How to boost your immunity
Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against foreign invaders like germs and viruses. Your lifestyle habits may help or harm it.
A look inside your immune system. Your immune system helps protect against foreign invaders to prevent infection and disease. It also helps you recover after an illness or injury. What makes up the immune system? Blood and lymph help carry and transport the other elements of the immune system. White blood cells (also called leukocytes) help fight off the foreign invaders. There are two main types:
1, Phagocytes move through the blood vessels and tissue to eat up foreign invaders. The most common type is a neutrophil.
2. Lymphocytes help the body recall and recognize former invaders and help destroy them. There are two types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. B-cells seek out targets and create antibodies to lock onto them. T-cells destroy the antigens that the B-cells have identified.
How all of the parts of the immune system work together. An antigen is detected and many cells work together to respond B-cells produce antibodies, which lock onto specific antigens T-cells destroy antigens and trigger other cells to do their jobs.
Help keep your immune system healthy. Following general good-health guidelines can help you give your immune system the upper hand. Eat a healthy diet Good nutrition is a key element of a healthy immune system. Help give your immunity a boost with the five important nutrients listed below.
Protein: Seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds
Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs and fortified foods like milk or cereal
Vitamin C :Citrus fruit like oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, tomato juice and fortified foods
Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, vegetables and oils (like sunflower and safflower oil)
Zinc: Lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds
Exercise can contribute to good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. There are several theories about how exercise may affect the immune system, but none has been proven.
• Exercise may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which may reduce your chance of coming down with a cold, flu or other illness
• Exercise causes antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more quickly so that they can detect illnesses earlier than they might have before
• Exercise causes a brief rise in body temperature that may prevent bacteria from growing and/or help the body fight infection better
• Exercise slows the release of stress hormones; lower stress hormones may offer a protective effect
Manage your stress
Chronic stress can have a negative impact on the immune system, and older adults may be more prone to stress-related immune changes. Help manage stress with the 4 A’s.
• Avoid stress by planning ahead and taking control of your surroundings
• Alter your situation for the better
• Accept things the way they are
• Adapt your expectations or standards to help you cope
Get plenty of sleep
Not getting enough sleep may make you more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus and affect how quickly you recover from an illness. A lack of sleep may decrease the production of important immune system proteins called cytokines, as well as infection-fighting antibodies. How much is enough? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is 7–8 hours per night. Having trouble sleeping? Practice these good sleep habits:
• Be consistent by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning
• Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet
• Remove electronic devices like TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets from the bedroom
• Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed
• Get some exercise during the day If these strategies don’t help, talk to your healthcare provider. Stay up to date with immunizations According to the CDC, vaccination is one of the most convenient and safest ways to prevent a variety of illnesses.
10 Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about these vaccines and how often you need them:
• Influenza (flu)
• Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)
References 1 Nemours Foundation http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/immune.html 2 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/wellness/preventing-illness/protect-your-health-with-immuneboosting-nutrition 3 Harvard Health https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system 4 National Library of Medicine https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm 5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm 6 American Psychological Association https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.aspx 7 Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044476?pg=2 8 Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/FAQ-20057757 9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html 10Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/index.html 11Harvard Health https://www.health.harvard.edu/how-to-prevent-infections