The world is a dangerous place plagued with bacteria, viruses, funghi and more. Our body’s immune system is the first line of defense in making sure that these pathogens and pollutants don’t cause illness and disease. A strong immune system can keep the body fit and healthy while helping to reduce the signs of aging.
The immune system is important not just for physical health, but mental health too. A strong immune system can provide energy to the brain and make it feel reinvigorated and energetic. The mind will feel more positive and general cognitive function will be increased, with improved memory and improved moods being the main positive effects.
There are three major indicators that show that the immune system is in a weakened state and is in need of some help –
– Lethargy and tiredness
– Stress and bad moods
A healthy body and a healthy mind is the result of a strong immune system. Thankfully, there are many ways to strengthen the immune system to make it perform at a higher level, thereby leading to a longer, happier and healthier life.
Table of Contents
- How does the immune system work?
- What type of attackers does the immune system protect against?
- What are the main causes of a weak immune system?
- What are the benefits of having a strong immune system?
- 107 Sneaky Ways to Boost Your Immune System
- Strengthen your immune system by improving your diet!
- Tip 1 – Eat a protein rich diet
- Tip 2 – Avoid foods like sweets, chocolate and soft drinks that are high in sugar
- Tip 3 – Switch from white grains to whole grains
- Tip 4 – Drink some lemon juice every day
- Tip 5 – Eat probiotic yoghurts
- Tip 6 – Drink at least two liters of water every day
- Tip 7 – Avoid drinking too much coffee
- Tip 8 – Eat some foods rich in prebiotics
- Tip 9 – Drink a glass of red wine
- Tip 10 – Switch to the Mediterranean diet
How does the immune system work?
The immune system patrols the body looking for problems to fix and pollutants to remove. It is known as a ‘reactive system’.
White blood cells, known as ‘B’ cells, are passed through the body in the blood. They scan for bacteria, viruses, toxins, fungi and other pollutants. If they find any of these attackers in the body, they signal the white blood cells known as ‘T’ cells to attack and destroy them, thereby removing them from the body.
If the ‘T’ cells are unable to destroy the attackers, the immune system adapts by creating special cells called antibodies that can deal with the illness. This process, on average, takes approximately five to seven days. Once the antibodies are created, new ‘T’ cells armed with antibodies are sent out to destroy the attacker.
There are also many other types of white blood cells such as leukocytes, killer cells and helper cells. They are all used by the immune system to fight off invaders.
What type of attackers does the immune system protect against?
The body is constantly under attack from various invaders that want to enter it and use it as a home to sustain themselves and grow. Our bodies are the perfect breeding ground for them as they are warm and packed full of nutrients.
These invaders inhabit the world around us. They’re in the air, in our food, on the surface of everything we touch; they’re literally everywhere.
They range from tiny microscopic bacteria to parasitic organisms that can grow to a rather large size while inside the body. The immune system is constantly working to remove these invaders from the body and develop defenses against new, modified versions of them.
The immune system is capable of deflecting most of the invading organisms without issue. However, these invaders are constantly changing and adapting, and sometimes our immune system isn’t capable of immediately stopping them. If one of these invaders gets through the initial defenses of the immune system unscathed, we start to feel ill.
Many of the symptoms of illness are actually caused by the immune system as it works tirelessly to remove the invading organism from the body. Fevers, runny noses, coughs and chills all aid the immune system in their mission to restore the body to a healthy state.
What are the main causes of a weak immune system?
A lot of health issues are the result of the immune system unsuccessfully deflecting attacks on the body by the various attacking organisms. A weak immune system is not capable of deflecting many of the attacks from intruders to the body, leading to a greater change of falling ill.
There are a number of reasons why the immune system can be weakened. The main reasons are:
- Poor diet. Our body uses the nutrients, vitamins and minerals found in food as fuel to keep it running. Different parts of the body use different elements of food as fuel. The immune system is no different. Each part of the immune system requires a different type of fuel to keep it running. A diet lacking the fuel the immune system needs to function correctly can cause the immune system to function at a diminished and weakened capacity.
- Stress and depression. Stress and depression causes the body to release steroids known as ‘corticosteroids’. These steroids contain ‘cortisol’, a chemical that causes the body to enter ‘fight or flight mode’. When the body is in this state, it has increased amounts of energy and increased physical and mental performance. Cortisol, however, also suppresses the immune system and prevents it from working, leading to an increased chance of succumbing to illness.
- Lack of sleep. Sleep is essential for the body, giving it time to relax, renew itself and unwind. While the mind is sleeping, the body is hard at work repairing cells, making new cells and preparing the body for the day ahead of it. A lack of sleep can lead to the body being unable to strengthen and repair the immune system.
- Lack of exercise. Exercise strengthens and improves our body, making it stronger and faster while improving endurance. Exercise also causes the chemical dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine makes us feel happier and more positive. Through exercise, the circulatory and lymphatic systems are strengthened. This means that the while blood cells that make up the immune system are able to get around the body more easily, meaning that they can find and remove invading pathogens quicker and more easily.
- Overworking the body. Exercise and hard work is good at strengthening the body, but too much can actually weaken the immune system. Exercise forces the body to use more energy to rebuild cells that have been broken down and weakened during exercise. When they’re rebuilt, these cells are stronger than before. This process requires energy. If too much exercise is being done, the body is unable to provide the immune system with the energy it needs to function correctly. This can lead to lower amounts of white blood cells being produced.
- Obesity. Obesity has been found to reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. While research hasn’t been able to find the exact cause, experiments have shown that individuals who are overweight are significantly more likely to fall ill than those who are of a normal weight. Obesity also carries a number of other side effects. As such, for general wellbeing and general health, it is important to eliminate obesity.
- Cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. The body treats cigarettes, alcohol and drugs as invaders in the body and dispatches the immune system to remove them from the body. While the immune system is dealing with these particular invaders, other invaders can go by unnoticed, causing illness. Cigarettes, alcohol and certain drugs also contain many chemicals that can also suppress the immune system. Cadmium, for example, is a chemical found in cigarette smoke. It causes the white blood cells to function in a diminished capacity.
- Pollution from the environment. The world is full of pollutants that can weaken the immune system. Radiation, chemicals and biological pollutants can be found everywhere. They are all full of toxins that can weaken the immune system and cause illness.
What are the benefits of having a strong immune system?
There are many benefits to having a strong immune system. Some of the more important ones include:
- Good health. A strong immune system is capable of defeating the vast majority of harmful invaders in the body before they are able to cause illness. A strong immune system is also capable of destroying cancer cells before they can become dangerous.
- Reduce the signs of aging. A strong immune system can keep the skin cells rejuvenated and looking younger for longer.
- Minimize the effects of toxins in the body. Allergies and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis are caused by a weak immune system. A strong immune system is capable of fighting these ailments.
- A long and healthy life. A strong immune system keeps the body healthier and for longer, allowing for a long, healthy life. By making a few diet and tweaks to your lifestyle, it’s possible to greatly increase the strength of the immune system.
Part 2 of this article details 10 different ways to quickly and easily strengthen the immune system.
107 Sneaky Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Strengthen your immune system by improving your diet!
Our diets provides the fuel that the body uses to function. A varied and healthy diet provides the body with all the vitamins, nutrients and minerals it needs to work at peak performance. A diet lacking in either of these components will lead to the body being undernourished which could have a number of negative effects such as exhaustion, inability to think clearly, obesity and more.
The immune system is also affected by a poor diet. Different parts of the immune system use different nutrients for fuel.
For example, iron is used to produce white blood cells. If a diet is consumed that is lacking in iron, the immune system won’t be able to produce many white blood cells, which limits its ability to fight off attacks on the body.
By tweaking the diet and eating certain foods containing special vitamins, minerals and nutrients, it’s possible to drastically strengthen the immune system.
Tip 1 – Eat a protein rich diet
Protein is the building block used by each and every cell in the body. The body breaks down protein into amino acids. These amino acids are used to produce new cells and repair old ones. A protein rich diet ensures that the body has all the amino acids it needs to produce as many cells as necessary. This is particularly important for the immune system, as it requires large amounts of amino acids to produce white blood cells. Without enough protein, the immune system isn’t able to produce white blood cells, weakening it greatly.
The body is incapable of storing protein making it vital to eat protein periodically throughout the day. Nuts, eggs, dairy, seafood and meat are all foods that are high in protein content.
Protein also has some other benefits for the body. It creates a thermic reaction in the body that can speed up the metabolism leading to increased fat loss. Protein also encourages the body to create more muscle, which allows for a stronger, fitter body.
It is advised to try and eat 1/2g of protein for every lb. of weight. So, if you weight 200lbs. for example, try to eat at least 100g of protein each day.
Tip 2 – Avoid foods like sweets, chocolate and soft drinks that are high in sugar
Sugar directly weakens the immune system by reducing the efficiency of the white blood cells. Research has found that, for up to five hours after sugar has been ingested into the body, the immune system is weakened to such a degree that the body is nearly twice as vulnerable to an attack.
Sugar has also been found to negatively affect the body in other ways causing tiredness, head aches, mood swings and weight gain. Sugar is only empty calories for the body to ingest – it isn’t a nutrient that helps the body in any way.
Removing sugar from a diet can make a big difference to quality of life. The immune system will also benefit by becoming stronger and more able to fight off attacks and intrusions.
The easiest way to remove sugar from a diet is to use sugar free alternatives. Instead of eating chocolate, ice cream or sweets, eat some fruit instead. Also, switch to zero sugar soft drinks and use sweeteners instead of sugar in teas and coffees.
Tip 3 – Switch from white grains to whole grains
Sugar provides no nutritional benefit to the body; it only adds taste while providing empty calories.
White grains such as white rice, white bread and white pasta often have refined sugars added to them while they are processed that weaken the immune system and cause a number of other negative benefits (see Tip 2 for more information).
Whole grains such as brown rice, brown bread and brown pasta do not have refined sugars added to them and are thus much healthier for the body and the immune system.
Switching from white grains to whole grains can drastically lower sugar intake.
Whole grains also contain the ‘mill’ and the ‘germ’, two parts of the grain that are removed while being processed and turned into white grains. The mill and the germ contain essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that work to strengthen the immune system.
Tip 4 – Drink some lemon juice every day
Lemon juice helps strengthen the immune system in two main ways:
Firstly, lemon juice contains large amounts of a special type of nutrient called ‘bioflavonoids’. Bioflavonoids help to strengthen the cell wall to keep environmental pollutants out. This keeps cells healthier for longer and reduces the chance of infection, leaving the immune system to work on keeping the body safe from other attacks. Bioflavonoids also help the body to keep cholesterol levels low.
Secondly, lemon juice also helps the body to regulate its acid-alkali ph balance. Healthy bacteria that aid the immune system thrive in alkaline environments while viruses and harmful bacteria are strongest in acidic environments. Lemon juice causes the body to become more alkaline, making it more difficult for viruses and harmful bacteria to survive in the body. Vinegar can also help to make the body more alkaline.
Tip 5 – Eat probiotic yoghurts
Probiotic yoghurts are special yoghurts that contain healthy bacteria.
These healthy bacteria aid the immune system by removing pollutants from the body and fighting off viruses and unhealthy bacteria that can cause infection.
The healthy bacteria also help to strengthen the gastrointestinal tract (also known as the GI tract). The GI tract makes up part of the digestive system. It helps the body to absorb nutrients from food. A strong GI tract is better able to keep harmful bacteria, pollutants and toxins from entering the body.
Healthy bacteria also cause the immune system produce higher counts of white blood cells allowing it to better deal with attacks on the body.
Tip 6 – Drink at least two liters of water every day
Almost 75% of the human body is made up of water. While the body can survive up to a month without food, it dies within 3 days if it does not recieve water: without water, the body cannot function.
Water acts as a transport system for the body. It carries nutrients to the parts of the body that require them while removing waste, bacteria and toxins. Parts of the immune system also use water inside the body to get around the body.
Drinking water each day ensures that this transport system works as well as it can. It is recommended to drink at least 2L of water each day, with an extra liter of water required when in hot climates.
It’s best to drink water regularly throughout the day, before the body starts to feel thirsty. An easy way to check if enough water is being drunk each day is to look at your urine colour. If the urine is yellow, then more water needs to be drunk!
Tip 7 – Avoid drinking too much coffee
Coffee is one of the most commonly available and effective stimulants available today. It improves concentration while providing large amounts of energy. Coffee isn’t perfect, however.
Caffeine, the main ingredient in coffee responsible for its benefits, causes the body to become dehydrated. It also causes the body to pass through a number of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Caffeine also puts additional strain on the immune system, forcing it to work harder and become tired more easily.
Caffeine also has some long term negatives. Research has found that long term caffeine use can lead to problems with high blood pressure, sleeping disorders and even foul moods.
Medical studies have found that 300mg of caffeine each day is a safe amount (for reference; a single cup of coffee contains 150mg of caffeine). Any more than that can cause strain on the immune system and negatively affect the digestive system.
It is also recommended to drink 500ml of water after each cup of coffee to offset the dehydration caused by the caffeine.
Tip 8 – Eat some foods rich in prebiotics
Prebiotics are a special type of fiber that are used by healthy bacteria in the body for nourishment. By eating foods that are high in prebiotics, the healthy bacteria will thrive and grow in larger numbers making the body healthier and the immune system stronger (see Tip 5 for more information).
Oatmeal is high in prebiotics as well as other vitamins, minerals and nutrients, making it a healthy choice for breakfast. Garlic, asparagus, spinach, peas and beans also contain high numbers of prebiotics.
Tip 9 – Drink a glass of red wine
Red wine has been found to strengthen the immune system and help keep the body free from heart disease, cancer and other infections. Further research has found that red wine can also reduce cholesterol levels while helping to keep blood pressure low.
Red wine also contains a nutrient known as resveratrol. Resveratrol helps the skin cells to repair themselves, leading to smoother, firmer skin. Resveratrol also speeds up the metabolism leading to increased amounts of fat loss.
Red wine has to be drunk in moderation, however. Alcohol can weaken the immune system by lowering white blood cell production. It also lessens the body’s ability to absorb various nutrients from food.
A single glass of red wine is enough to provide all the benefits of red wine but without the negative side effects of alcohol.
Tip 10 – Switch to the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is popular in Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy where inhabitants are incredibly fit and healthy. The main foods eaten are fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, lean meats, legumes, dairy and whole grains. The Mediterranean diet helps the body fight off cancer, hear disease and a multitude of other diseases, while causing the body to shed fat reducing obesity.
Olive oil is one of the main components of the Mediterranean diet. It is used to cook the food and sometimes eaten with bread. Olive oil is one of the strongest ‘healthy fats’ and is rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
When food is processed, many of the vitamins, nutrients and other components contained inside it are removed from the food. The Mediterranean diet focuses on easy to make meals made up of whole foods that are rich in the nutrients the body uses as fuel.
By switching to the Mediterranean diet, the immune system will have all the fuel it needs to perform as best as it can.