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With the onset of winter, taking care of your immunity is of utmost importance. Here’s everything you need to help boost your immunity up!
Let’s set a very familiar scene – you go out for a family function. Once you are back, you end up with a cold while the rest of the family seems to be fine!
‘What is it with me?’ you wonder. Why do some people seem blessed with good health irrespective of what they put their body through? Well, the reason has to do with their immunity!
The immune system is the body’s primary defence system which protects us from bacteria, viruses. toxins and even cancer cells. Our immune system is basically made up of white blood cells, antibodies, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus and bone marrow. Your first line of defence against any illness or infection is your immunity system.
People with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, hypertension, respiratory illnesses, heart conditions, and obesity tend to have a reduced immune system.
For example, people with diabetes are more prone to get infections since a high level of sugar reduces a person’s immune system. Diabetes also causes damage to nerve-endings and reduces blood flow to the extremities, thus increasing the body’s vulnerability to diseases.
Thus, it is important to focus on increasing your immunity and reducing your chances of getting infections. These challenging times are probably the best times to focus on your health and try and fix the risks you have in areas of diabetes, obesity, cholesterol. Or even if you just want to up your fitness quotient.
Here is everything you need to know about immunity and how to boost your immunity.
Innate immunity: The natural immunity we are born with.
Adaptive immunity: The immunity we acquire through our lives, some times with the help of vaccines and other times due to contracting the disease. For example, the chances of you getting chickenpox twice are low to nil.
Passive immunity: This is the immunity borrowed from a source available for short periods of time. An example of this would be the immunity a newborn baby gets because of feeding from its mother.
There are a lot of factors that lead to reduced immunity. Here are some of them
Sleep: Sleep is the body’s main tool for recovery. When the body is asleep, it goes through a lot of healing activities including reducing the inflammation in the body. It helps relax the brain and heart muscles.
Sleep also helps the body release hormones that aid slower breathing. While you’re asleep, your pituitary gland releases the growth hormone that helps your body grow and repair itself.
Sugar: The use of sugar has increased a lot in current times. It is present in almost all the processed foods and is hidden under different names. When it comes to immunity, sugar prevents vitamin C to get into the white blood cells. And we know vitamin c is one of the important nutrients to increase immunity.
Alcohol consumption: Excessive drinking can have an adverse impact on your immune system. While excessive drinking can damage the liver and respiratory system, it also seriously brings down the body’s defence.
Excessive drinking may impair the function of the immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system. This might lead to an increased risk of pneumonia, tuberculosis and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Smoking: Smoking is harmful to the body and brings down the immunity too. It increases our vulnerability to respiratory disorders such as pneumonia and influenza. Secondary smoke is equally harmful with research showing that it also causes heart diseases, stroke and immunity-related disorders.
Too much caffeine: A lot of us reach out for coffee several times a day, be it an early morning pick me up or to beat the late afternoon slump. While an occasional cup of coffee could be good for you, too much of it over a long period of time could have adverse effects. Excessive caffeine can increase your cortisol levels which could have an impact on your immune system.
Junk food: Poor nutrition will definitely have an impact on your immune system. Junk food or highly processed foods with little to no nutritional value in them do not nourish your body.
They only provide empty calories without giving the micronutrients needed by your body. Studies reveal that your body sees fast food as a threat to the body and activates your immune system. In the long run, it causes more harm to your body.
Inadequate intake of water: Dehydration will weaken your immune system. Your body needs water to flush out toxins from it. Healthy hydration levels also help your nose by maintaining the mucus membrane and reducing irritation levels. Thus, reducing coughing and other respiratory illnesses.
Sedentary lifestyle: Regular exercise helps increase your metabolism as well as your immune system. It helps improve your white blood cell count according to research. Go ahead and take that walk, it might help you in your fight against infections also.
Obesity: We protect our homes with all sorts of alarms and devices, but when it comes to our body, this could be our greatest threat. Obesity welcomes along with it a host of other diseases like diabetes, hypertension, immunity issues, and joint issues, among others. This is one of the sure shot ways to bring down your immunity. Take care of this before it is too late.
Stress: If there is one thing which is common to everyone right now, it is stress. It has become fashionable to say ‘I am stressed.’
When we are stressed, our body goes into ‘Fight or Flight’ mode. This brings it down to only the essential activities, thus leading to compromised immunity. The stress hormone cortisol can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system and its effects are much more evident with chronic stress
Tulsi: Tulsi helps when you have a cold, cough or flu since it helps expectorate the mucus. With its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it also helps reduce infections without any side effects. Further, it increases the T-helper cells in the body and has a natural killer cells activity.
Vitamin C: It helps stimulate the production of white blood cells, and the phagocytes (they swallow the harmful bacteria). Vitamin C also increases the activity of natural killer cells. With its antihistaminic properties, it improves allergies and also increases the production of interferon (this inhibits viral replication).
Echinacea: With its anti-microbial, anti-biotic and anti-viral properties, this is an excellent immuno-stimulant bacteria scavenger. It is also great for colds, flu and the upper respiratory infections. Echinacea also helps the white blood cells function better!
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: Pexels
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