The immune system is as it states, a system, not a single entity, meaning that it requires balance and harmony to operate at optimal potential.
Our immune function is highly complex and intimately connected to every aspects of health. POW food have curated an 'Eat To Support Your Immune Function Speciality Box' with the help of Samatha Bourne Registered Nutritionist, Author and Therapist, DipNT, NTCC, CNHC and our fantastic chefs. It has been designed to provide an abundance of immune supportive antioxidants and nutrients so you can ease through life with more time and less hassle.
*Vegan option available*
The immune system is made up of a complex network of cells, proteins, and various organs that help prevent and fight off infection, as well as protecting the body from harmful substances. When it detects foreign or potentially harmful disease causing microbes (germs) in the body it swiftly works to defeat them. It intelligently stores information and records every microbe it has previously destroyed so it can adapt and recognise it in the future.
When the immune system struggles to kill off harmful infection, because it is either particularly strong or hasn't encountered it beforehand, it can create symptoms in order to ease the process. When we suffer from a fever, or rise in body temperature, this is in fact an immune response; heat can often kill infection whilst additionally triggering the body's repair process. Pretty nifty right?
Some people suffer with a weakened immune system due to certain underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, to name a few. This happens when the immune system is overworked and has to use its energy elsewhere. Therefore, those who endure these conditions are more likely to develop more severe states of infections more frequently than those without such issues.
Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, stress and other factors on the immune system. Although there is not a single answer, solution or pill to boost your immune system, there are a variety of things you can integrate into your daily routine and lifestyle which have the capacity to protect your immune cells, and potentially have a substantial effect on your likelihood to defeat infection.
When you choose a healthy lifestyle, you are taking pressure off the immune system as every part of the body functions more optimally when unnecessary stressors and personal/environmental assaults are avoided.
Let’s look at a few activities and habits which you can incorporate into your daily/weekly routine to accelerate your body’s immune system.
Physical activity is as we know a great way to lose weight, build muscle, and de-stress, but it is also a vital part of improving your all-round health and supporting a healthy immune system. Exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure and boosts circulation, making it easier for infection fighting cells to travel more sufficiently through the body.
- Cut the vicious vices
Specifically, smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer but can also exaggerate pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and the common cold. Additionally, smoking can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The immune system is under mass stress due to constant inhalation of cigarette smoke. Nicotine is also known to be immunosuppressive, meaning it can lead to discretion in cell activity and signaling, therefore affecting the ability to kill pathogens and infection. Smoking also triggers tissue destruction and inflammatory agents that lead to persistent inflammatory syndrome.
We know that smoking is thought to be the hardest habit to kick due to its substantial effect on dopamine receptors, however it has one of the largest impacts on the function of the immune system, aside from its additional adverse effects.
As with most things regarding the body, diet plays a key role in the immune system functioning. 85% of immune tissue resides in the gut, and our beneficial microbes are fierce protectors and inflammation modulators. A healthy, well balanced diet provides your immune system with the energy it needs to work at an optimal level. Fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats are all vital dietary components to create immune resilience. Using adequate high-quality animal or vegan protein makes all the difference as protein is the main component of immune cells and immune makers.
Studies reveal that deficiencies in zinc, copper, iron, selenium, Vit A, C, D, E & B6 can alter the immune responses. Experts believe that the body absorbs vitamins and minerals more efficiently from dietary sources as opposed to supplements. Here are a few foods to incorporate to help you ditch disease:
Vit B6 - salmon, poultry, bananas, leafy green vegetables
Vit C - oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, bell peppers
Vit E - almonds, seeds, spinach, broccoli, peanuts
Vit A - salmon, eggs, feta cheese, sweet potato, carrots
Vit D - salmon, mackerel, fortified cereals and spreads
Zinc - oysters, crabs, poultry, beans, chickpeas
Copper - spirulina, lobster, mushrooms, nuts & seeds
Iron - seeds & nuts, spinach, tofu, broccoli, dark chocolate
Selenium - garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna, mushrooms
Needless to say, it is always best to stay clear of foods high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and alcohol.
Stress is immunosuppressive similar to smoking and can impact our natural defenses. Evidence suggests that meditation can have a profound effect on the immune system due to its ability to mediate stress. Mindfulness and introspection can reduce the reactivity to exterior/environmental stimuli. Meditation also requires focused attention, and when actively improving this facet, one can reduce the tendency towards ruminative thinking which activates stress. Frequent practice of mindful meditation also reduces adrenaline in stressful situations or ‘flight or fight mode’ which in turn reduces baseline cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
As inadequate levels of Vitamin D have been associated with a weakened immune system, it should come as no surprise that regular sun exposure is a great way to boost your immune system. Sunlight has also been shown to energise T-cells which play a major role in immunity.
The immune system and sleep have a bidirectional relationship. Immune responses such as fevers, which are influenced by infection can affect one’s ability to sleep, on the other hand, inconsistent sleep, or sleep deprivation can cause the immune system to malfunction, leading to illness. Sleep provides the immune system with the support and time it needs to function. Studies reveal that an average 7-9 hours of sleep per night is ideal, and sleep routine is necessary.
Staying hydrated is crucial in sustaining a healthy immune system. A fluid in your circulatory system known as lymph, made up of around 90% water, carries vital infection-fighting white blood cells around the body, and helps remove toxins, abnormals cells and pathogens from the body Dehydration decelerates the movement and production of lymph, which can often impair the immune system.
- Limit Alcohol
The intestine is a key organ in the functioning of the immune system. The internal lining of the intestine (intestinal mucosa) functions as a barrier to stop harmful substances entering the blood. As the first point of contact of alcohol is the digestive system, this is an important fact to consider when consuming some beers. Alcohol is capable of irritating the lining and creating small openings where microbes can filter through. Alcohol also alters the balance of our natural gut bacteria and can diminish their defensive functioning. It turns out that alcohol can also affect the respiratory system as the lungs collect mucus and release harmful microorganisms using small hairs called cilia. Alcohol affects the pulmonary immune system by altering the movement of the cilia. Vital infection-fighting white blood cells near the bronchi also become less efficient with excessive alcohol consumption.
We aren’t advising that you ditch the booze completely, as well believe in balance, but encourage you to be mindful about your choices in the future to avoid issues with your immune system.
Shop our 'Eat To Support Your Immune Function' Speciality Box HERE to keep balance in check and ease through your fabulous lifestyle with none of the hassle.
As always, we wish you the best, and hope that this information will bring you a little closer to an improved, healthier and happier version of yourself.
POW Food x