
“There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response.
“For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.”
However, that doesn’t mean a healthy lifestyle won’t set you in good stead.
It adds: “Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
“Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies…”
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The article suggests taking up he following habits to keep your immune system functioning as it should:
• Don’t smoke.
• Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
• Exercise regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
• Get adequate sleep.
• Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
• Try to minimize stress.
What foods should I eat to boost my immunity?
A healthy immune system needs to be nourished regularly, and people who are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious disease.
However, the article says scientists aren’t sure if the increased rate of disease is caused by malnutrition’s effect on the immune system.
It adds: “There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals, as measured in the test tube.
“However, the impact of these immune system changes on the health of animals is less clear, and the effect of similar deficiencies on the human immune response has yet to be assessed.”
If you think your diet isn’t filling you with all the goodness you need, you could taking a daily multivitamin.
How to boost your immune system: It’s unlikely that taking a load of supplements will do any good
Will supplements boost my immunity?
One scroll on social media will have you thinking you need to guzzle down a load of vitamin supplements daily to be able to function properly. However, this is simply not the case.
The article explains: “Walk into a store, and you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to “support immunity” or otherwise boost the health of your immune system.
“Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease.
“Demonstrating whether an herb — or any substance, for that matter — can enhance immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter.
“Scientists don’t know, for example, whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.”
Will exercise boost my immunity?
While exercise doesn’t directly boost your immunity, regular exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system.
The article reads: “Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases.
“It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.”
Don’t over-do it, though, as too much exercise of a high intensity may actually reduce immunity.