We live in challenging modern times, so maintaining a robust immune system is of utmost importance. Think of your immune system as being a shield that guards you against all of the bad elements out there. When it’s in top form, this immune shield is working to protect you 24/7 and you probably won’t even notice it.
The primary purpose of your immune system is to protect your body from bacteria and viruses. Weaker immune systems allow some of these bad elements to slip through the defenses, allowing them to wreak havoc on your body and cause a multitude of illnesses.
Your immune system is constantly parsing through everything in your body and one of its main jobs is to distinguish between your body’s natural cells and any harmful intruder cells that don’t belong there.
If you’ve ever wondered what exactly your immune system does and why it’s so important, then this article should help to shed some light on things.
A Healthy Immune System
A properly functioning immune system can help you to safely go throughout your day as you come into contact with all sorts of germs—which can come from waste, animals, people, and your environment.
Your body’s first line of defense is its physical barrier (mainly your skin). If particularly potent forms of bacteria and viruses manage to get through this then your body activates specialized cells that spring into action. These white blood cells are contained within your bloodstream and certain areas in your body (such as your gut). Ideally, they hunt down and destroy any bad actors they encounter.
Sometimes our immune systems overreact and attack our body’s own cells—such as in the case of autoimmune diseases or allergies. That’s why whenever people donate organs or blood, they must ensure that everything matches up.
While it’s easy to take your immune system for granted, if you don’t take care of it, it could have problems taking care of you. And without respecting your body’s defense mechanisms, you can become afflicted with infections and diseases that can lead to permanent disabilities and even death.
Water, Water, Water
Simply put, water plays a crucial, yet underrated role in maintaining many important roles in your body, and that includes maintaining a robust immune system. Within your circulatory system, there’s a specialized fluid called lymph that transports vital immune cells to various locations in your body.
When you’re properly hydrated, these cells can move around quickly and hence, be more effective. But if you become dehydrated, your immune system can become compromised since your body’s immune cells become more lethargic—as if moving through molasses.
Most people assume that your body mainly loses hydration through rigorous exercise or sweating (such as in a sauna or hot weather) but depending on your climate and activity, you lose the most water reserves by urination (60 percent), and the second most through breathing (28 percent), and a smaller amount through defecation (6 percent).
In order to replace the water that your body has lost, the Institute of Medicine recommends men drink about 130 fluid ounces (3.7 liters) of fluid per day and women about 95 ounces (2.7 liters) of fluid per day.
Eat Healthful Food
As with most things health-oriented, balance is the key. With nutrition, that means a balanced diet that includes lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and whole grains.
A healthy diet is crucial to maintaining a strong immune system. Eating lots of nutritious foods can help to supply your body with vital vitamins. While your body can produce many vitamins, there are some that can only be obtained through the foods you eat. And three of these are essential to your immune system. Fortunately, they are readily available at your local supermarket or farmer’s market.
Vitamin C is one of the best vitamins you can give your body to boost your immune system. Luckily, it’s one of the most readily available as well.
Foods that are loaded with vitamin C include strawberries, oranges, blueberries, broccoli, spinach, and kale.
A lack of vitamin C can lead to getting ill much more often than usual. Vitamin C is one of the cheapest available antioxidants that you can supplement with if necessary.
Vitamin B6 is responsible for triggering numerous important biochemical reactions in your body. It’s also vital to transporting oxygen throughout your entire bloodstream and is involved in complex processes such as proper brain development.
If that weren’t all, this invaluable nutrient is important in helping you to maintain a healthy nervous system as well.
Foods rich in vitamin B6 include bananas, potatoes (with skin on), chickpeas (which can be found in hummus), green vegetables, chicken, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is crucial in preventing free radicals from damaging your cells. Free radicals are reactive molecules produced by chemical reactions within your body but can also come from outside elements such as air pollution and cigarette smoke.
Great sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds peanut butter, spinach, and leafy green vegetables.
A regular exercise regimen isn’t just good for building up muscles, it can also boost your immune system and help you lower stress levels.
Exercise supports immune function by increasing your overall blood circulation, which in turn helps immune cells travel to infection sites.
If you’re just starting out, try exercising for 30 minutes, two to three times a week. As you get more comfortable, you’ll want to aim for 2 1/2 hours of exercise per week, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
It’s important to note that all of the above lifestyle changes may take some time to adjust to. Changing your diet and habits is no small feat. In other words, it’s not an overnight thing. These healthful habits can make your immune system stronger over time. Therefore, don’t expect to eat a bowl of greens and be able to avoid catching a cold that particular day. Please be patient with yourself.
But when you’re feeling vibrant and full of energy, pat yourself on the back and thank yourself for maintaining a healthy immune system.