The immune system is a complex system of cells, tissues, organs, and substances within our bodies that help us combat infections and diseases. The major players in the immune system are white blood cells which fight off and kill invaders, and the lymphatic system which includes lymph fluid and organs like the thymus, lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, and bone marrow.
“That’s a whole lot of fancy words, Dr. Bree. But how does it work?”
I’m so glad you asked! Okay so boom.
There are two main parts of the immune system called innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is what we are born with, inherited from the mother during pregnancy. It is the body’s rapid response; when an invader enters the body, it works to kill it as quickly as possible. Adaptive immunity develops throughout our lives. While the innate immune system is busy killing off intruders, the adaptive system makes a memory of the bugs and creates specific antibodies against it so that whenever it is faced with them again they will be easily recognized.
There are other parts of the body which help defend the body against invaders. The skin secretes sebum, saliva, and tears which contain anti-bacterial properties. Mucus in the lungs traps microbes and little hairs (cilia) push the mucus upward so it can be coughed up. Acid in the stomach kills microbes in the digestive tract.
So now that we understand the system a bit more, let’s talk about how we can build up and support it:
Drink water – Hydration is key to maintaining a healthy body. Drinking adequate amounts of water helps to flush the body of toxins and unfriendly microbes.
Consume a nutrient rich diet – Micronutrients are the building blocks for immune system cells and proteins. These are found in whole foods like organic fruits, vegetables, and grains, as well as lean proteins.
Sleep – Our bodies heal when we sleep. During this time, many cellular processes important to immune health occur.
Move your body – When we exercise, it increases our body temperature. This alone helps to create an inhospitable environment for microbes. Moreover, when we sweat we remove toxins and impurities from our bodies.
Manage your stress – Unregulated chronic stress depresses immune function and increases the likelihood of infection. It also makes it take longer to recover from illnesses when we do become sick.
Supplement as needed – Supplements are used to SUPPLEMENT a nutrient dense diet. They are especially helpful during illnesses, as they can help boost the immune system and speed recovery. Some good immune boosting supplements include vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, elderberry, and goldenseal, to name a few.
There’s so much more to discuss when it comes to maintaining a healthy immune system. In this series, I plan to talk more about immune boosting foods, specific supplements, and even some recipes for meals that not only taste good, but are good for you! Hope you plan to stick around with me. Come get this health!