What is the immune system?
The immune system is made up of several different cells and proteins, the job of this network is to defend the body against disease and infection. To do this the immune system uses several different processes;
- White blood cells
- The complement system
- Lymphatic system
- Bone marrow
Each component has it’s own job to do in the human body when it comes to defending itself against the world. Without our immune systems we would have a hard time fighting off sickness and disease so it is a good idea to look after it!
By keeping an eye on your diet and maintaining a healthy exercise routine you can help maintain a strong immune system.
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How does the immune system work?
For the immune system to work each of it’s components needs to be working properly, each of these have a specific job to do and therefore have specific needs.
White blood cells are the foot soldiers of the defence system. They are made in your bones, or more specifically in your bone marrow, they move through your body looking for foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
If a white blood cell finds one of these, it will prompt the body into an ‘immune response’ and call the other aspects of your immune system into action!
One of the immune responses is to release Antibodies, these detect foreign poisons in the body and mark them for destruction. The destruction is carried out by a complex array of proteins and chemicals.
The network that helps the immune system function is called the Lymphatic system. This network is made up from lymph vessels and lymph nodes that transport white blood cells, manage fluid levels, removes unwanted toxins & absorbs some of the fats from the intestines.
To help filter the unwanted products from our body we have the Spleen. It removes things like damaged blood cells and microbes, anything it cannot remove it may destroy. The spleen also creates vital disease fighting components needed in the immune system like including antibodies and lymphocytes.
Bone marrow is used for creating new cells vital to the bodies functions. Within the spongy contents of your bones red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are created and absorbed into the blood stream.
Last but not least and still and important key player in the role of our immune system is the Thymus. The thymus is composed of two identical lobes behind the sternum. It is used by the body to monitor your bloods content. It is also responsible for creating T-lymphocyte white blood cells.
So as you can see, supporting each of these roles is something that should be high on the list of every human being. The good thing is that it is not complicated to do and requires only a little extra effort on a daily basis.
What foods boost the immune system?
One if the easiest ways to boost your immune system is by supplementing your diet with immunity boosting foods. There are lots to choose from out there and most are found at your local food store. Some popular foods chosen for their immune system boosting properties are:
- Citrus foods such as grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes
- Red bell peppers
- Dark green or purple vegetables like broccoli
- Poultry -yum!
Many of these foods are high in vitamin c which promotes the growth of white blood cells. Others are high in other vitamin or mineral content that support one or more of the immune systems components.
This is one of the key lessons of maintaining a healthy immune system, it is by combining and varying different foods and exercise that you will maintain a strong immunity all around. There are also foods and behaviors out there that can negatively impact your health.
“There are tales told about foods out there that can boost a man’s immune system to resist every disease there is”… Whilst this is not strictly 100% true you can still avoid many ailments my looking after yourself. There are some foods that are known as “Super-foods”.
These are known to greatly boost the bodies immunity and immune responses, many of which have also been scientifically proven to do so. Super-foods include things like:
There are many more out there, some out there options too! But for the average human these are great for giving your immune system a super boost as well as taste OK. Keeping your gut topped up with friendly bacteria is also a great way to help maintain a healthy immune system, you can get this from things like yogurt, especially ones made from goats milk!
Immunity boosting vitamins?
In regards to giving your immune system a boost there are only a few vitamins you need to worry about, most of the foods we have covered contain one or more of these. There are other vitamins that also help certain aspects of the bodies immunity, but not as much as these:
Vitamin C is the key to maintaining your health, the body cannot store vitamin c so a regular intake should be maintained. The key reason to the importance of this vitamin is that it is crucial in the development of white blood cells.
Vitamin B6 is vital to the functioning of the immune system. It is responsible for supporting biochemical reactions, the body needs B6 in order to absorb vitamin B12 which it uses to make red blood cells and other cells for the immune system.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, a powerful one at that. Like other antioxidants vitamin E helps protect cells from damage caused by any free radicals that may be circulating in your system. Vitamin C supports vitamin E by offering protection against oxidative stress-induced cellular damage.
How to improve nutrient & vitamin absorption
Sometimes curing a nutrient or vitamin deficiency is not as simple as popping a vitamin pill. Not only does evidence point to supplements being less effective than first thought, science has discovered that just because its in your gut, doesn’t mean it will get absorbed.
To make sure your body is in a fit state to absorb nutrients efficiently you should maintain a few things;
- A good and varied diet with lots of vegetables
- Exercise regularly to keep your metabolism going
- drink enough water on a daily basis
Absorption of nutrients into the bodies blood stream can be negatively effected by ignoring any one of the above. Medication may be unavoidable in some cases, this can cause issues and effect nutrient absorption in the gut. Alcohol has also been shown to reduce digestive enzymes leading to absorption issues.
You can boost your nutrient absorption by combining vitamin c rich foods with foods rich in iron, this helps the body absorb the iron more efficiently. The vitamins A, D, E, and K are only absorbed into the body when certain good fats are present. These fats are available in olive oil, flaxseed dressing, nuts seeds and avocado’s.
What can weaken your immunity to disease and infection?
With the modern world exposing humans to viral threats on an increasing basis it is a good idea to avoid some negative behaviours and food that will do you more harm than good. A strong immune system could be the difference between life and death if faced with something like the Coronavirus or Ebola.
We are not going to start food shaming you on your 1 burger a week habit. Something like that is a treat and can be very good, if not for the body then for the mind. If however, it turns to burger and chips every night, with 4 beers and a packet of cigarettes. Then we have a problem.
Some of the most common foods that compromise the immune system are;
- Soda / fizzy drinks
- Processed meals & food
- Refined carbohydrates like white bread & pasta
- Tobacco / smoking
This should not really come as much surprise to anyone, a diet based on the above should be obviously unhealthy to anyone. Studies have shown that sudden amounts of sugar can reduce someone’s immunity to sickness.
Whilst some of the above are OK as a treat every once in a while. There are other treats out there that taste and leave you feeling good like nuts, dark chocolate or dried fruits.
Stress and the immune system
Stress is a big contender to maintaining a functioning immune system. Too much stress will lead to a drop in your immune systems efficiency. This is because stress causes an increase in our nutrient requirement. Vitamins B, C and magnesium are hit particularly hard and when low can cause people to be irritable and fatigued.
Exercise regularly to boost immune system
Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day can really help your body deal with infections and diseases. By doing this you improve your cardio vascular health, lowers your blood pressure, improves your metabolism and protects you against a variety of diseases. It also improves your immune systems function.
Regular exercise helps blood flow, this in turn helps the body deliver your much needed cells and platelets to where they need to be. It also helps keep the flow in the production of new cells like white blood cells. Like anything, it is important to balance your exercise as too much will have the opposite effect on your immunity.
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables
- Avoid too much sugar
- Smoking and alcohol decrease your immunity
- Eat foods containing vitamins C, E and B6
- Exercise for 30 minutes per day
Did you know?
There’s a good reason this blog exists and it’s partly to do with how we live. things such as consumption & waste are some of our biggest problems.
Just as one example of innovative thinking that has proven effective is composting & recycling. They have both reduced waste massively in the UK, check out the statistics here.