Everyone hates getting sick. Not only can it bring productivity to a scorching halt, but it can be mentally draining having to meander around with little energy wishing that your full health would be restored. The congestion, the frailty, the genuine discomfort; how would you like to decrease your chances of falling ill? Let’s start by understanding your immune system.
What is an immune system?
The immune system is the primary defence system a body has to fight against infections.
How does it work?
When the body senses foreign entities called antigens, the body works to recognize and get rid of them. It’s almost as though the immune system is a security company preventing intruders from entering your home and the intruders are antigens.
If I strengthen my immune system will I prevent infection?
Unfortunately nothing will outright prevent you from getting an infection. That’s almost like asking will getting a security company prevent me from a break in. Like criminals, infections can also be quite crafty and some are smarter and stronger than others. However, strengthening your immune system substantially decreases the likelihood of getting an infection, decreases the severity of the infection and decreases the time it takes to recover from infection.
How do I strengthen my immune system?
Here are some tips for strengthening your immune system:
1. Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is absolutely crucial for fighting infection.
Harvard’s Women‘s Health Watch published by the Harvard Medical School suggested,
“- sleep deprivation or sleep deficiency has been linked to a decrease in cardiovascular health in the form of hypertension, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat.”
While also citing that:
“Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body's killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.”
If the body is constantly fighting other ailments, it makes it increasingly difficult to fight against new antigens. The average adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night and this varies from person to person. Children and teenagers need even more than this average in order to keep the immune system and other bodily systems healthy.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the least appreciated vitamins for sustained immune system function. As per a healthline article written by Franziska Spritzler, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide suffer from low levels of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to:
• muscle weakness
Here are some examples of foods rich in vitamin D:
• cod liver oil • swordfish
• egg yolks
• beef liver
• canned tuna
The average persons daily intake of vitamin D should be approximately 600IU per day. To put that into perspective, canned tuna is 150IU per 4oz serving. Essentially you would need 16oz of canned tuna per day to reach the daily intake.
Now, obviously eating that much canned tuna sounds repulsive.
In the article, The Sun Is Your Best Source of Vitamin D, written by Ryan Raman, he cites a study out of Oslo, Norway which states that midday summer sun was equivalent to consuming between 10,000 IU- 20,000IU of vitamin D for 30 minutes.
Obviously I’m not instructing you to negligently bake out in the sun all afternoon. However, take advantage of our biggest source of vitamin D by applying sunscreen, wearing a hat and glasses and trying to limit prolonged exposure.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine states in an article about exercise and immunity,
-“Exercise helps decrease your chances of developing heart disease. It also keeps your bones healthy and strong.”
It’s reasonable to conclude that the stronger each and every bodily system is, the lesser risk of developing any disease or illness is.
There are several theories regarding how exercise may increase immunity:
Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.
Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body's immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. However, no one knows whether these changes help prevent infections.
The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. (This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.)
Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones. Some stress increases the chance of illness. Lower stress hormones may protect against illness.
Ultimately there are many things that both increase and decrease the likelihood of acquiring both. Personally, I feel a lot better doing my due diligence and optimizing overall bodily functions.
Importance of Sleep : Six reasons not to scrimp on sleep - Harvard Health Publishing
8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency Written by Franziska Spritzler
How to Safely Get Vitamin D From Sunlight written by Ryan Raman
Exercise and Immunity - U.S. National Library of Medicine