Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been plenty of talk about how we can make sure our immune system is working at its best – which has led people to try everything from taking vitamin supplements to exercising regularly. Here’s why a healthy lifestyle may be key to fighting off bacteria and viruses.
How Does The Immune System Work?
The immune system is our body’s natural method of defense against disease and infection. It is activated by proteins on the surface of things that the body doesn’t recognize as its own. These are called antigens and they stimulate a series of immune processes which helps the body to ‘remember’ these antigens if exposed again in the future.
Antigens are found on the surface of bacteria and viruses. If the body is exposed again to the same antigen, the immune response is quicker than the first time and will help prevent symptoms. This is also how vaccines are effective as some may contain a deactivated form of the antigens in a virus. Vaccines are effective before exposure but the best way to help the immune system fight off infection is to keep it healthy.
How Can I Boost My Immunity?
Genetics does play a role in immunity as some people have natural immunity to things that others do not. However, it is possible to help your immune system by living a healthier lifestyle. Studies have shown that smoking has an adverse impact on the function of specific immune cells and can result in common smoking-related disorders such as COPD. A 2015 review published in Alcohol Research showed that alcohol increases the risk of pneumonia and impacts on certain immune cells called macrophages and neutrophils. Cutting down or cutting out the intake of alcohol and quitting smoking will increase the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease.
Natural Immune Boosters
Diet plays a large role in boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that the fiber found in apples, nuts and oats can change the behavior of the immune response from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory which promotes healing.
Additionally, the intake of Shiitake mushrooms can boost the immune T cells which recognize signs of infection and cancer. The spice turmeric has strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties thought to help fight colds and congestion. Similarly, zinc-rich foods are thought to be able to heal wounds and regulate the immune system.
The strength of the immune system relies on many factors including genetics, health, age and pre-existing conditions. However, those who live a healthy lifestyle are more likely to fight off infection and disease quicker. In addition to a healthy diet and cutting out toxins, exercise is also helpful for a happy body and mind.