The immune system is a complex network composed of
specialized cells, organs, tissues, proteins and biological
responses integrated into the entire body. Together, they
help the body to detect and fight off pathogens (viruses,
bacteria, fungi and parasites) that cause infection or disease.
On coming in contact with a pathogen, the immune system
triggers an immune response. It releases antibodies
attach to antigenic receptors on the pathogens and kill them.
It can broadly be divided into two parts: Innate Immunity,
which is the natural protection that we are born with, our
first line of defense to combat infection and Adaptive Immunity, which is the
protection that we gain throughout life as we are exposed
to diseases or protected against them from vaccinations.
Greater the immunity of a person, lesser are the chances
of falling sick.
As soon as we hear the term - Immunity Boosters, we
think of vaccines or shots, but as a matter of fact, there
are various dietary and lifestyle factors that could help
boost one's immunity naturally and improve the overall
health of the individual.
Factors Affecting Immunity
The immune response differs from person to person
as there are several factors that influence the immune
response of a person, which include:
The immune response is the weakest at both extremes
of age. A child is born with an immature immune system
which matures and develops memory during childhood
and adulthood, and wanes off with age. Therefore, newborns
are at a greater risk of infections. While some people age
healthily, the elderly are more likely to contract infectious
diseases as compared to younger people. This might be due
to the thymus weakening with age and producing fewer T
cells (a type of white blood cells which guards the body
against infection). Also, older people tend to eat less and
often have less variety in their diets, therefore, micronutrient
malnutrition is common, which in turn affects the immunity.
Like any other fighting force, the immune system army too
marches on its stomach. Regular nourishment is needed to
keep the immune system warriors healthy. Vitamins and
minerals play a vital role in strengthening the immune system
whereas high fat and high-calorie diets trigger an immune
response similar to a bacterial infection. People living in
poverty and who are malnourished are more susceptible
to infections as certain micronutrient deficiencies alter
the immune responses.
The mind and body have a closely linked relationship. A wide
variety of illnesses including upset stomach, hives, and even
heart disease, are associated with the effects of emotional stress.
stress caused by frequent stressors like relationship with
family and friends, or challenges to perform well at work suppresses
the immune response of the body by releasing the hormone cortisol.
It interferes with the T-cells to reproduce and receive signals from
Just like a healthy diet, exercise too can contribute to the overall
good health and therefore, a healthy immune system. Moreover,
it promotes better blood circulation, which allows the T-cells and
substances of the immune system to move freely through the body
and do their job efficiently. However, continuous rigorous physical
activity weakens the immune system, making the body more prone
to flu and viral infections. Therefore, adequate amount of exercise is
required to get the most benefit out of it.
Feeding The Immune System
Consuming a balanced diet containing the recommended
amount of nutrients
helps to maintain a normal immune
system. A general rule is - The more colourful your food
looks, the more beneficial it is for your immunity.
Vitamins and minerals: Vitamins A
, B6, C, D and E, and minerals
such as zinc
, selenium play a vital role in mediating the immune
response. vitamin C is known to be the best immune booster
and is found in foods like orange, grapefruit, spinach, etc.
Herbs and supplements: Herbs like Echinacea, Elderberry, etc.
reduce the duration and severity of illness. Using vitamin and
mineral supplements provide the essential nutrients but are
not as effective as getting the nutrients directly from food.
Soluble fiber: It helps to heal faster from infections by producing
antiinflammatory immune cells.
Probiotics: They balance the adverse effects of antibiotics
by keeping your gut healthy and the immune system ready
to respond to new infections.
Lifestyle Changes for Better Immunity
Choosing a healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense to keep your
immune system strong and healthy naturally. The immune system,
like any other body part, functions better when protected from
environmental factors and boosted by healthy living strategies which include:
-Following a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts
-Minimizing stress - Practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing in
your regular routine
-Getting adequate sleep
-Stepping out in the sun - A 10 to 15 minute walk in the sunlight
wit produce enough vitamin D in the body
-Taking steps to avoid infection - Washing hands frequently and
cooking food adequately
-Maintaining a healthy weight
-Drinking alcohol in moderation only
To achieve the goal of a healthy body, just being healthy externally
is not enough, but ensuring a stronger immunity by following natural
steps to boost your immune system is also essential. Minimal efforts
and modifications in your daily diet and lifestyle would help in
minimizing the toxins in the body and provide the required nutrients
which are essential for maintaining good health and a healthy immune
system. Monitoring your immune system's health will not only safeguard
you from falling sick, but also prevent deadly diseases like cancer
latter phase of your life.
Minimizing stress, Exercising, following a proper Diet - The MED for Better Immunity!
Vitamins - Need for a Healthy Immune System
Have you ever been confused at a grocery store or market on
what to buy? What would be beneficial for your and your family's
health? Here's a general rule to help you choose the best next
time - The more colorful the fruits and vegetables are, the better!
The common saying - An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
might actually be true as it is found that eating nourishing foods
rich in certain vitamins can boost your immune system and help
fight off illness. The aim is to consume a wide variety of foods
which will ensure that you are getting as many health-boosting
vitamins and nutrients as possible. Let's learn the ABCDE of
vitamins and how it benefits our immune system.
Getting your Vitamins - From A to E!
Vitamins are the essential components of our diet and there
are six types of vitamins - A, B complex, C, D, E and K required
for the normal functioning and growth of the body. The major
vitamins essential for strengthening and maintaining a healthy
immune system are as follows:
Vitamin A helps protect against infections by keeping skin and
tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system
healthy, and regulate the immune system. Foods that are rich in
carotenoids are rich sources of Vitamin A. The body converts these
carotenoids into Vitamin A, and they have an antioxidant effect to
help strengthen the immune system against infections.For getting
your daily dose of Vitamin A, the best option is to go colourful.
Colourful fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin,
cantaloupe, squash, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots are
rich sources of this vitamin.
Vitamin B Complex
Complex consists of 8 vitamins, out of which B6 and
B9 play a role in immunity. Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in
supporting around 200 biochemical reactions in the body and
is critical to how the immune system functions. Vitamin B6-rich
foods include bananas, lean chicken breast, cold water fish such
as salmon and tuna. It is also found in baked potatoes, green
vegetables and chickpeas.vitamin B9 is often added to foods
because of its health benefits. To make your diet rich in Vitamin
B9, consume more beans, peas as well as leafy green vegetables
on a regular basis.
Vitamin C is thought to be one of the biggest immune system
boosters of all and a lack of it can even make an individual more
prone to getting sick. It acts as an antioxidant by fighting the free
radicals, a type of unstable molecule that causes damage to the
immune system, in the body. This helps prevent or delay certain
cancers and heart disease, and promote healthy aging. It also
provides protection against infection by stimulating the formation
of antibodies and boosting immunity, particularly in people under
major stress. Because your body cannot produce or store Vitamin
C, daily intake of this vital vitamin by consuming Vitamin C rich
foods such as citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits and tangerines),
strawberries, red and green bell peppers, leafy green vegetables
(spinach, kale and broccoli), brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit and papaya
is essential for better immunity.
, works together with T cells, a type of white blood cell
that plays a key role in the immune system's ability to fight off
infection and disease. It is always the best to get most of your
vitamins from food, but Vitamin D is an exception. Many people
have a hard time absorbing Vitamin D from food and therefore,
it is advised to take Vitamin D supplements in case of deficiencies.
However, getting regular exposure to sunlight and increasing
the intake of foods rich in Vitamin D like fatty fish (salmon,
mackerel, tuna and sardines), eggs and dairy will help maintain
your Vitamin D levels.
Vitamin E also acts as a powerful antioxidant by neutralizing
the free radicals, thereby helping the body fight off infections
and improving the immune function. Maintaining ample levels
of this vitamin is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune
system, especially among older people.
Vitamin E-rich foods like almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower
seeds, spinach, broccoli and vegetable oils (safflower oil) should
be added to your diet to increase the intake of this vitamin.
Also, Vitamin K acts as a cofactor for some proteins, thereby
affecting the immune and inflammatory responses mediated by T cells
Vitamin Supplements - Boon or Bane?
The body absorbs and utilizes vitamins and nutrients better
when they come from a dietary source rather than supplements.
When taking supplements, it is difficult to determine the amount
of vitamin you are actually getting. Moreover, supplements are
not regulated as drugs but foods, and therefore, the Food and
Drug Administration does not evaluate the quality or assess the
effects of these supplements on the body. Thereby, even though
supplements can help fill in the gaps in your diet, the best way
to load up on essential vitamins is to get them straight from food.
A Gradual Change
Creating the foundation of a healthy lifestyle by maintaining
healthy eating habits is the best defense. It is important to
take a long-term approach to build a strong immune system
as you cannot just eat an orange or grapefruit and expect a
quick burst of vitamin to protect you from catching a cold.
A truly healthy immune system depends on maintaining a
balance between vitamins
Stress And Immune interactions
Imagine coming back home from office and still not getting
the image of your boss yelling at you out of your mind. Maybe
you are worried that your roommate is going to start a fight all
over again. And all this is somehow making you feel tensed, irritable,
tired, and negative. This physical and mental tension caused by
our day-to-day life problems is "stress." For most of us, stress is a
part of life. Sometimes it lasts for a few hours like the time leading
up to a final exam or lasts for many years like when you are taking
care of an ailing loved one. Stress, sometimes acts as a motivator
that helps you rise to the occasion. At other times, it is simply
overwhelming. Whatever the case may be, if it is chronic, it can
take a toll on the immune system!
Good And Bad Stress
Stress is not always a bad thing. Feeling stressed can sometimes
feel perfectly normal, for example, stress keeps you alert for your
big math test. Being stressed-out motivates you to focus on the
work. Stress that is beneficial and motivating is good stress
(active stress) like, climbing tree fast enough to avoid a bear
attack. Whereas, stress that causes anxiety and even health
problems is bad stress (chronic
stress) like, your boss is no
longer yelling at you, but the state of stress is anyhow lingering.
Your roommate has not started a fight, but you are already
experiencing stress about it. Chronic stress can weaken the
immune system and cause high blood pressure, anxiety, fatigue,
depression, and even heart disease.
Impact of Stress on Immune System
The Immune System The immune sytem consists of billions of
cells that travel through the bloodstream .They move in and
out of tissues and organs , protecting the body against foreign
bodies (antigens) such as bacteria viruses and even cancerous
cell.but chronic stress can harm us by working against our
immune system .
The main types of immune cells are white hemoglobin
There are two types of WBCs , lymphocytes and Phagocytes .
Two types of lymphocytes are :
B-cells: They produce antibodies which are relesed inti
the fluid surrounding the body's cells to destroy the invading
T-cells: If somehow the invader gets inside a cell, T cells lock
on to the infected cell mutiply and destroy it .
When stress is experienced, the brain causes a reaction that
prepares the body to fight response by reducing the immune
sytem's ability to fight antigens .And that is the reason why
we are more susceptible to infections .The stress hormone
cortisol can suppress the effctiveness of the immune system
(e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes).
Many people use unhealthy behavioral coping strategies
to reduce their stress , such as drinking and amoking,
which indirectly affects the immune system .
There are a few side effects of weakened immune
system temporary increase in stress; functioning.
Mentioned below are however, anxiety, Depression,
or some types of psychophysiological insomnia can
occur when stress is disorders: experienced over a
long period of Cardiovascular, e.g., hypertension
time. Prolonged stress also puts a person at risk for
high blood pressure digestive problems or heart disease .
stress is also linked to headaches, infectious illness (e.g.flu),
asthma and gastric ulcers. And rememder , this is all
in addition to the weakened immune system that is less able
to fight off illnesses!
Physical disorders or diseases whose symptoms are worsened
by stress and emotional factors are called Psychophysiological
disorders. The physical symptoms of these disorders are real
and they can be produced or worsened by psychological factors.
If the reactions that compose the stress response are chronic
or if they are frequently exceeding the normal ranges, they can
lead to progressive wear and tear of the body, in much Signals
of Too Much Stress the same way like running your air conditioner
on full blast all summer will eventually cause wear and tear of it.
For example a person with high blood pressure under considerable
job strain might eventually taka a toll on his heart and set the stage
for a heart attack ar heart failure . Also if someone is exposed to high
levels of the stress hormone cortisol then the person might become
cortisol then the person might become vulnerable to infection or disease
because of Weakened immune system functioning. Mentioned below are
some types of psychophysiological disorders .
-Cardiovascular, e.g., hypertension coronary heart disease
-Gastrointestinal, e.g., irritable bowel syndrome
-Respiratory, e.g., asthma,allergy
-Musculoskeletal, e.g., lower back pain, tension headaches
-skin problems, e.g., acne, eczema, etc
Signals of Too Much Stress
It may be tough to tell when someone is experiencing good or bad
stress but there are important ways that the body lets you know
that you are struggling with too much stress like:
-Inability to concentrate completed tasks
-Get sick more often with cold
-Illnesses like autoimmune diseases
-Trouble falling asleep or staying
-Changes in appetite
-More angry or anxious than usual
How can you manage your stress levels?
Stress reduction strategies not only help give your mind a break,
but also help in relieving the pressure from your immune system.
Steps can be taken to reduce short-term and longterm stress.
Because the effects of stress are cumulative, even ordinary,
day-to-day activities can eventually lead to more serious health
issues. So it is important to be aware of the simple daily stress
in our lives. Some of the mind-body therapies that hel preverse the
Meditation: Meditating for 10-15 minutes, three or four times weekly
can lower your stress. It reduces your cortisol levels and reduces
inflammation. It also helps prevent the breakdown of your DNA that
leads to cancer and premature aging.
Yoga: Practicing yoga also lowers stress hormone levels and calms
the nervous system to reduce inflammation. Deep breathing helps
Positive Thinking: People who believe that they are doing better,
actually do better than those who have the same physical
condition but are not that positive.
Behavior Modification Techniques: Changing how we act can break habits
that trigger stress reactions.
Social Support: People with strong social support have better overall
health and are more resistant to infections and diseases.
Stress in acute situations, can be healthful and protective as discussed
earlier, so it is not all bad for us. We have to remember that it is the
negative stress that we seek to control.
Exercise - Swaying Away Maladies
Everyone knows that exercise will help them fit into their favorite
jeans, but the payoffs are far greater than just looking good, as
fitness can actually help fight diseases. However, the present
generation is too busy to get up from their bed and do some
exercise. Sedentary and machine dependent life has risked
the health of Indians. We do not climb stairs anymore and
instead, wait for lifts. Nowadays, most Indians in urban
areas do not walk to a neighborhood store, but rather
order groceries on phone for home delivery or drive
down. Artificial intelligence is getting advanced day
by day but is indirectly affecting people by making
them more lazy and prone to diseases/disorders.
Book a Health Checkup Today
Type of Exercises
Exercise is not only about going to gym and lifting
weights but is much more than that. There are also gentler
conservation exercises such as motion exercises including
stretching and isometric contractions (muscle activity fixed
at fixed length). The types of exercises are aerobic, non-aerobic,
and aerobic plus non-aerobic. Aerobic exercise is based on
elevating one's heart rate whereas, non-aerobic exercise aims
to strength-train without needing to raise one's heart rate
significantly. Aerobic combined with non-aerobic exercise
works to keep one's heart rate up while you do muscle
strengthening. Last but not the least, stretching and
isometric contraction work is light exercise, and generally
good for individuals as a starting point. Adults should
undergo at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity
physical activity a week to have substantial overall
health benefit, which can be accomplished by 30 minutes
of activity per day for 5-7 days a week. A breathing exercise
to help strengthen the respiratory system is diaphragmatic
breathing techniques done in different positions.
Exercise: Prevent, Cure and Treat Diseases
The benefits of exercise are far beyond just weight management.
Physical activity can reduce one's risk for several diseases or
health conditions and it improves the overall quality of life. Regular
physical activity can help protect you from the following health
Heart Disease and Stroke
Daily exercise can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening
the heart muscle, lowering the blood pressure, raising the High-Density
(HDL) levels (good cholesterol), lowering the Low-Density
Lipoprotein (LDL??) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and
increasing heart's working capacity. Optimizing each of these factors
can provide benefits of decreasing the risk for Peripheral Vascular Disease.
High Blood Pressure
Regular physical activity can reduce blood pressure in people
with high blood pressure levels. Exercise also reduces body fat,
which is associated with high blood pressure.
Non-insulin-Dependent (Type 2) Diabetes
By reducing body fat, physical activity can help prevent
and control this type of diabetes.
Exercise helps to reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle
mass and improves the body's ability to use calories. When physical
activity is combined with proper nutrition, it helps control weight
and prevent obesity
, a major risk factor for many diseases.
Regular weight-bearing exercise under expert's supervision
promotes bone formation and may also prevent many forms
of bone loss associated with aging.
Self Esteem And Stress Management
Regular physical activity can improve one's mood and the way
one feels about themselves. Exercise also reduces depression
and anxiety and helps in managing stress
Running and aerobic exercise postpones the development
of disability in older adults.
So always keep these health benefits in mind when deciding
whether or not to exercise .
Exercise For Adults Of All Age
At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise like brisk
walking or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise like running should
be done every week. It is fine to break up exercise into smaller
sessions as long as each one lasts at least 10 minutes.
Strengthtraining that works on all major muscle groups
like legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms
for at least two days a week can
Exercise For Pregnant Women
Aerobic exercises are considered safe for most pregnant women.
It is always a good idea to review the exercise plan with a doctor.
Exercise For Children
Children should do vigorous exercises and strength training, like
push-ups or gymnastics, for at least three days. 60 minutes of
physical activity a day, can be devoted to aerobic exercise.
Exercise: An Immune Booster
Exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living as it improves
cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control
body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. But
does it help to boost one's immune system naturally and keep
it healthy? Just like a healthy diet, exercise also contributes to
general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system.
It also contributes even more directly by promoting good circulation,
which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to
move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Stay Fit, Stay Healthy
Whether you are 9 or 90 years old, abundant evidence show
that exercise can enhance one's health and well-being. But for
many people, sedentary pastimes such as watching TV, surfing
internet, or playing computer and video games, have replaced
more active pursuits. Hence, it is important for all of us to stay
active, as the primary goal is to maintain activity!