The Immune System
The Immune System does an extraordinary job of protecting against pathogens. (Infection, bacteria, anything that comes from the outside and wants to get into the body to disrupt its synergy.)
The skin is the body’s first defence against infections, providing a physical obstacle to prevent harmful organisms from invading the body. Historically, this was said to be the skin’s only role in the Immune System. But more recent research has revealed the skin isn’t merely a passive barrier against infections, it’s a living system, containing a vast array of different cells that communicate and work together synergistically. The problem is the rate at which these cells renew themselves, and thus their ability to repel infections declines as we age. It’s vitally important, therefore, to provide the body with the nutrients needed to help keep this barrier intact and fully functional.
But, as well as the skin, we also need to consider that the majority of the Immune System actually exists in the gut. Over 70% of the Immune Cells live in the gut, deciding the fate of germs they may face, most of out gut Immune System takes the form of the lymphoid tissue: the lining of the gut that’s comprised of various protective cells. And aside from this, we also have billions of good bacteria that live and work in our gut! Not only do these microbes help break down our food and keep us regular, but they also play a crucial role in protecting us from the destructive pathogens we consume.
As can be seen from the above, the Immune System isn’t a single entity, it’s a system covering large areas of the body, and interacting with other systems, it relies on interconnectivity. It needs harmony and balance, but the Immune system isn’t perfect. It has blind spots. Its capacity declines with age, and sometimes, it can alter and a pathogen will infiltrate and make us unwell.
To keep the Immune System in optimum condition, you need a 360-degree holistic approach, focussing on the diet, emotional well-being sleep, exercise and much more. Leading a healthy lifestyle will ensure the natural defences are as resilient and robust as they can get. But beyond washing your hands and eating yet another stick of celery, what else can you do to support the Immune System?
- Stay hydrated – the body needs water, and clean, clear water is the best. Without water the body cant eliminate toxins, the bodily systems tend to slow down, skin becomes dry and constipation shows a distinct slowing down of the digestive system. The body is at least 60% water and begins to go into conservation mode when it’s not replaced. Coffee, tea and juices are not the same as pure water, they contain caffeine, sugar, fats and other nasties, pure, clean water, and we need around two litres daily.
- Sleep is important, at least seven to nine hours for an adult is considered to be the least amount of sleep needed. Some people sleep for longer than this, and that’s fine. When the body sleeps it undergoes a series of changes that enable the rest that is vital to overall health. Sleep allows the brain and body to slow down and engage in a process of recovery, promoting better physical and mental performance the next day and over the longer term. If we don’t sleep these processes are short-circuited, affecting thinking, concentration, energy levels, and mood. Getting enough sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system.
- The diet helps maintain the Immune System, eating whole foods is recommended: whole foods are a group of food that is eaten as it is grown, in its wholeness and without much cooking, which expels nutrients we need). Maintaining a good healthy diet, and including Vitamins and Minerals such as Vitamin C, D and supplements such as Zinc all help to keep the Immune System to keep us healthy and in optimum condition.
- Stress is a fact of modern-day living, when stress hits we start to feel threatened, the nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, these rouse the body for emergency action, fight or flight kicks in, the heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and the senses become sharper. The Immune system too gets ready to fight invaders; this may strengthen this System for a while, but after calming down the Immune System must work harder to get back its state of stasis.
- Although prolonged intense exercise can suppress the Immune System, moderate exercise can give it a boost. And regular moderate exercise can reduce inflammation, helping the immune cells to regenerate regularly. Examples of moderate exercise include walking, cycling, swimming; aim for a little and often at first, building up slowly is the best way.
The Immune System is vital to keeping us healthy, feed it often and it will continue to do this no matter what life may throw at us.