Select a Topic
- What is the Immune System?
- Problems for the Immune System
- Immune System Support
- More Information on Immune System Support
What is the Immune System?
Every day, we are faced with a multitude of bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other dangerous pathogens (germs). However, our bodies are equipped with an effective immune system to ward off these threats. Without it we would be extremely vulnerable to illness, disease, and infection.
The immune system is essentially our key to good health, and comprises many different levels and functions. The outer barrier of our immune system includes our skin and mucus membranes. These structures are our body’s first line of defense, and are designed to keep bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that can cause our body harm from penetrating our systems.
The inner immune system is more complex. Our bodies are full of cells designed to fight disease by bonding with foreign entities and destroying them. Among the most well-known of these are lymphocytes, white blood cells, and T-Cells. These unique cells are what allow us to naturally fight and ward off serious infections. If functioning properly, strong immune system health should be able to fight off most disease.
Problems for the Immune System
Occasionally, a weakened immune system is caused by illness, lifestyle habits, or environmental factors. We also often find that certain times of the year and seasonal changes bring with them a wave of catchy illnesses or allergies that makes the immune system more vulnerable that usual.
Since prevention is always better than cure, it makes sense to support the immune system to guard against potential further health concerns, from the common cold to more serious illnesses like cancer. Drug treatments often rely on antibiotics, which do the work of our immune system for us.
The extended use of antibiotics can actually cause them to stop working effectively and can contribute to a weakened immune system. Since our immune system has relied on their assistance for so long, it has become weak itself, and therefore unable to fight off infections.
For our immune systems to flourish, we need to ensure that we care for both our physical and emotional health. Therefore it is essential that we adopt the necessary lifestyle, nutritional, and hygiene changes that help our bodies to function at optimal levels.
More Information on Immune System Support
Tips on Immune System Health
Here are some of the lifestyle factors that you can employ to keep your immune system in peak condition and able to ward off recurrent infections.
- Make sure that you get enough sleep – this means both an adequate quality of sleep as well as an adequate length of sleep. Sleep is one of the most important factors in immune system support.
- Ensure that you have a wholesome, nutritious diet rich in fresh fruits, and vegetables (preferably organically grown), whole-grains, legumes and natural oils.
- Exercise and keeping active is not only good for your body and your mind, but also helps to optimize immune functioning. In addition, regular moderate exercise will help to relax you and will also encourage healthy sleep. Not to mention, the more we move, the more our lymph is circulated - thus, the better this system can function.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being too thin or overweight can contribute to a weakened immune system.
- Stress is also bad for the immune system. While small amounts of stress can be beneficial, prolonged stress depresses the immune system. If you are experiencing anything like this it is important to treat it. Anxiety and depression can also compromise the immune system – a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.
- Laugh – the chemicals produced when we are happy have receptor sites on cells all over our body so happy minds can make happy, healthy cells
- Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand cigarette and tobacco smoke. The chemicals contained, even in secondhand smoke, all depress the immune system and have a negative impact on its functioning.
- Reduce exposure to germs. Practice good hygiene habits such as washing your hands before meals and after going to the toilet. Stay away from people who are sick and, where possible, keep your children in smaller day care centers or crèches.
- Avoid the excessive use of antiseptic and antibacterial soaps, sprays, and other detergents. While these may kill bacteria and other organisms in the short term, they also contribute towards the development of resistant strains of bacteria which at times can reach epidemic proportions. Use natural ingredients such as Tea Tree oil and certain aromatherapy essential oils. Do not keep children ‘too clean’. A certain amount of ‘healthy dirt’ is good for the immune system!
- We are surrounded by toxic chemicals and pollutants wherever we go, at home and in the environment. Where possible use safe non-toxic chemicals at home, in your toiletries and in your gardens.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure, as this can depress the immune system – this is why cold sores are so common after spending time in the sun. Sunlight is necessary to produce Vitamin D so don’t avoid it entirely, just be sensible about the time of day and length of time you spend in the sun, and wear sun block.
- Avoid the vicious antibiotic cycle. While antibiotics may be necessary in some cases, they are generally over-prescribed and used as a first option instead of a last resort. Try exploring natural health options, as there are many herbs with a long history of use that are well-known to strengthen different parts of the immune system.