The cold season is upon us. Boosting our immune system has rarely felt more urgent. You’re washing your hands 10 times a day and have stopped touching your face. What else can you do to improve your health and avoid ills and chills?
To know how to take care of your immune system, first you need to understand the weapons in your armoury.
When you come into contact with a germ you’ve never met before, you’ve got various barriers to try to stop it getting into your body. As well as skin, we have mucus – snot is a really important barrier – and a microbiome, it is estimated that 100 trillion microbes live throughout our bodies, internally and externally.
Beneath the swamps of mucus and microbes, our bodies are lined with epithelial cells which, are really hard to get through. They make antimicrobial products including antiviral compounds that are quite hostile.
If a pathogen breaches these defences, it has to deal with our white blood cells, or immune cells. One type, called macrophages, inhabit all our body tissue and, have all these weapons ready to go, but they’re not terribly precise. They report to the cleverer, adaptive white blood cells known as lymphocytes. They are the ones that remember germs, so if you meet that germ again, they’ll just deal with it probably without you even knowing. That’s when you’ve got immunity. It’s trying to bypass all the early stuff and create the memory, so you don’t have to be sick.
Our immune systems may have blind spots. This might mean that our immune response doesn’t recognise certain bugs, or the bugs have sneaky evasion strategies. A healthy lifestyle will ensure your defences are as good as they get.
Seeing as our bodies contain more cells belonging to microbes, (such as bacteria), than human ones, let’s start with the microbiome. We live in a symbiotic relationship with our gut bacteria. Having the right ones around, is best for our health. Anything we do that alters that can be detrimental.
The best way to increase microbiome diversity is by eating plenty of high-fibre foods. The ‘bad’ bacteria tend to feed on sugar and unhealthy fats. The single most important nutrient that good bacteria need to thrive inside you is fibre. Because we don’t eat enough fibre, Fibremax™ is your detoxing superhero! Fibre is essential for a healthy digestive tract.
You can also support your microbiome by regularly eating natural yoghurt, which contain live microbes (probiotics).
Probiotics are tiny organisms that your gut loves. Probiotics are often called ‘good bacteria’ because they help keep your gut healthy.
You can supplement probiotics with Alpha Lipid™ Lifeline™ Colostrum contains natural antibodies that build immunity through gut health.
To be immunologically fit, you need to be physically fit. White blood cells can be quite sedentary. Exercise mobilises them by increasing your blood flow, so they can do their surveillance jobs and seek and destroy in other parts of the body. You should be physically active in some way every day and do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (hiking, gardening, cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, swimming fast, an aerobics class).
One of the many happy side-effects of exercise is that it reduces stress, which is next on our list of immune-boosting priorities. Stress hormones such as cortisol can compromise immune function, a common example of which, is when chickenpox strikes twice. If you have had it, the virus never completely goes away. During periods of stress it can reactivate again, and we get shingles.
Forget boozing because heavy drinking also depletes our immune cells. Some studies have suggested that the first line-of-defence macrophages are not as effective in people who have had a lot of alcohol. And there’s been suggestions that high alcohol consumption can lead to a reduction of the lymphocytes as well. So, if the bug gets into you, you’re not going to be as good at containing and fighting it off.
Exercising and eating well will have the likely knock-on effect of helping you sleep better, which is a bonus because a tired body is more susceptible to bugs.
The biggest thing is hygiene. So wash your hands, and sneeze and cough into your elbow. No one can completely avoid getting sick, not even top immunologists
A healthy lifestyle will ensure your defences are as good as they can get!