The Pillars of a Strong Immune System
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When the immune system is doing its job properly, you don’t even notice it’s working. You’re going about your daily life, and, behind-the-scenes, your immune system is working away. It’s not until you’re sick that you realize how much you take your fully-functioning immune system for granted.
Daily strains on the immune system
So why do we do so many things that wear our immune system down? Late nights or early mornings at work might help us hit a deadline. Keeping erratic hours to make yourself available for other people’s schedules while you work from home. Skipping your visits to the gym because you’re trying to social distance, then going too hard with an at-home workout to make up for it. But as we chase those short-term goals, we may not realize the future consequences of activities like this for our immune system.
Those extra hours on-the-job could mean less sleep. And when we lose those hours of rest, that’s less time for our immune system to produce specific proteins it uses to control the growth and activity of its cells. Those extra connections when travelling, or that big push at the gym, activate stress hormones in the body to give us an extra boost of energy. But those same hormones can impede the immune system’s ability to track down and get rid of infected cells, making it easier for viruses to travel through our bodies.
Better choices for better immunity
Even if we’re not always aware that certain lifestyle choices have negative consequences for the immune system, there are some steps we can take to keep our immune system strong for when we need it most.
Getting sick is unavoidable. But when it happens, how sick you get depends on the condition of your immune system.
Adults generally get the cold two or three times a year and recover in a week or so. When a virus makes us sick, our immune system kicks into high gear. It starts making weapons of all different kinds to fight the virus until it’s gone. After the battle, it also has to repair and replace the cells that were damaged during the fight. To manufacture these weapons, communicate their purpose, and operate them, our immune system uses vitamins and minerals. If these building blocks are already present in your body at the time you get sick, your immune system can get to work right away at full capacity. If you’re lacking a key vitamin or mineral, your body’s fight will be less efficient because it doesn’t have the materials it needs to build a solid defense.
A strong immune system is built through good daily habits
Since we don’t know when we’re going to get sick, it’s important to keep our body nourished with fundamental vitamins and minerals. The immune system is complicated. Some parts use more of one vitamin than another. Or at different points in the fight against a virus, one mineral could be more beneficial. We don’t know which is needed at any given time, but we do know the body needs certain key vitamins and minerals at certain times. We also know the recommended dietary amount we are supposed to have. Keeping up these levels through daily doses of vitamins and minerals helps us build a strong immune system through good daily habits.
Key building blocks for a strong immune system
Vitamin A: Helps replace immune cells lost when fighting sickness
Vitamin C: Helps fast-acting and long-lasting immune cells fight viruses
Vitamin D: Enhances immune cells’ abilities to recognize and fight invaders
Vitamin E: Helps immune cells fight infection and communicate
Selenium: Supports immune cell development
Zinc: Helps your immune system figure out the best line of defence
Beyond vitamins and minerals: Supporting the growth and function of immune cells with Beta glucan 1,3
When you get sick, the reaction speed and availability of immune cells is key to getting you back to your old self. Beta glucan 1,3, a special type of fiber, can help with both of these things. It encourages “good” bacteria to grow in the gut, which is a key location your body makes immune cells. Beta glucan 1,3 also binds to the outside edges of key immune cells. This can help immune cells communicate and signal other types of cells with a response plan when a virus is detected.
A strong immune system includes healthy skin
Maintaining healthy skin is more than just about beauty. Your skin is a vitally important part of the immune system. It’s your first line of defense between you and the germs on every grocery counter, door handle, or bank machine you touch. There are a few things in our skin that keep it healthy, including a carotenoid called lutein. Lutein keeps your skin elastic and helps it snap back instead of tearing when it gets stretched or pulled. Unfortunately, lutein in the skin is easily depleted from sunlight, fluorescent light, even the glow from computer screens, and our bodies can’t make it themselves. Maintaining lutein levels keeps your skin hydrated and healthy, protecting this major system of your immune system.
Immune strength achieved
Our immune system helps us enjoy our daily activities to the fullest extent. Since we don’t always recognize the ways we are straining our immune system, it’s important to put good, daily steps in place, so our immune system is strong when we need it. Figuring out an on-going plan to maintain levels of key vitamins and minerals the immune system relies on is a good strategy to build overall immune health.