The immune system is akin to soldiers. Both play a pivotal role as defenders and protectors. Soldiers defend and protect the homeland from the invading enemy. The immune system defends and protects our body from foreign substances and organisms. Researchers regard a deep connection between the strength of the immune system and the bodyís ability to resist infection and the growth of abnormal (cancerous) cell. Thus, it is imperative not to deplete the immune system but keep it strong and robust.
For a healthy immune system, the body should be supplied with appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Good sleep, stress-free life, moderate exercise also improves immune system in a significant manner. On the contrary, compromising on diet and rest, over-exercising and even over-exposure to ultraviolet rays can deplete the immune system which can make the body vulnerable to a host of illnesses and diseases. Find out ways to recharge a depleted immune system.
At any point of time, our body is exposed to millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, fungi, toxins and parasites. A healthy immune system will not let any of these invade the body and thus keeps problems ranging from a common cold to malignant growth of cancer at bay. The co-ordinate work of bone marrow, lymph nodes, and parts of the spleen, thymus, tonsils, proteins and cells in the blood that make up the immune system either keep the foreign invaders out or eventually destroy them. Even nasal hair, saliva, mucous membranes in the nose and throat, ears and eyes work together and bring about immunity.
So, how are the invaders kept out or destroyed?
- Immune system receives information about the invader.
- Recognizes and differentiates the invader - Either pathogens that cause infections like bacteria and virus or normal cells that mutate into cancerous ones.
- Begins to produce matching powerful antibodies.
- Destroys invader before leading to illness/disease.
Depleted immune system
It is normal for an adult to experience two to three respiratory infections in a year. But some are vulnerable to infections continuously. Clearly, these are signs of a depleted immune system. Because, vulnerability to infections or an allergic reaction follows as bacteria, viruses or toxins begin to overwhelm the body. The body is prone to rare infections and even cancers. Few other specific signs of a depleted immune system are:
- Permanent and constant fatigue, tiredness and lethargy.
- Presence of swelling in the glands
- Insomnia, dark circles under the eyes
- Allergic reactions (breathing problems, eye irritation, rash, nasal congestion or nausea or vomiting)
Depleted immune system causes
From not eating a balanced diet to too much of exposure to sunlight and even having prolonged negative emotions, there are many causes that contribute to a weakened or depleted immune system.
Exposure to sunlight: Even a moderate dose of exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun can cause damage to the immune system.
- Certain cells near the skinís surface, the Langerhans cells can get damaged or even killed. The Langerhans cells are the bodyís first line of defense for the skin.
- Ability of the skin to protect against invaders reduces.
- Too much exposure to sunlight increases risk of skin cancer, particularly melanoma.
Even exposure to chemicals and radiation are detrimental to the immune system.
Too much exercise: Research indicates that exercise can have a positive or negative role in improving or depleting immunity Moderate exercise can protect and enhance immune system while intense exercise can deplete immunity. As much as lack of exercise is detrimental engaging in intense exercises can reduce defense against bacteria and virus as the activity of cells that work as defenders can be turned down.
Effect of stress: Immune system gets affected, directly and indirectly by prolonged exposure to stress. Be it physical, mental or emotional pressure, the body responds by releasing stress hormones. In response there is an increase in blood pressure, speed heart rate and blood sugar levels. These changes in fact, help to face pressure with greater strength and speed. But over a period these coping mechanism can turn into triggers for health issues.
- Increased heart rate creates stress on circulatory system.
- Increased blood pressure is a major risk for coronary heart disease.
- Stress hormone Corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system.
Nutritional deficiency: Foods can support or deplete immune system. Intake of foods rich in protein, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, certain vitamins and minerals support functioning of a healthy immune system.
Protein: Malnutrition can wreak havoc on the immune system. Depletion of immune cells, inability of the body to make antibodies is associated with insufficient protein. Foods rich in protein content such as eggs, fish, shellfish and vegetables and grains are beneficial.
Vitamins: Almost all vitamins are essential for the immune system. Vitamins play either the defensive or offensive role.
Vitamin A: Provides the first line of defense by preventing entry of germs and bacteria into the body. Food sources include milk, butter, cheese and eggs, fish oils, mackerel, trout, chicken, liver, kidney. Orange, yellow and green vegetables have are rich in beta-carotene which is converted by the body into vitamin A.
Vitamin C: Plays the offensive line by being an immune stimulant. Vitamin C stimulates cells responsible for killing germs. It also provides antioxidant activity and supports healing. Sources include mainly all citrus fruits. Vegetables like fresh parsley, raw cauliflower, mustard greens are excellent sources of Vitamin C.
B vitamins: Energy boosting B-vitamins strengthen the immune system. Deficiency of B-vitamins directly impact and deplete the immune system. B vitamins can affect cell multiplication and antibody production.
Vitamin E: Cell protector, Vitamin E ensures that the cells do not get damaged. It also modulates immune imbalances and strengthens the immune system, especially as a person ages. Most of us get enough E in our daily menus and supplements are required only for the rare deficiency cases. Vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, like spinach, fortified cereals, eggs and nut (almonds and hazelnuts) have rich sources of Vitamin E.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency is quite common and is responsible for frequent colds and flu. Besides sunlight, food sources of Vitamin D include fortified foods and beverages such as milk, soy drinks, orange juice and margarine. Fish, liver and egg yolk have Vitamin D in its natural form.
Vitamin K : Most vegetables and wholegrain cereals are ideal sources of vitamin K. Also found in small quantities in meat, Vitamin K forms a defense against foreign invaders.
Zinc: Often we do not consume adequate amount of zinc in our diet. But zinc is required for optimal function of the immune system. Zinc is necessary for proper T cell function and natural killer cell function. Zinc-rich foods include beans, turkey, crab, oysters, beef, eggs, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are also good sources of zinc.
Poor diet: Canned drinks, crispy packed snacks may satisfy the taste buds but prolonged and excessive consumption of foods containing pesticides; chemical additives and preservative weakens the immune system.
Immune system gets depleted with added intake of toxic food items. Excessive consumption of alcohol increases sugar consumption and weakens the white cells that help kill bacteria. Likewise, smoking too depletes the immune system.
Lack of sleep: Good sleep is required for the immune system to rebuild and recharge. Lack of sleep weakens the immune system.
Dehydration: Consumption of water aids in eliminating toxins as well as illness from the body which in turn aids in optimal functioning of the immune system.
Obesity: Obesity can impair normal functioning of the immune system which explains why obese people are immunosuppressed. The immune system of obese persons is over stimulated and thus impairs the bodyís normal response to bacterial and viral infections.
Build your immune system
An always on alert immune system deserves all the care and attention so that you can live and enjoy a full life unmindful of the lashing rains, heavy snowfall or the sweltering heat. A holistic approach to nourishing the immune system means giving attention to nutritional as well as psychological aspects.
Get: good quality sleep, exercise, food, relaxation, positivity, love.
Avoid: harmful substances, stress or negativity.
Diet: Do not compromise on diet. Rather aim to bolster your immune system.
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fats, enzymes etc.
- Increase intake of fruits and vegetables to get antioxidants.
- Eat less saturated foods as it can suppress the immune system.
- Yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi abound in good bacteria that enhance immune system.
- Probiotic bacteria boost the immune system.
Sunlight: Taking a short walk, especially earlier in the day allows for some exposure to sunlight. In winter months, vitamin D supplement is essential. Cod liver oil is a natural source of Vitamin D.
Natural remedies: Antibodies are likely to suppress immune system. Certain herbs and spices are found to stimulate immune system. These are immunostimulants that help the body to resist infection during the initial stages of infection and if required during the duration of infection. Check ways to use these on a routine basis.
- Black pepper
Good habits: Hygiene eliminates bacteria and reduces risks of infection. Not just personal hygiene, attention to proper storing of food, cleaning food and a clean home is equally important. Taking appropriate safety measures while shopping for food items is essential as some foods can weaken the immune system if not made and stored in an appropriate manner.
Practice Safe Sex: If infected with HIV, the entire immune system can become defunct. Though HIV can enter the body through different routes, through the eye, oral, anal, vaginal or urethral, through the bloodstream via an opening in the skin, the chances of the virus to infect is most during sexual intercourse. Take precautionary measures to ward off even the remote possibility of being infected by the virus Human Immunodeficiency Virus that can lead to AIDS.
Specific supplementation: Supplements support immune system during a critical situation. Consult health care provider to assess the need for taking a multivitamin, particularly vitamin A as it plays a vital role in the health of the immune system.
Immunize: Most immunizations are completed during childhood. As aging depletes an otherwise healthy immune system, immunizations meant for adults reduce chances of infection. Check with physician for influenza vaccines, tetanus boosters shingles vaccine etc which help eradicate infectious diseases.
Extend chiropractic care: The nervous system and immune system work in integration. Neural dysfunction hampers healthy functioning of the immune system. Chiropractic care is a natural method of healing to rectify any aspect that deters the nerves from working properly.