What is immune system?
Our body has an inbuilt army of cells and proteins that protects us from infections. Infections like the cold and flu, bacteria, microbes, viruses, parrasites are all invaders that cause illnesses.
Our white blood cells, for example, are the sentries that can recognise the invaders, or microbes, and attack them before they multiply and lead to sickness.
Our immune system, thus, defends our body from invaders by identifying and attacking them and safeguards us from infections.
READ Immune system explained for a detailed study on immune system and how it works.
What damages your immune system
There are people who seldom suffer from cold and cough or any other viral infection, even during the monsoon, or when the virus is going strong. And on the other hand, there are some, who are always suffering from allergies.
This is because some of us have a stronger immune system, and in some cases, the immune system is too weak to defend the body from infections which results in frequent episodes of some sickness or the other.
A weak immune system could be so because of various reasons, such as:
- Immune deficiency, where a person is born with a weak immune system,
- A disease that weakens the immune system
- An overactive immune system that could arise out of an allergy
- An autoimmune disease such as diabetes, rheumatide arthritis, or lupus, which results in the immune system turning against us.
- Smoking and alcohol which also damage the immune system apart from harming other organs
- An unhealthy lifestyle which lacks proper diet and nutrition as well as sufficient sleep and exercise
- Diseases like HIV/AIDS that destroy the white blood cells
- And, chronic stress that leads to a weak immune system which in turn increases stress-related mental health issues.
It’s a situation which requires a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet to change into a stronger system that will be better able to care for us.
Let us look at the 5 most common foods that help strengthen the immune system. Foods that are found easily and are present in our everyday meal preparations; foods like certain spices, vegetables and fruits that are packed with nutritients that help improve our chances at fighting infections.
Foods that improve immune system:
It is common knowledge that if you want to safeguard your system from cold and flu you should load up on vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C increases the amount of white blood cells that fight infections.
Fruits that are high in this vitamin are:
If you aren’t getting any vitamin C from its food sources, then it is important that you take vitamin C supplements. Our body cannot produce vitamin C and hence we need to outsource it! So, if not through food, then through supplements that provide the daily recommended amount of the nutrient.
One of the most common kitchen ingredients, garlic has been used not only for its taste, but also for its disease-fighting properties since ages. It contains sulphur-containing compounds that increase the white blood cells in our body which fight infections.
Garlic is also considered to be a blood-thinner and is prescribed to those who suffer from hardened arteries and high blood pressure.
Crush the garlic and leave it for a while before using it, either in cooking or before eating. This improves its disease-fighting properties.
After garlic, ginger is another herb that has been recognised for its medicinal properties. It is for this reason that we are adviced to include ginger in our everyday diet, especially when we suffer from a sore throat and nausea.
The gingerol present in ginger contains cholesterol-reducing properties as well as anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce chronic pain arising from rheumatoid arthritis.
Add some grated ginger to boiling water and have it first thing every morning to maintain a healthy immune system.
The golden yellow spice has been used in almost every kitchen since ages and is best known for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Whether you suffer from a sore throat, or sleeplessness, pain in the joints or nicks and cuts, turmeric is the go-to spice for instant relief.
Today, curcumin (from turmeric) in combination with piperine (from black pepper), has been added to the list of supplements that strengthen the body as well as its infection-fighting capabilities.
Yogurt contains live bacteria that encourages our immune system in its fight against infections. It also contains Vitamin D that improves our chances of beating infections. Including yogurt, especially home-made, or one without any artificial sugars or flavours works best.
Regular consumption of yogurt will keep cold and cough at bay, improve your digestive system, and also strengthen the bones.
Vitamin D and the immune system:
Vitamin D has known to be a bone vitamin. But it also strengthens the body’s chances at fighting respiratory infections.
A deficiency in this vitamin is found to cause respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia, severe respiratory tract infections and tuberculosis.
We get Vitamin D from sunlight and from food sources such as:
- Eggs yolks
- Fatty fish
- Codliver oil
- Tuna fish
- Fortified foods (milk)
If for some reasons you aren’t able to include these foods, or aren’t consuming enough of these foods, then you need to turn to vitamin D supplements. Check with your doctor for the best vitamin D supplements, the duration and the dosage.
In these times of COVID19, it would be beneficial opting for a vitamin D supplement apart from including the foods mentioned above. It could keep you safe from catching the infection!
How to keep your immune system strong:
Our immune system can be strengthened if we make the required changes in our lifestyle. Here are 5 ways following which one can definitely benefit and lead a healthier life.
- Nutritious food
- Vitamin supplements
- Healthy lifestyle
- Better sleep
- Reduce stress
Just like improving our overall health, maintaining our immune system also requires us to make certain changes in our lifestyle. It’s simple, really, but needs a lot of willpower, patience and some fastidiousness on our part.
5 simple ways to maintain a healthy immune system:
- Follow a healthy, nutritious diet every day. Include the above five foods in your daily meals, Look for simple recipes that are tasty as well as healthy so you can follow your diet religiously. Include vitamin supplements if you aren’t getting enough nutrition from the food you eat. Stay well-hydrated. Water is important for a healthy immune system, too!
- Begin an exercise regimen, if you haven’t already. Exercise boosts the immune system if followed every day. Moderate exercise of walking, or yoga should suffice.
- Give equal importance to your sleep. Our body requires sleep for our cells to repair and rejuvenate themselves every single day. Our sleep and our immune system are closely interconnected. If you aren’t getting enough sleep – 7 to 8 hours daily – you are bound to suffer from more infections and fall sick oftener. Switch off your gadgets at least an hour before bed time. Follow a fixed sleep routine–sleep and wake at the same time everyday.
- Learn to handle your stress. it isn’t easy, but there is help! If your stress isn’t manageable, please visit a counsellor, or a psychiatrist who can guide you on how to manage your stress. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system making the body susceptible to infections and illnesses. Include mindfulness activities even for half an hour during the day. Meditation works wonders, too, but can be difficult to master. Pursuing a hobby is a good alternative.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption.
Our immune system helps safeguard our body from various infections and viral attacks. But in order to maintain our immune system we need to follow certain rules. Making dietary and lifestyle changes goes a long way in achieving optimum health. Making healthy choices ensures not only a healthy body, but also a healthy defence system. The choice is yours!
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