Threats to Immunity and How to Manage Them
Immunity and general health are closely intertwined. A compromised immune system can result in chronic or acute illnesses that are not only debilitating but can also be potentially fatal.
Immunity plays a big role in ensuring good physical wellbeing but other factors also contribute such as genetic predisposition and lifestyle. You do not need to spend a fortune to improve or restore your immunity and general health.
Infants, very young children and the elderly typically have weaker immune systems compared to other age groups. They are the ones who usually need dietary supplements such as multivitamins and minerals to aid their immune system. Dietary supplements can be taken as tablets, shakes or drinks. Some can be mixed as ingredients of regular food recipes.
The immune system is like an army that protects the body from pathogens like bacteria and viruses. When a pathogen enters the body, antibodies are activated and attack the invaders by either engulfing them and digesting them or disabling some of their specific functions like preventing them from reproducing or binding with cellular receptors.
Leukocytes or white blood cell are among the most important components of the immune system. They are the first line of defense and are mainly produced in the bone marrow and stored in the spleen and lymph nodes. Leukocytes are classified into two main groups: phagocytes and lymphocytes.
The first type literally eats and digest pathogens while the latter ‘remembers’ the specific strains of pathogens and automatically binds to them to prevent them from reproducing. Other sub-groups like the killer cells are responsible for destroying infected cells, thereby preventing the spread of infection.
Autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are another category of threat that is internal rather than external. Typically, genetic anomalies or hormonal imbalance causes the immune system to be hypersensitive and hyperactive that it attacks the body cells without provocation. This results in organ failure and other problems.
On the other hand, the immune system may also be compromised either because of age or genetic factors. For instance, old people have weaker immune systems because their bone marrow is no longer producing sufficient amounts of white blood cells. This is why they are typically more vulnerable to infections.
Immune deficiency may be inherently caused by genetic abnormalities that result in deficiencies in the production of T cells and B cells. Genetic abnormalities may also result in defective phagocytes. Congenital immune deficiency is not preventable since it is genetic but it can be managed with proper diet, hygiene, and vaccination.
On the other hand, immunodeficiency can also be acquired such as in the case of HIV infections either through sexual intercourse or blood contamination. HIV infections typically lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. Aside from leading to a weakened immune system, it can also trigger cancer growth.
Here are some of the ways you may be able to prevent and manage the threats to immunity.
Nutrition is fundamental to a person’s health and can affect the functioning of the immune system.
Your diet should be well-balanced with the right proportion of carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and meat (including seafood). The leukocytes, platelets, and neutrophils require amino acids that can be found in meat and vegetables.
Many of the co-factors, vitamins, and minerals found in healthful foods like broccoli and tuna are essential to boosting the immune system. You may take supplements if your daily diet does not provide sufficient micronutrients. If you are currently on medication, be sure to consult your doctor before taking any nutritional supplements.
The immune system can be compromised without proper hygiene.
Infants, young children and the elderly are particularly susceptible. The immune system of babies, for instance, may be delayed in development if they are exposed to dirty water or dirty air. Allergies may also become worse.
Simple hygiene routines should include regular bathing, brushing teeth, and regular washing of hands. You may also bring hand sanitizer or alcohol when traveling.
Physical activities help maintain the immune system by stimulating efficient metabolism. The leukocytes are replaced more regularly with new ones if you are physically active. Your lungs will also become more efficient in expelling bacteria.
Regular exercise promotes good circulation both of red blood cells and lymphatic cells. The tissues and organs are protected if blood circulation is efficient.
A sedentary lifestyle coupled with a stressful job is a sure recipe for weakening the immune system. When you are stressed, your body releases hormones such as prostaglandin and insulin that can weaken your immune system. Metabolic waste such as uric acid also accumulates.
You can reduce stress in several ways such as through regular exercise, massage therapy and taking breaks or holidays. You can also listen to meditative music or sounds. You may also try aromatherapy. Taking vitamin C and ferrous sulfate on a regular basis can help you reduce stress.
Sleep at least 8 hours a day
When you sleep, your cells are rejuvenated as routine cell damage is fixed. Through REM sleep (dreaming), your mind is also ‘decluttered’ in the process. Sleep is essential to the rejuvenation of the immune system as the rest of the body becomes less active.
Normally, you need at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep daily. However, if you cannot manage to have eight hours of straight sleep a day, you may do short power naps. If you are traveling to another country, you may experience jet lag and may need to sleep longer or shorter to adjust.
If your immune system is weak or you are unvaccinated, you should avoid being exposed to pathogens. You can avoid exposure to pollution and germs by wearing a face mask in public, especially when riding crowded public transportation such as trains and buses.
The value of prevention
Taking care of your health should primarily focus on the prevention of disease.
Your immune system is your main line of defense not only against communicable diseases but also against serious illnesses such as cancer.
You may not have control over your genes but you can do something about your diet and lifestyle as you strive to protect your health and that of your loved ones.
Gehana Kennedy is the owner of vitaminshop.ae, the go-to source for high-quality wellness products.