How can we support or boost our immune system during times of invasive diseases? One thing is for sure: the immune system is our best defense mechanism against aggressive viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeast, etc. that we come in contact with. It provides resistance and protection from environmental agents, including chemicals, to preserve the integrity of the body. This is done by the recognition of the invading organism, followed by a response from the body to fight it.
There are different kinds of white blood cells in our immune system: leukocytes, phagocytes, and lymphocytes.
- Leukocytes are colorless cells that circulate in the blood and body fluids and are involved in counteracting the effects of foreign substances and disease in the body.
- Phagocytes are divided into two groups. Some are capable of engulfing and absorbing invading organisms, and others make sure that the body responds to them.
- Lymphocytes are also divided into two groups: B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes. The first ones find, remember and send defenses to lock onto the invading organisms. They also help signal other cells (like phagocytes) to do their jobs. The T-cells are responsible for destroying the invaders that the B-cells find.
How it works:
When the body senses foreign substances, called antigens, the immune system works to recognize the antigens and get rid of them. B-lymphocytes are responsible for this task and are triggered to make antibodies. These specialized proteins lock onto specific antigens. The antibodies stay in a person’s body to help the immune system be ready to fight in case it encounters that antigen again. This is the reason why someone who gets sick with a disease, usually won’t get sick from it again. The information is always stored.
Although antibodies can recognize an antigen and lock onto it, they can’t destroy it without help. T-lymphocytes are the ones responsible for destroying antigens tagged by antibodies or cells that are infected or somehow changed.
We have three types of immunity: innate, adaptive, and passive:
- Innate immunity: everyone is born with natural immunity, which is a type of general protection. For example, the immune system recognizes when certain invaders are foreign and could be dangerous. The skin, as part of our immune system, acts as a barrier to block germs from entering the body.
- Adaptive immunity: adaptive and active immunity develop throughout our lives. We develop these when we’re exposed to diseases (bacterial and viral), germs, and to antigens in general.
Passive immunity: passive immunity is “borrowed” from another source and it lasts for a short time. For example, antibodies in a mother’s breast milk give a baby temporary immunity to diseases the mother has been exposed to.
Even though we count on all these cells of the immune system to protect and defend us from antigens, our immune system relies on us to give it specific vitamins, minerals, bacteria, water, sun, and movement to stay healthy and strong to perform its job.
Right now we are experiencing a period of time in which different kinds of infections like colds and/or the flu are floating persistently in the air. Below are some suggestions to strengthen and boost the immune system against them.
- First and foremost: every time you come into a place, wash your hands very thoroughly.
- Drink at least 1.5L of water every day.
- Eat fermented (probiotic) foods regularly.
- Eat prebiotic foods regularly.
- Eat anti-inflammatory foods regularly.
- Eat antioxidant foods regularly.
- Take vitamin D during wintertime or expose yourself, as lightly dressed as possible, to the sun for 20-25 minutes (light skin) or 40-45 minutes (dark skin).
- Consume magnesium-rich foods. If necessary, take it as a high-quality magnesium glycinate supplement.
- Consume zinc-rich foods. If necessary, take it as a high-quality zink glycinate supplement.
- Sleep between 7-9 hours (adults), or 9-12 hours (children). The best sleep quality we can have takes place between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. Nevertheless, deep, restorative, throughout-the-night sleep quality is necessary for the body to undergo processes like healing, absorption, cell reproduction, etc.
- Fresh air. Even if you are sick, open the window for 5 minutes and breathe some fresh air.
- Stay active. Move as much as possible!
And if you are traveling and would like to be very cautious, put a face mask on.