Functioning as the bodys fighting chance against any type of infection and disease that enters the body, the "immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body from infection (The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). Most individuals claim to know all about their immune systems; however, several surveys conducted within the past decade prove that the majority do not. Even if you havent been diagnosed with an immune disorder or deficiency, it is important to take active steps protect the important body system. Rather than turning to medication or other synthetic treatments in order to cure ailments or aid in recovery, focus on adapting a lifestyle that will support and strengthen a healthy immune system.
Chronic stress is a common factor that leads to a variety of immune deficiencies. There is no doubt that everyone experiences a certain amount of stress here or there, but it is only considered a direct cause of a weakened immune system when that stress becomes chronic. Put in medical terms: when stressed, the brain tells the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol - a steroid hormone that reduces inflammation within the body. Chronic stress in the body results in an overactivation of this immunity response, harming both the metabolism and immune systems rather than helping them. As stress continues to prompt cortisol to fight inflammation, it eliminates the need for the immune system to do so. As a result of inactivity, the killer T-cells (lymphocyte that plays a major role in cell-mediated immunity) fail to replicate, and the amount of macrophage activity in the body decreases.
Although not identified by the CDC as a proven medical condition, Adrenal Fatigue is the term doctors refer to as a weakened immune system brought on by chronic stress. A patient is said to be suffering from this syndrome when their body has endured so much mental, emotional, or physical stress, that their adrenal glands no longer function correctly. Primary symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue are: feeling rundown, overwhelmed, exhausted for no reason, you feel more awake and alert after 6pm than you do throughout the day, you have difficulties bouncing back from stress/illnesses, or constantly craving sweet and salty snacks. After reading the symptoms, you fear you may be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, do not ignore them. Although there are no tests existing to specifically identify Adrenal Fatigue, there are other tests that will tell you the level of adrenal function within your body. If your adrenal glands are indeed fatigued, seek the help of a physician, dietician, or any medical book focusing on adrenal function - but first things first: take a deep breath and relax your body and mind.
2. Be an Optimist
From now on, live every day viewing the glass as half full! Over the past century, several doctors have conducted experiments that prove just how powerful and important a the connection is between one's body and mind. If you are having a hard time believing this idea, doctors compare the effects positive thinking has on the immune system to those of patients being treated using "the placebo effect." In both situations, the belief that they are healthy and getting better causes the brain to release endorphins throughout the body. For example, there are two types of endorphins produced by the body - interleukin and interferon - that fight cancer cells naturally. In fact, cancer patients are often prescribed courses, beginning at $40,000 per treatment. According to Deepak Chopra, M.D., your body naturally naturally produces more than a million dollars worth of Interleukin-2 during your lifetime"... and it all begins with a smile and a happy thought.
In addition, those who embrace every day with a positive attitude tend to take better care of themselves than pessimists. When positively motivated, a person is more likely to take the necessary precautions to stay fit and healthy. On the opposite hand, those who suffer from depression or chronic stress, are more likely to contract a simple cold, and stay sick longer than optimists would. With this knowledge, practices such as biofeedback, hypnosis, guided imagery, meditation, and deep breathing are practiced in order to reduce stress, reduce the risk of heart disease, and strengthen the immune system. For those who are uncertain about spending money for such treatments, there are plenty of websites that have been created with the simple purpose of providing affirmations for those whose negativity is most likely affecting their immune systems. Check out sites like freeaffirmations.org if you are ever in need of motivation, and live every day with a smile on your face and your glass half full.
3. Eliminate Alcohol
It isn't a secret that alcohol has negative affects on your body and mind; however, most people overlook the complications it creates for a person's immunity. After alcohol is consumed, it travels into the bloodstream via the stomach and immediately begins attacking white blood cells. White blood cells (aka lymphocytes) serve as one of the body's primary defense systems against inflammation. The reduction in white blood cells caused by alcohol consumption, weakens the body's natural ability to fight off disease. In addition, alcohol also attacks the body's red blood cells, causing them to clump together. In this process referred to as "blood sludging", the clumps of red blood cells block the smaller blood vessels throughout the body, preventing oxygen from reaching all parts of the body. When the cells, organs, tissues, and systems within the body aren't supplied with sufficient oxygen, their poor performances all result in a weaker immune system.
Do not be alarmed! Although this information does seem scary, it does not mean you need to completely eliminate alcohol from your diet. The data above applies to consumers who drink excessively, and you know your body the best. On average, a drink or two won't hurt you; however, consuming three drinks or more in one night have proved to have a different effect. If one chooses to drink until drunk, they are impairing their bodies by creating a nutrition deficiency. When the body lacks the nutrients it needs, the immune system will in turn suffer. Most importantly, an excessive amount of alcohol impairs the function of the lymphocytes in charge of producing antibodies that fight diseases and viruses. In summation: drink in moderation, or your immune system will suffer!
4. Soak Up the Sun
Primarily absorbed through the sun's rays, Vitamin D is a key factor for improving the immune system. Most commonly known for strengthening bones and teeth, Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium. In addition to these purposes, Vitamin D is also known to have anti-cancer properties within the body. According to the University of Copenhagen, tests now prove that Vitamin D has a significant impact on the immune system. With an impact on the body's ability to fight pathogens, the lack of Vitamin D has some very serious risks. When the body lacks the necessary amount of Vitamin D, it makes the body more vulnerable to cancer, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes.
The easiest way to supply the body with the amount of Vitamin D it needs is from the sun's rays. As the body is exposed to UV-B radiation, the body turns the light into Vitamin D. Although very important to use, sunscreen prevents the body from absorbing the sun's ray; and thus, producing Vitamin D. During the summer, spend about 10-15 minutes outdoors and unprotected; however, two-three hours of unprotected sun exposure is necessary during the winter for the body to maintain accurate levels of Vitamin D. Although these suggested time limits seem doable, it can often be difficult for those with office jobs, or students stuck inside all day. If this is the case, make sure to add Vitamin D-rich foods to your diet (i.e. fish liver oil, oily fish, fortified milk, egg yolk).
5. Gobble Up The Garlic
Since ancient times, garlic has not only been used to enhance flavors in cooking or ward off vampires, but has been used for medical purposes as well. The properties in garlic have proven to play an important role in immunity, whether ingested in supplement form or in a regular diet. According to one study posted on pubmed.gov, over 50 of the chemicals that make up garlic stimulate the bowels to eliminate waste, manage fevers, fight bacteria and control disorders within the blood. In addition, the chemical components that make up garlic detoxify the liver - an important part of the immune system. Often overlooked when discussing the immune system, the liver plays a huge part in determining the wellness and immunity of an individual. A part of the body's endocrine system, the liver is home to lymphocytes, natural killer, and killer T cells, which essentially work together to form the body's immune system.
Addressed in over three thousand medical publications, the chemical makeup of garlic improves the health of both the mind and body. Studies show garlic is used to reduce fatigue and stress through a variety of ways, most of which still remain a mystery to scientists studying the effects of garlic. In addition, garlic is often added to ones diet in order to strengthen the heart, stimulate waste removal, expel worms from the body, positively effect the spleen, lungs, and stomach, reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases, or control a fever. Garlic is also known to prevent platelet accumulation, so it is also used when dealing with blood disorders. In fact, garlic is useful in so many ways that it can even act as an insect repellent if combined with olive oil and applied to skin. Whether taken as a supplement, worn as a necklace, or added to your dinner, there is no denying that garlic is a superfood!
6. Sleep is Necessary
If you pulled a muscle, what is the first thing the doctor says to do in order to heal? Rest. Your immune system is the same exact way. Throughout the day, your body comes in contact with a countless number of pathogens. In fact, the simple act of opening a door exposes you to over ----- germs when touching the handle. Even though you are constantly exposed to bacteria, the immune system works 24/7 in order to keep you from getting sick. Feeling tired is the bodys way of letting you know that your body needs time to rest and recover at the end of a long day.
No matter how super it is, the immune system will exhaust itself and fail to work properly if the body does not receive adequate rest. In addition to improving memory, helping your metabolism, and recharging your body, sleep plays an important role in immunity. According to Diwakar Balachandran, MD, the director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas, A lot of studies show our T-cells go down if we are sleep deprived, Balachandran says. And inflammatory cytokines go up. ... This could potentially lead to the greater risk of developing a cold or flu. In simple words, lack of sleep reduces immune function. Sleep deprivation has been linked to countless mental and physical illnesses, and even reduces the effectiveness of vaccines, medication, and other treatments.
7. Take Probiotics
Medically defined, probiotics are: "live microorganisms (usually bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut that are taken as dietary supplements or found in foods. In simpler terms, probiotics are used to replace/increase the microorganisms within the digestive tract. A form of good bacteria, they are typically prescribed for patients suffering from digestive issues; however, everyone should take probiotics on a daily basis. Taking care of your gut should be a priority, since the intestinal tract contains 90% of the bodys immune system. As it continuously works to fight disease and protect the body, your gut is under a lot of stress and works 24/7.
Additional supplements aid in repairing the intestinal lining from damage caused by a variety of factors, and should be complimented by a healthy lifestyle. Probiotics can be found in yogurts and other fermented foods. While increasing consumption of such foods is beneficial, taking a daily supplement will ensure that you are always receiving enough probiotics to support your immune system. You can purchase supplements at any health-food store, pharmacy, and most grocery stores. Make sure to do your research before you choose your supplement, in order to ensure that it is the best one for your body, lifestyle, and immune system.
8. Socialize and Strengthen Relationships
Research shows that the outgoing individuals who invest in personal relationships have a significantly stronger immune system than those who keep to themselves. In fact, this evidence even suggests that social people will outlive introverts. This information can seem confusing, more people mean more germs right? Wrong. In a study discussed on HealthStatus.com, a participants immunity was determined by measuring the level of antibodies produced by the veiled Herpes virus, which typically exists without causing any symptoms. Using this technique, scientists were able to test how the stress caused by loneliness negatively affected the immune system in their participants.
Even though there are countless studies focusing on the relationship between stress and immune function, this study was the first to actually associate loneliness with stress, and this stress to immunity. When exposed to stress, the Herpes virus is activated, increasing the production of antibodies and reducing immune function. When participants were faced with a challenge, the unsocial participants felt more stressed than those who identified as outgoing. Research shows that social individuals are more likely to cultivate strong personal relationships, which provide them with support and happiness that prevent an increase in stress when when challenged. The evidence from this study finally provided statistical evidence for why loneliness can negatively affect ones immunity: by identifying stress as the factor. Even if you prefer to be alone, being social even once a week, will help strengthen your immune system.
9. Make More Love
In addition to a plethora of other perks, sexual relationships have a significant effect on the immune system. According to research gathered from numerous case studies, being intimate at least twice a week will increase your immunity. If these sexual encounters are purely intimate, the body produces 30% more of the disease fighting antibody immunoglobulin A. An increase in this antibody will significantly improve immune function, since immunoglobulin A is the bodys first line of defense when fighting a cold or flu. In addition, the body will produce more T-cell antibodies if the sexual encounters are followed by time spent cuddling, talking, laughing, or doing other things known to deepen the relationship. Relationship specialists say that spending quality time together after sex allows partners to be more vulnerable and creates an intimate relationship rather than just a physical one.
Whether you have learned from movies, books, or personal experience, intimacy and physicality are both large factors that lead to love. There are numerous case studies in which the scientists unanimously agree that love is incredibly beneficial for your heath. The National Longitudinal Mortality Study reported that married couples live longer than unmarried couples, and are at a lower risk for heart attacks, diabetes, Alzeiheimers, lung disease, and psychological disorders. In addition, the aerobic activity of sex promotes pain reduction, improved sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and decreases the risk of depression and anxiety. All of these benefits contribute to a healthy body and immune system. Knowing that intimacy and sexual encounters benefit both your mental and physical health, dont be afraid to up your dose when it comes to making love.
10. Use Common Sense
As medical resources continue to improve and increasing in complexity, the ideas regarding illness prevention taught to you often get tossed to the side. Even if you are actively taking supplements, exercising, or finding other ways to live the healthy lifestyle possible, think back to proper etiquette you learned as a toddler. From the very beginning, teachers, parents, babysitters, and everyone else around you taught you ways to fight illness and increase immunity using common sense. These tips and tricks you may have learned from watching educational television or in a middle school health class, are still free, easy, and available 24/7. For example, icons from Obama to Elmo teach and promote the "Dracula Cough", especially during cold and flu season. This simple act of coughing into the pit of your arm rather than your hand characters such as Elmo reduces the amount of germs you can spread to others by touching items around, or to yourself by touching your food or face before washing your hands.
You can improve your immunity with countless other fail-safe practices that people often tend to ignore. Make sure to get your annual flu vaccine, wash your hands, and always maintain healthy hygiene practices. For example, the CDC enforces the importance of good hygiene states with facts like: "Within the first 15 minutes of bathing, the average person sheds 6 x 106 colony forming units (CFU) of Staphylococcus aureus", "Trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide, is related to the lack of facial hygiene", and "The spread of pinworms can be reduced by proper hygiene, including clipping nails and showering children immediately after they wake in the morning." If all else fails, be considerate to those around by avoiding close contact with others or staying home when you aren't feeling well. No one wants to be stuck with a cold, so be considerate and respectful to others while you recover, and do your best to keep the amount of germs you spread to a minimum. These fail-safe tactics should feel like second nature to individuals maintaining a healthy lifestyle, since working to prevent illness is just as important to your immunity as treatment and recovery when feeling under the weather. By following these guidelines, in addition to additional ways to maintain good hygiene set out by the CDC, you are reducing your risk of exposure and contraction of infections, illnesses, or diseases that weaken your body's natural immune response.
You have heard time and time again that the positive effects exercise has on the body. In addition to weight management and improved sleep, regular exercise has the potential to support and strengthen the body's natural immune functions. According to conclusive evidence available from countless case studies and medical journals, making yoga a part of your daily routine improves immunity. A case study posted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information establishes that yoga helps both the mind and body because it reduces stress. The negative effects that stress places on the body increase the risk of being diagnosed with immune deficiencies, autonomic disorders, and cardiovascular diseases. Reducing the negative results chronic stress has on the body will increase the production of killer T-cells, and other disease-fighting lymphocytes that make up the immune system. This ideas is supported by a wealth of significant and supportive evidence that has allowed researchers to claim that "Yoga resists the autonomic changes and impairment of cellular immunity seen in examination stress" (NCBI).
In another theory examined by YogaJournal.com, completing immune-supportive yoga routines does more for the body than just reduce stress.Originating from the ancient practice of yoga to increase ojas (subtle energy produced by practice that increases vitality), immune-targeted yoga routines are a guaranteed way to improve the natural immune function produced by any or all of the body's complex systems. The body's health and ability to fight disease is not by any specific factor, but by a combination of all effects on the body from all its components. There is conclusive evidence that the right yoga poses and movements positively stimulate the nervous, endocrine, digestive, and circulatory systems of the body, which all play significant parts in the body's ability to fight disease. When a body system is stimulated but not overworked, the systems ability and strength is enhanced, making it stronger when fighting future threats. Through the right sequence of poses and exercises, there is no limit to the mental and physical benefits yoga can have on your body.
12. Flush Out Inflammation
Anytime you are suffering from an illness, you are told time and time again to "Drink plenty of fluids." Every medical professional will Hydration is essential for healthy immune function, and should be maintained 24/7 rather than just when you are feeling under the weather. While thirst primarily seems like the most inconvenient result of dehydration, the fundamental impact water has on the immune system may surprise you. Drinking enough water provides the blood with enough oxygen to ensure proper function of all body parts. In addition, hydration improves the body's ability to detoxify itself. On the other hand, dehydration causes toxins to build up in the kidneys, dramatically increasing the amount of inflammation within the body.
Playing a vital part in immune function, the body's ability to produce lymph would be impossible without water. Without lymph, your body would be unable to deliver enough white blood cells and nutrients essential for vitality. Since water consumption supports adequate production of both immune and blood cells, there is significant evidence to claim that water is linked to preventing and treating chronic ailments. For example, an increase in blood cells and oxygen lubricates joints, easing joint pain and issues related to arthritis. In addition, when you drink more water, you are increasing your body's natural ability to prevent germs to enter into the body. Specifically, water allows the eyes and nose to remain moist, which allows them to trap or repel any foreign agents attempting to enter the body. As you increase your fluid intake, make sure only increase your amount of clean, preferably filtered and distilled water.
In an in-depth study conducted by researchers at the University of California, researches believe that they have found a way to regenerate your entire immune system. The results provided by the study provide significant evidence that fasting will essentially leave you with an entirely new immune system. While most medical professionals emphasize the importance a balanced diet has on immunity, USC researchers have explained the autonomic effect fasting has on the body. Fasting is so successful because it triggers stem cells to produce more white blood cells. Sine white blood cells are responsible for preventing and fighting disease, fasting is especially effective for people with damage immune systems. For example, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy were protected from the harsh and toxic impacts of treatment during the fasting process.
With a goal to improve immunity, it is important to undergo the fasting process safely. When undergone correctly, stem cells actually have the potential to rebuild the entire immune system. Valter Longo, professor gerontology in the biological sciences at USC even reports, "the body actually removed parts that were damaged, old or inefficient during the fasting process, creating literally, a new immune system." The most fascinating part of the entire experiment is the process by which regeneration occurred. When starved, the blood cell count in all of the conducted trials initially dropped; however, scientists recorded that the dangerous reduction in blood cells caused the body's stem cells to essentially "flip a regressive switch" leading to the positive results. In addition to immunity, research shows that fasting has the potential to increase weight-loss (intermittent fasting), improve digestive system function, and speed up metabolism. The surprising effects fasting has on immunity provides a promising possibility of a personal "reset" button.
14. Dry Brushing
There is a new holistic technique quickly gaining attention in the medical community for having numerous beneficial effects on the body. Dry brushing involves using a soft, dry brush (available for purchase online or any beauty supply store) on the entire surface of your body. In addition to removing dead skin cells and improving circulation, dry brushing cleanses the lymphatic system and strengthens the immune system. When the brushes dry bristles exfoliate the skin, it improves the skins ability to remove noxious gases and toxins from the skin. As the bodys dead skin cell count goes down, it increases the amount of both blood and lymph throughout the body. Since an efficient circulation of lymph is the key to a healthy immune system, studies show that dry brushing actually improves the bodys available to fight infection.
As the bodys largest organ, skin acts as the first layer of defense against germs. The well-known Clarisonic® Facial Brush functions in the same way, by using soft bristles to exfoliate the skin in order to remove dead cells and improve detoxification of the face.This easy, inexpensive technique increases the bodys ability to transport lymph - which is responsible for supplying the body with nutrients and absorbing vitamins needed by the body. When trying to strengthen the immune system, medical professionals often suggest detoxing to reduce inflammation; however, these typical detox methods or treatments only cleanse the inside of the body, forgetting about the largest detox organ of the body - the skin! In order for dry brushing to be most effective, specialists suggest dry brushing in the morning and after exercising. Starting with the soles of the feet, use vigorous counter-clockwise strokes moving upward and ending with your arms and hands several times, until you have addressed every part of the skin head-to-toe. The detoxifying power of exfoliation is constantly underrated, since the increase in circulation improves the elimination of toxic threats before they even enter the body.
15. Don't Smoke!
It is no secret that smoking kills. In addition to negatively impacting the respiratory system, the toxic chemicals in cigarettes trigger harmful and life-threatening changes to immune cells within the body. In addition to nicotine, smokers inhale over 7,000 chemicals with each puff of a cigarette. These toxic chemicals not only include numerous cancer causing agents, but chemicals that depress antibodies that protect against infection. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), smokers increase their risk of malignant diseases, respiratory infections, and death. As the inhaled toxins move throughout the lungs and into the bloodstream, it replaces the bloods supply of oxygen necessary healthy bodily functions.
Interfering with oxygen levels within the body will lead to damaging effects on the cells, tissues, muscles, organs, and systems of the body. Instead of oxygen, the brain is being supplied by toxins such as carbon monoxide, tar, cyanide, formaldehyde, etc., threatening all important bodily functions. Focusing on its threat to immunity, cigarettes lower levels of protective antioxidants, increase susceptibility to very severe diseases and infections, and lower the bodys ability to recover. Dont freak out just yet though - if smokers quit, the body will slowly repair itself and reverse the damaging processes. Slowly but surely, the bodys will produce increasing levels of natural killer cells and activity related to fighting cancer-specific toxins. In addition, always be aware of your surrounds, and avoid second-hand smoke whenever possible.