Don’t tell me you aren’t tempted by the very idea of boosting your immune system! I had you there, right?
Hi there! Welcome back to the blog. All of us literally jump at every possible opportunity of boosting our immune system. But, can we really boost our immune system? Well, let’s know more about that!
So, this is something that must have popped in your mind sometime or the other, and more so during the pandemic – can we really boost our immune system? To make long answer short, well, our immune system is an extremely complex mechanism, that we haven’t understood completely about, at least not yet. And there are tremendous misconceptions regarding this mighty system, and worse yet, most of us easily accept these misconceptions as facts.
It is majorly because not much information is available out there about our immune system. And whatever little is available, we tend to believe that. Well, the information is not entirely incorrect, rather, it is half-knowledge, if I may say so.
To understand our topic for today, we first need to understand how actually does our immune system function and how our body is designed to fight diseases and infections.
How Does Our Immune System Function?
Our immune system is an intricate network of various cells, tissues and organs in our body. Its primary aim is to form a barrier against all the unwelcome pathogens and germs. That is the reason why you see that some people fall sick less often than the others. Their immune system provides an extra-ordinary barrier that makes sure that the unwanted pathogens do not enter the body.
If somehow, one or the other pathogen manages to slip through this barrier, the immune system then springs into action, by performing the second task that it was designed for – to recognise and identify the pathogen, infection, intruder or injury in our body. This results in an immune response, the aim of which is to restore the normal functioning of the body. Our immune system is designed to identify a wide variety of antigens (We are talking about millions, no less!). It tries to identify the pathogen and searches for the antigen that is needed to attack and destroy the intruder before it reproduces or multiplies.
When the immune system fails to do this, a more revved-up immune response is generated to attack the intruder at all costs and destroy it before it causes more damage. This may lead to a destruction of healthy cells along with the affected cells, thus causing more damage than is intentional. We call this as an exaggerated immune response.
When we get sick, we see certain signs and symptoms, right? Well, many people think that these signs and symptoms mean that we have a virus or an infection in our body. However, our symptoms actually indicate that our body is fighting back against the infection or the virus, initiating an immune response.
When you get flu, with every one of your symptoms, that is your immune system at work!
So now, that clarified, let’s get to our topic –
Can We Really Boost Our Immune System?
Boosting something is making it stronger. Well, if we have a weaker immune system, we certainly need to boost it. There are many ways to do it, some of the important ones are mentioned below. However, if we already have a strong immune system (we will be able to know it ourselves, when we wouldn’t fall sick as often as others), we would then need to maintain or protect this good immune system of ours and not really boost it.
The vitamins and supplements that you take to boost your immune system usually don’t do so directly. They do not directly affect your immune system – for better or for worse. That said, it does not mean that you should stop taking those supplements that your doctor has recommended. Of course not! You should certainly take those, as they are vital to other important functions of your body, which in turn may improve your immune system. However, be very careful when you choose one for yourself and your family.
Also, you can take certain other measures to protect your immune system, and boost it too.
These are mostly some diet and lifestyle measures.
Exercise at least 5 times a week, for at least 30 minutes a day. While there are many theories around how this affects your immune system, none of them is proven. However, it can be safely said that by way of strengthening your other organs and organ systems, like heart and the circulatory system, bones and muscles and the skeletal system etc., exercising regularly can in turn, make your body stronger, which in its own way is a means of keeping diseases at bay. Exercise also helps in release of anti-stress hormones, which can help you in battling stress, thus giving you a healthy mind as well as body. Exercising in any form that you like is good to give you a healthy immune system, be it walking, running, jogging, aerobics, yoga or anything else that you fancy. And whatever positive changes you see in yourself, stay motivated by those and that can further contribute towards maintaining a healthy immune system.
Meditate daily for a little while. A calm mind is more likely to battle stress better than an agitated one.
Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. Remember, a diet is only healthy when it is well-balanced. Too much of good is just as bad. You need all kinds of nutrients like carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals etc. in your diet to make it well-balanced and, in turn, a healthy one. So if you are on that zero-carb diet, maybe its time to reconsider.
Get enough sleep. Your body repairs and heals itself while you slumber. A sleepless night or not sleeping as much as is needed can deprive your body of that healing touch, making it wear out even more, in the end. An excessively tired body is the best venue for all kinds of microbes to host a party!
If you have diabetes, are obese or indulge in smoking, maybe its time to rethink about your lifestyle as well. These things can interfere with your immune system and can severely compromise its functioning.
We may not know enough about our immune system in details. But we surely know enough to understand that we shouldn’t be taking it lightly. We also know that we may not have a lot of control over it, but we can work on the ways that keep us from getting sick.
The pandemic is an ugly reminder that we should not take our bodies lightly and that we should do all that we can to protect it from various diseases. The main way to protect ourselves from infections is to take all necessary precautions like washing hands, wearing masks and maintain social distancing – pandemic or no pandemic! Remember, the Japanese have been doing this since ages and hence, were better able to manage the spread of infection in their country. We however, had to go through a pandemic to learn this, and the sad part is – we haven’t fully learnt our lessen yet!
So can we really boost our immune system? Well, in terms of scientific research, we are not sure, but we can try to, by practicing healthy diet, exercise and lifestyle habits. However, what we can surely do is try to protect it!