Immune Health Basics
Our immune system is our body’s first line of defense against disease, illness, and infection. This network of cells, tissues, and organs work together to fight back against invaders and battle rogue cells in the body - all to ensure it’s harder for them to get a foothold.
Our immune system is designed to kick into high gear at the first sign of attack from pathogens (i.e. bacteria and viruses) and even cancer cells.
However, what happens if our immune system doesn’t work as well as it should? What are the causes of a weak immune system?
And most importantly, how can we turn it around?
Understanding immune system health
A healthy immune system is a delicate balance between our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. This holistic way of looking at our body as a living system - one that can be fine-tuned and optimized - is central to understanding our immune system health.
If any one system of our body gets out of tune, it can disrupt the entire structure. This leads to an increased risk of infection, disease, and other symptoms like physical pain and fatigue.
Therefore, it’s important to understand the role that diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and natural supplements play in our lives when it comes to keeping our immune system healthy.
How to Boost Your Immune System
How to strengthen your immune system
There are three main ways to strengthen your immune system. You can try one method - or all three in combination - for the most transformational results. The three strategies are addition, subtraction, and supplementation.
Immune system health and diet
A diet rich in whole foods is one of the keys to excellent overall health. However, did you know that what you eat also influences your immune system as well?
Our body needs essential nutrients to function optimally. These must be provided by your diet.
Without these key nutrients - which include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and water - your body cannot respond efficiently to threats. Learn more about diet, micronutrients, and immune system health.
Immune system health and exercise
Moderate exercise is another way to maintain good health and to keep your immune system balanced. Research has shown that exercising for even as little as 20 minutes a day can boost our overall health and well being.
However, beware of too much exercise: it may have immunosuppressive effects. Learn more about the connection between exercise and immune system health.
Immune system health and sleep
Restful sleep each night is super important to keep our body’s healthy. This is because our immune system is negatively affected by lack of sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can make us more likely to get sick when exposed to viruses like the cold or flu. Lack of sleep can also affect how long it takes us to heal and recover.
While we sleep, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines - some of which are sleep-promoting. During sleep, other protective cytokines are produced as well. These cytokines include those that are expected to naturally increase when we have an infection, inflammation, or are under stress. If we don’t get enough sleep we end up lacking in these key protective proteins.
Additionally, the production of other immune cell warriors like infection-fighting antibodies and white blood cells decrease when we don’t get enough sleep each night.
Most adults need seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night to see any immune boosting effects. For teenagers, the number of hours needed can increase to 9-10. For younger school-age children, sleeping 10+ hours per night is needed in many cases.
Immune system health and stress
Life and work stress are two other factors to consider when evaluating what changes you can make to boost your immune system. Stress lowers our immunity and can make us more susceptible to disease and infection.
To improve your immune system health, consider making holistic lifestyle changes to improve the stressful habits and choices that may - quite literally - be making you sick!
Immune system health and natural supplements
Dietary supplements can also help ensure immune health. They can provide essential vitamins, nutrients, and other compounds that both meet immediate nutritional needs and supplement a healthy diet.