How do we build a stronger immune system, well, it can be done by tweaking a few things we do in our every day life. The way we look and the way we feel is often the result of our lifestyle, another factor is, of course, our genes (which we cannot change). I would like to help people who may be having an out-of-balance immune system get back on track by providing tips found from research by professionals in the field.
How Does Our Defense System Work?
There are two stages in which our immune response reacts to harmful bacteria and viruses. First stage is called innate immune cells. When they detect an invader the innate immune cells rush to the site of the infection and cause a buildup, also known as inflammation. The inflammation slows the invaders growth and can kill them as well, says Lewis Lanier, PhD, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at University of CA. If the innate system is not able to destroy the pathogens, the cells in the adaptive immune system take over (2nd stage).
How To Improve Our Defenses…
One way to improve the defenses is to stop smoking (if you’re a smoker). It is an ongoing irritation and the body remains in a continual state of inflammation that over-activates the immune system. This condition makes the immune system less effective and can cause many serious health issues, such as, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancers. Another way to improve the defenses is to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels. Dial down the sugary sodas, white bread, and starchy veggies, says Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic. High-Glycemic foods, on an empty stomach, causes bloodstreams to be flooded with glucose which makes both bacteria and cancer cells to grow rapidly. The growth leads the body to send out immune cells that produce inflammation. The way to slow the contents of glucose is to consume foods that slow the release of glucose. Eat a healthy fat 30 minutes prior to consuming a little sugar. Peanut butter, a handful of nuts, 100 calories worth will help with that. To fend off chronic inflammation in the brain and other parts of the body, consume tumeric and curcumin spices, foods with omegas 3,5,7,and 9, fatty acids like algae, avocados, flaxseed salmon, ocean trout, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Protect The GI Tract (gastrointestinal tract)
The gut is the host to 70% of our lymphocytes (mostly B-cells and T-cells, components of the adaptive immune system) says Sarkis Mazmanian, PhD, a microbiologist at the CA Institute of Technology. The lower GI tract is a major conduit for infection by pathogenic bacteria and viruses and needs a lot of protection. A way to fend off pathogens is to consume a balance of probiotic and prebiotic rich foods (live microbes). These kinds of gut bacteria help send signals into the bloodstream to enhance the capacity of neutrophils (kind of white blood cell). Probiotic supplements to add to foods and drinks include, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and GG, Lactobacillus casei DN 114-001. Probiotic Foods include fermented foods like certain cheeses, yogurt, and kimchi. Prebiotic foods include bananas, garlic, onions, kidney beans, and lentils which provide nourishment to benefit the good gut bacteria.
Get Rid Of Stress
Chronic stress throws the immune system off-balance. If the internal chemical, cortisol, is prolonged it shuts down the communication channels between the immune cells. When the Cortisol chemical shuts down the communication, it causes many pro-inflammatory proteins that induce further inflammation. Cortisol is the chemical that makes a persons pulse and breathe increase during short-term stressful situations which can mobilize protective immune cells, says Michael Antoni, PhD, professor of psychology and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of Miami. So how can we reduce stress? there’s cognitive behavioral stress management therapy, a professional can help sort out stressful situations thus reducing the level of stress. Journaling is another great way to relieve stress. The last and a proven fact is positive emotions, the AWE we feel in spiritual experiences and in the presence of nature or art, says Jennifer Stellar, Leader in study, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. An ‘awe’ people feel differs from person to person…just do something that’s uplifting and fruitful, something that brings out happiness and peace… and whatever that is, do more of it!
Eat Fatty Foods In Moderation
“Essential fatty acids are needed for the normal function of the immune system,” says lead author Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on aging at Tufts University. On the other hand, too much fatty acids can alter the structural properties of membranes of the immune cells, as well as, make other changes that reduce their ability to detect outside invaders, thus sending out incorrect signals that will mobilize other immune cells, causing a shortage of the immune cells. How do we improve the fatty acid intake?, by eating 4oz of mushrooms a day. shiitake mushrooms in particular help improve the function of immune cells, and change the proteins secreted by white blood cells from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory, says Susan Percival, PhD, professor of food science and human nutrition. Besides Mushrooms, ‘moderate’ consumption of alcohol enhances the immune system. (1 drink for women, 2 for men each day). It’s said that the ethanol and it’s metabolites cross the plasma membrane of immune cells and change the way their genes operate, which impact the way proteins are made and function, says Ilhem Messaoudi Powers, PhD, associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine.
Exercise And Sleep Cure
It’s no surprise regular exercise helps the immune function. Exercise increases the number of white blood cells in circulation (remember white blood cells defend our immune system.) 30-60 minute aerobic exercise 5-7 times a week can be a huge benefit for the body. Yoga is very beneficial to the body. Yoga for 15-20 minutes a day can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines… wouldn’t it feel great to not feel inflamed in the abdomen?! AND what about sleep? I’m sure we all know sleep deprivation impairs our immune system. Lack of sleep causes an increase in the famous pro-inflammatory cytokines, and at the same time, decreases the helpful T-cells. Any night less than 7 hours a sleep is considered too few and will heighten your risk of getting sick. If people suffer from insomnia get help from cognitive behavior therapy specifically for insomnia. Tai Chi, a gentle martial art, can also help calm the body and mind down.
I think it’s safe to say that harmful viruses and bacteria can cause a weak immune system inflammation and illness. The best way to support a strong immune system is to live a healthy lifestyle and be consistent with it. Exercise, eat certain beneficial foods, get enough sleep, be positive, and make sure it’s all in Moderation (well maybe over indulge in the positive AWE moments).