What is the immune system?
The immune system is a powerful system in our body that works to help protect us day-to-day. It involves all parts of the body and is made up of a network of cells and organs that help to defend the body against attacks by foreign invaders such as viruses.
When your immune system is functioning properly, your body will be better equipped to fight off infections by agents like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. When it is not working right, you can find yourself getting sick more often, for example catching more colds than you otherwise would.
What is the importance of a healthy immune system?
Having a healthy immune system is important because we are exposed to foreign bodies all the time; whether it’s touching surfaces on public transport, someone sneezing near you or consuming an unwashed salad in a restaurant. Really anytime we are out and about, at home or work and interacting with others, there is the chance that we are going to come across some germs.
However, that doesn’t mean we should panic! Our immune system does a great job of looking after us. It acts as a first line of defense against these foreign bodies. Then if, for example, a bacteria does manage to pass into our blood, the immune system will produce white blood cells to destroy the bacteria. You can watch a white blood cell chasing a bacteria here.
How to boost your immune system
There are a few different things that reportedly help boost to your immune system. These include:
Taking healthy exercise – You will find that when you are exercising and staying active, you are going to feel better inside and out. Try getting a little bit more activity into each day, like a nice lunchtime walk or a relaxing yoga session to help you wind down in the evening. Exercise not only helps aid your immune system but can help your physical and mental health too.
Eat fruits and vegetables – So the saying goes; ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ I bet you’ve heard it many times. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is often recommended. Fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals as well as being a great source of fibre and nutients, including more of them in your diet can help to support your immune system. Remember to get a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats too so that you have plenty of energy to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Avoid Smoking and consuming too much alcohol – This probably won’t come as a surprise but it’s worth considering. Alcohol is believed to negatively affect the immune system and weaken the body’s ability to defend itself against infection. Smoking is also bad for your immune system – tobacco contains over 7000 chemicals which can impact the immune system.
Get enough sleep – Getting enough sleep is also recommended if you are trying to boost your immune system. Studies have found that not getting enough sleep can affect the bodies immune reponse so make sure you rest up – particulary if you are feeling poorly! A 2015 study found that participants that slept for shorter periods were more susceptible to the common cold.
Try to reduce your stress – As well as being emotionally taxing, stress has negative effects on the physical body too and dysregulate the immune system. Avoiding stress can seem like an impossible task but finding good coping mechanisms that work for you can be a great starting point.
Perhaps you find cooking a nice meal in the evenings is a great way to unwind? Or maybe meditation or a good exercise session is more up your alley? Reiki can also be a great way to help you find inner calm and relax your body and mind. I find that even if I take just 5 minutes before bed to perform some self-Reiki it makes a difference. If you are interested in finding out more about Reiki and would like to take a Reiki course click here.