Do you often fall sick?
What about your neighbour?
And your best friend?
Have you ever wondered why some people get sick more often?
This is because everyone has a different immunity. Elders and infants have a low immunity and hence are more susceptible to diseases.
Before going to discuss more about this, let’s first clear it out what is meant by immunity.
What is Immunity?
Immunity is the state of being immune from or insusceptible to a disease or the like. It is the protection against infectious disease conferred by the immune response. It includes the body’s capacity to distinguish a pathogenic microorganism from self, and to neutralize, eliminate or metabolize that which is foreign.
When a foreign substance like a pathogenic microorganism enters the body, complex chemical and mechanical activities are set into motion.
These processes defend and protect the body’s cells and tissues. The foreign substances are usually a protein and called as antigen.
The most common response to the antigen is the production of antibody, a protein synthesized by the immune system that can help neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The antigen-antibody reaction is an important component of the overall immune response.
Immunity is the balanced state of the body wherein the body has adequate biological defences to fight infection, disease, or unwanted biological invasion. It is also a state where the body has adequate tolerance to avoid allergy, and autoimmune diseases.
Sudden climate changes like unseasonal rain showers or heat waves weaken your immunity and make you more prone to infectious diseases. In winter some of us get affected by the cold climate and that will increase incidents of flu, cold and other respiratory illnesses. Also, viruses tend to be more stable in colder and drier conditions and stay for longer periods.
Different Types of Immunity
Humans have three types of immunity — innate, adaptive, and passive:
The innate immune system is made of defences against infection that can be activated immediately once a pathogen attacks.
Everyone is born with innate (or natural) immunity, a type of general protection. For example, the skin acts as a barrier to block germs from entering the body. And the immune system recognizes when certain invaders are foreign and could be dangerous. Also, the acid in the stomach, saliva, tears, the mucus in the nose and the cells in the bloodstream can help destroy bacteria. They are the first line of defence to prevent infection and for healing.
The innate immune system is essentially made up of barriers that aim to keep viruses, bacteria, parasites, and other foreign particles out of your body or limit their ability to spread and move throughout the body.
Adaptive (or active) immunity develops throughout our lives.
We develop adaptive immunity when we’re exposed to diseases or when we’re immunized against them with vaccines.
Have you ever wondered how your recovery time for the common cold, the flu, or small infections seems to get shorter after you’ve been exposed and successfully recovered the first time?
The adaptive immune system, also called acquired immunity, uses specific antigens to strategically mount an immune response. Unlike the innate immune system, which attacks only based on the identification of general threats, the adaptive immunity is activated by exposure to pathogens and uses an immunological memory to learn about the threat and enhance the immune response accordingly.
The adaptive immune response is much slower to respond to threats and infections than the innate immune response, which is primed and ready to fight at all times.
Passive immunity is provided when a person is given antibodies to a disease rather than producing them through his or her own immune system.
Passive immunity is “borrowed” from another source and it lasts for a short time.
For example, A newborn baby acquires passive immunity from its mother through the placenta. antibodies in a mother’s breast milk give a baby temporary immunity to diseases the mother has been exposed to.
Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System
Your immune system is incredibly complex. It has to be strong enough and sophisticated enough to fight off a variety of illnesses and infections, but not so strong that it overreacts unnecessarily — causing allergies and other autoimmune disorders to develop. To operate in such a delicate balance, your immune system is tightly controlled by a variety of inputs.
But despite its complexity, there are everyday lifestyle habits you can focus on to help give your immune system what it needs to fight off an infection or illness.
Here are some ways to strengthen your immunity naturally.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and immunity are interconnected on a very deep level. .
In fact, inadequate or poor quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness. Inadequate sleep may increase your risk of getting sick.
Getting adequate rest may strengthen your natural immunity. Also, you may sleep more when sick to allow your immune system to better fight the illness.
Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, try limiting screen time for an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from your phone, TV, and computer may disrupt your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle.
If you can’t seem to sleep properly, there are several ways you can try to improve it:
- Don’t drink coffee late in the day.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at similar times each day.
- Sleep in complete darkness, with no artificial lighting.
- Dim the lights in your home a few hours before bedtime.
2. Limit Added Sugars
We should limit our sugar intake because of the following reasons:
- May Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease
- Has Been Linked to Acne
- May Accelerate the Skin Aging Process
- May Increase Your Risk of Depression
- Can Cause Weight Gain
- Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- May Increase Your Risk of Cancer
- Can Increase Cellular Aging
- Drains Your Energy
- Can Lead to Fatty Liver
3. Engage in Moderate Exercise
Exercise causes change in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC). WBCs are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or WBCs circulate more rapidly during exercise, this helps detect illnesses earlier.
Regular, moderate exercise may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate regularly.
Jogging, biking, walking, swimming, and hiking are great options.
4. Do Water Fast or Intermittent Fast
Ayurveda considers fast (Upavasa or Langhana) as most crucial factor in treating any disease in the body.
This Fastingtherapy is considered the first line of treatment for balancing imbalanced bodily humors that are vital to maintain health. Fasting helps reinstate the vitiated digestive fire that in turns helps restore health. Ten types of Fasting therapies have been described as the four types of Panchakarma or purifying therapies (Therapeutic emesis, purgation, medicated enemas and nasal insufflations), Controlling thirst, Exposure to wind, Exposure to sun, – Administration of foods and medicine that are hot in nature, which helps in digestion, fasting and– physical exercise.
Cycles of prolonged fasting for 48 -120 hours are considered to help protect against immune system damage, they are also reported induce immune system regeneration – shifting, cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. Fasting has health benefits beyond weight loss. It may also help reduce symptoms of some auto immune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Benefits of Intermittent fasting
- Help Regenerate the immune cells: During fasting, the body uses up stored glucose, fat and ketones, and also recycles worn out and damaged immune cells. The white blood cell count gets a boost when one resumes eating. However, fasting should only be done under medical supervision.
- Provide a robust anti-aging intervention: When the cells adapt to fasting, there is an enhancing effect on autophagy or the process in the body that deals with destruction of cells in the body. This helps maintains homeostasis or normal functioning by protein degradation and turnover of the destroyed cell organelles for new cell formation and may thereby exert anti-ageing effect. Autophagy is an essential part of the anti-ageing mechanism of caloric restriction. During intermittent fasting the autophagic response is triggered. It provides the cells the space and time needed to get debris and waste products out. Therefore, fasting can help repair and replenish the tear and wear in the body.
5. Stay Enough Hydrated
Hydration doesn’t necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, but preventing dehydration is important to your overall health.
Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These complications can increase your susceptibility to illness.
To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluid daily to make your urine pale yellow. Water is recommended because it’s free of calories, additives, and sugar.
6. Manage Your Stress Levels
A healthy lifestyle involves a wholesome diet, quality sleep and regular exercise.
But the way you feel and how you think is also very important. Being stressed all the time is a recipe for disaster.
Excess stress can raise cortisol levels and severely impair your metabolism. It can increase junk food cravings, fat in your stomach area and raise your risk of various diseases.
Studies also show that stress is a significant contributor to depression, which is a massive health problem today.
To reduce stress, try to simplify your life — exercise, take nature walks, practice deep-breathing techniques and maybe even meditation.
Not only will overcoming your stress make you healthier, but it will also improve your life in other ways. Going through life worried, anxious and never being able to relax and enjoy yourself is a big waste.
7. Increase Intake of More Fermented Foods or Take A Probiotic Supplement
Gut health and immunity are deeply interconnected.
Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics.
These probiotics reside in our gut. A flourishing network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms.
Fermented foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir.
If you don’t regularly eat fermented foods, probiotic supplements are another option.
By following the above steps, you can regain the innate immunity in its optimum way.
Disclaimer: The tips and suggestions mentioned in the article have been written for general awareness and should not be considered as professional medical advice. We strongly recommend you consult your doctor or an expert before starting any fitness regime, diet changes, or lifestyle choices that affect your physical or emotional health.