There are very few things in the world worse than being stuck in bed because you are sick. The CDC believes that seasonal flu has left US workers missing about 17 million business days. This represents $ 7 billion in sick leave and lost productivity! For some people, cold symptoms seem to persist for weeks. While the others never get sick. All else being equal, the difference usually comes down to a strong immune system.

Once a virus enters your system, your body goes into defense mode, with your immune system on the front line. What is amazing is that, unless something is wrong with your body’s defense system, you don’t notice it working day and night to keep you safe. It has evolved over the years to protect you and keep you strong and healthy, which is a rather comforting feeling. Beyond gratitude, there are a few things you can do to boost your immune system. After all, no matter how strong, Batman couldn’t save Gotham City without Robin’s help.

The immune system is very complex and essential for maintaining health. Its main tasks are to neutralize pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria which enter the body and threaten its normal homeostasis, to eliminate harmful substances from the environment and to fight against the body’s own cells which rebel and cause diseases like cancer.

Your body’s defense system includes innate and adaptive immune processes. Elements of the innate system include external defenses, such as the skin, serum proteins, and phagocytic leukocytes. Any pathogenic organism that manages to escape the first line of defense finds itself face to face with the adaptive system, composed of T and B cells. The adaptive immune system serves as a learned defense, constantly adapting and evolving in order to be able to identify the changes in pathogens which also change over time. It is an evolving arms race between the host and the pathogen. Together, the innate and adaptive systems work closely together to provide tremendous resistance to any long-term survival of infectious agents in the body.

As powerful as it is, there are simple adjustments you can make in your daily life to help strengthen and stimulate this wonderful, awesome system that works for your safety.

Ways to boost your immune system

1. Stop smoking

You don’t need anyone to tell you that smoking is bad for your health. Smoking damages the immune system and is associated with a long list of cardiovascular, autoimmune, respiratory and neurological diseases. The list of common symptoms of tobacco-related illnesses includes shortness of breath, persistent cough and frequent colds or upper respiratory tract infections.

Specifically, the substances you ingest while smoking a cigarette have a direct effect on innate and adaptive immunity, suppressing the normal development and function of the cells that are responsible for immunity in the body. Nicotine, in particular, has been shown to be a potent immunosuppressive agent by affecting the immunosurveillance properties of dendritic cells, highly specialized cells of the immune system.

Imagine that; your body is fighting for your survival every day of your life, and in the meantime, you can counter these efforts every time you decide to smoke. Is this cigarette worth your health?

2. Drink alcohol in moderation

Alcohol is often associated with celebrations and birthdays, but if you abuse it your immune system suffers. Alcohol consumption is a contributing factor to organ damage, particularly to the liver, and is known to slow the recovery of tissue damage. The “Food Guidelines for Americans” define moderate consumption: up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Alcohol consumption greater than the recommended consumption disrupts essential immune pathways and, in turn, impairs the body’s ability to defend itself against infections.

It should be noted that alcohol-related immune system disorders have been implicated in the development of certain types of cancer, including, but not limited to, head and neck cancer in alcohol users . Before thinking that this is an isolated problem for chronic alcohol users, keep in mind that excessive alcohol consumption, also known as Saturday night, has the ability to seriously damage the defense system. of the organism.

3. Keep stress away

Chronic stress is like a poison for your body; it has a negative impact on all aspects of your health, and it is even more dangerous because of its ability to go back up without your conscious awareness. The immune system is one of the many systems responsible in the body for managing difficult situations. More precisely, the cells of the immune system are equipped with receptors that recognize stress hormones, such as cortisol.

Even acute stress can disrupt your immune system by increasing the release of cytokines that promote inflammation in the blood, a special type of immune cell that signals other cells and affects their function. Stress, immunity and disease can influence each other, but these relationships can be moderated by life stage, other pressures and environmental goals, duration of stressors and protective factors, as a good sleep. Make sure you have a healthy strategy to help relieve symptoms of stress like exercising or spending time with friends and family.

4. Sleep more

Speaking of sleep, it is a powerful regulator of immunological processes and works to improve adaptive immune system memory. When you deprive your body of sufficient sleep, you simultaneously make it more sensitive to many infectious agents. Sleep deprivation not only makes you more vulnerable to infections like the common cold or the flu, but it also makes it much more difficult to recover from the bacterial or viral infection that eventually enters your system.

While you sleep every night, your body uses this time to strengthen the immune system and move T cells to the lymph nodes, the vessels of the immune system responsible for filtering out harmful substances. These T cells produce cytokines which are called upon to act when there is inflammation in your body or when you are stressed. During periods of insufficient sleep, production of cytokines decreases, which further damages your immune system. So don’t hesitate to press this snooze button, and in case you get the flu, hibernate for a few days.

5. Exercise regularly – but don’t forget the rest days

Most people have a love-hate relationship with exercise. This particular argument will only add to your love for exercise. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can strengthen the immune system and provide protection against infection.

In addition, regular resistance exercise increases your muscle mass, which acts as a protein supply when the immune system works to ward off the disease. In other words, the more muscle you build through healthy eating and regular exercise, the more your body is equipped to fight infections and keep you strong and healthy. Conversely, getting rid of bacteria or viruses will be much more difficult if you have neglected the gym.

But don’t forget to take your workouts outside. Exercising outdoors is a great way to de-stress and reap the benefits of vitamin D deficiency. increased susceptibility to infection, so when the weather allows it, try to go out and enjoy the sun.

Unfortunately, no one can stay young forever, and as the body ages, its natural defenses begin to give up. The good news is that regular physical activity in older adults can counteract the actions of time and boost the immune system so that it can protect the body from infection and disease.

However, like everything else in life, too many good things can be bad. Being a couch potato suppresses the immune system, but the opposite extreme can also be detrimental. Repeated episodes of intense exercise, also known as overtraining syndrome, can cause symptoms like immune dysfunction, so be sure to maintain a healthy balance between regular physical activity and exhaustion.

6. Eat enough nutritious food

Every system in the body needs energy to function properly. This energy is provided by food sources in the form of calories. Insufficient calorie intake can lead to micronutrient deficiencies and suppress the immune system and its vital functions. In reality, malnutrition is the most common cause of immunodeficiency around the world.

Food is powerful; it has the potential to create or break all of the body’s chemical pathways that support you. For this reason, it makes sense that the healthier your food choices, the stronger your immune system and, subsequently, your health will be.

Certain nutrient deficiencies can alter immune responses and damage the way your immune response to infections. Vitamins and nutrients with antioxidant properties can provide protection against free radicals. Adding an abundance of foods rich in natural antioxidants like citrus fruits to your diet is key to maintaining a healthy immune system. Exposure to environmental conditions such as UV rays, cigarette smoke can ultimately wreak havoc on the immune system and lead to the production of free radicals in the body. Antioxidants fight free radicals and restore the structural integrity of cells and membranes in the body. Examples of antioxidants include zinc, selenium, iron, copper, vitamin C, A and E. Foods rich in vitamin C, A and E, in particular, can also increase the activation of cells involved in tumor immunity.

Bioactive compounds of plant origin, called phytonutrients, also play an important role in strengthening the immune system. Polyphenols, flavonoids, isoflavonoids, carotenoids and phytoestrogens are some of the few phytonutrients that have the ability to improve the immune system with their immunity-boosting superpowers. Food intake of phytochemicals promotes health benefits and protects against chronic conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and inflammation. In addition, their natural origin poses fewer side effects compared to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and promises a bright future for their use in the treatment of specific types of cancer.

Finally, emerging research links intestinal health to the immune system and promising research highlighting the benefits of probiotic supplementation to improve the body’s response to bacterial infections.

A balanced diet, especially in terms of adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and proteins (for these essential amino acids), improves resistance against infections. If you’re not sure you can get everything your body needs from your diet alone, it might be worth investing in a quality multivitamin to help cover up inconsistencies in your diet.

7. Maintain a healthy body fat percentage

It has been observed that over-nutrition can potentially increase the risk of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. A percentage of healthy body fat is between 10-20% of total body weight for men and 18-28% for women. So, a higher percentage of body fat than it can alter the immune response.

Studies have shown that the the link between obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes could be explained by the subsequent activation of the innate immune system. The same system that is involved in the pathophysiology of obesity-related liver damage. A healthy immune system does a great job of protecting you from disease, but permanent activation causes immune cells that promote inflammation in the body to be released, making it much more difficult for the immune system to focus on its main goal. ; to keep you healthy.

The solution is simple in this case. You can reverse the negative effects of a high body percentage by improving your body composition. Less body fat, especially visceral fat, equates to fewer immune cells circulating in the bloodstream, promoting inflammation and wreaking havoc on the body’s natural processes.

In addition to losing fat, gaining more muscle mass, as we have already discussed, can further improve body composition and reset a dysfunctional immune system, laying the foundation for long-term health.

Putting it all together

Your immune system works day and night to keep you healthy and often has to fight you in its efforts to maintain normal homeostasis. You can become his best friend by applying these 7 small changes in your daily life:

  1. Stop smoking

  2. Drink alcohol in moderation

  3. Try to keep stress away

  4. Get enough sleep

  5. Exercise regularly, but avoid overtraining

  6. Eat enough calories and include foods rich in antioxidants in your diet

  7. Maintain healthy body fat percentage through diet and exercise

You can read this article and think that all this is too much change for you. Small changes are still a step in the right direction. Change your habits one at a time to help support your immune system, and this will help you rebound quickly the next time you catch a cold. After all, a strong and healthy body depends on your daily decisions.

Take care of your body so that it can take care of you.

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Rafaela Michailidou is a biomedical scientist and freelance writer of health and wellness content. Aspiring to help people achieve their goals, she is currently studying to become a health coach.

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Source: © 2020 InBody USA.

Amanda Capritto is a certified personal trainer and health coach who writes on nutrition, fitness and health care. A former journalism graduate from Louisiana State University, Amanda spends her free time venturing outdoors, going to the gym and encouraging people to adopt a healthy, balanced lifestyle.