Immune system – An important complex system of our body which knowingly or unknowingly kept dropping down the list of priority as doctors, scientists, researchers and inventors kept progressing in the field of science and medicine to improve the overall health and wellbeing. However perception of some and focus of many has started to shift back on how to naturally lead a healthy, peaceful and content life following the  pandemic which not only took UK or Europe but the entire world by a complete surprise bringing almost everything to a standstill. Based on the recent events, we have learned the importance of immunity and tried to explore every corner, every known solution to mankind to improve our immune system.

Unfortunately there is no human or scientific calculator which can calculate the exact probability an individual can catch any virus and to the extent one can fall sick. On the other hand it is very easy to start taking things for granted when we already have a good immune system and our body manages to fight off any virus without showing any symptoms. Sadly our  bodies don’t even indicate  when they have successfully fought off any virus until we show any symptoms which can sometimes be too late. No two people can have the exact same level of immunity and this is based upon many internal and external factors. Some within our control some completely out of our control. Moreover every individual person immune system is like a betting fair and the odds keep changing on daily basis and is influenced by age, food habits, health history, surroundings, pollution, cleanliness and also emotions we go through. It is therefore impeccable especially in such unprecedent times to focus and make sure adequate steps are taken to improve and maintain our immune system.

Below are 6 different natural ways which have proven track record in improving and maintaining our immune system. Combining 1 or more steps or if possible doing all 6 together increases the chances of normal functioning of our immune system.

1) Get Adequate Sleep

Little known fact is that poor quality of sleep can effect immunity. Getting enough sleep is one of the key steps towards healthy living. Study shows that we can get sick easily after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold if we do not get quality sleep or insufficient sleep. It can also affect how fast we recover from any sickness.

While we are asleep, our immune system releases small proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Cytokines are crucial in controlling the growth and activity of other immune system cells and blood cells. Cytokines signal the immune system to do their job when released by affecting the growth of all bloods cells and other cells that also helps the body’s inflammation responses. Production of these protective cytokines are highly affected when our body is sleep deprived or when under stress. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced when we don’t get enough sleep. It is thus essential that most adults gets 7 to 8 hours of good sleep each night, while 9 to 10 hours and 10 or more hours of sleep of sleep is recommended for teenagers and school ages children respectively.

2) Say No to Alcohol

In these tough times coupled with easing restrictions on pubs and restaurants, it can get very tempting to step out for a glass or two of alcohol. Another little known fact is that drinking alcohol impairs immune cells in key organs by making it harder for our immune system to gear up and defend the body against harmful germs. It reduces the body’s capacity to fight off infections.

Dr. E. Jennifer Edelman, MD, MHS, a Yale Medicine internal and addiction medicine specialist said “Alcohol has diverse adverse effects throughout the body, including on all cells of the immune system, that lead to increased risk of serious infections”. Alcohol damages the immune cells and cell linings that play an important role in clearing pathogens out of our airways. Damaged cell linings help viral particle get easy access, causing immune cells which fight off infection to not function normally, thus increasing overall risks. Thus, we must try to limit alcohol intake to keep our immune system in a good shape.

3) Quit Smoking

There are ample evidences which have shown that our immune system is susceptible to cigarette smoke. Smoke from cigarette interrupts immunological homeostasis which causes various diseases while also exerting paradoxical effects on immune cells. Authors of ‘Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down?‘ strongly believe that cigarette smoke acts as a double-edged sword that either exacerbates pathological immune responses or attenuates the normal defensive function of the immune system, possibly owing to the complexities and functional diversities of cigarette smoke components and individuals’ medical condition.

Some viruses (like common cold, influenza, Covid-19) cause respiratory disease and smoking too affects our lungs. Smoking puts the health of your lungs in danger and thus must be avoided to keep your lungs healthy. Smoking disrupts the balance of the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to fight off infections.

4) Stay physically active

As per studies, the immune system is very responsive to moderate-to-vigorous intensity of exercise (less than 60 minutes).

In order to stimulate the ongoing exchange of distinct and highly active immune cell subtypes between the circulation and tissues, exercise is now being viewed as an important adjuvant to our immune system. Exercise helps to improve the antipathogen activity of tissue macrophages while also helping to enhance recirculation of  our body’s armed force which includes T cells, immunoglobulins, immature B cells and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Exercising daily helps these acute changes to operate through a summation effect to enhance immune defence activity and metabolic health.

5) Eating the right food

One other natural way to keep our immune system in check is by increasing our food intake which are rich in natural nutrients and are known to support healthy lifestyles. Almost all of the nutrients our body requires to support normal functioning of our immune system are readily available in the nature which are suitable to not only people who love to eat meat but also who are hardcore vegans and anything in between these two categories.

We should also focus on a balanced eating plan to help keep our immune system healthy and in a good condition all year long. We must plan our meals and reduce the intake of processed food. We must consume vegetables and fruits on a daily basis which will cover our daily requirement of different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which will support our immune system.

6) Keep your stress levels in check

Stress has more a less become just a part of our lives. Most of us are always under some stress or the other, be it worried for our job, how to manage our finances especially the unplanned bills or having too much on our plate than we can handle. Some of us even go through multiple stresses at the same time in our lives. Chronic stress can take a toll on our immune system.

Even if we do either or all of the above 5 natural ways to keep our immune system in check and healthy, continuous level of high stress can wreak our entire immune system. It can cause our body to produce greater levels of cortisol while decreasing the white blood cell count that play a pivotal role to fight off any infection. When our body is under stress over time it can get used to having too much cortisol in our blood which can result in more inflammation. The lower our white blood cell count, the higher the risk of catching even the most common cold and infections. High levels of inflammation over long term can result to an overworked immune system that struggles to protect us completely. There are several ways to better manage our chronic stress levels such as meditation, yoga, nice peaceful walks, natural supplements.

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