We rely on our immune system every day—to prevent viral and bacterial infections, to protect us from other types of foreign pathogens, and to protect us from developing cancer. This complicated and highly sophisticated miracle system works all day, every day to detect enemy agents in our bodies and distinguish them from our own tissue.
A good immune system is necessary for all around good health. What kinds of things effect the immune system and what does it take to maintain a healthy immunity against disease?
The immune system is an interconnected and intricate system that researchers don’t completely understand. While the link between lifestyle and the immune system hasn’t been completely figured out well, there may be things you can do that can enhance the functionality of your immune system.
Living Healthy for a Good Immune System
One thing you can control with regard to your immune system is to adopt these health-living approaches:
- Consume a diet that is high in vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. A healthy diet is one that is also low in the intake of saturated fat.
- Smoking cessation is also important. Your immune system doesn’t need to be fighting off the hundreds of toxins you put in your body when you smoke.
- Keep a healthy weight. There are many ways to maintain a healthy weight, including increasing the exercise in your life and eating a diet lower in calories and fat.
- Exercise on a daily basis. This means getting thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise as many days of the week as you can.
- Drink in moderation. Experts recommend no more than 3 alcoholic beverages per day if you are a man or 2 alcoholic beverages per day if you are a woman.
- Keep your blood pressure down. Have it checked regularly and, if it is consistently elevated, see your doctor about taking some kind of blood pressure control medication.
- Wash your hands often. Do this after using the restroom and before preparing or eating any meals.
- Cook your meals completely. Raw meat, especially, can cause disease and make you sick.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep recharges your batteries so your immune system can be in peak shape.
- See the doctor to be screened for various medical conditions that could affect your immune system.
Immunity and Aging
Researchers are looking into the effects of aging on the immune system. They believe that, when aging occurs, the immune system of the body fades away somewhat, putting older people at a greater risk of getting cancer and infections.
Some people age in a healthy way, while others do not. Many elderly persons are at an increased risk of getting an infectious disease. Things like pneumonia, influenza, and respiratory infections kill many older people in the entire world. No one is sure exactly why this happens. Some speculate that, because the thymus atrophies with age, there are fewer T cells, which are made by the thymus. Others believe that the bone marrow doesn’t function as well when one ages.
Some research indicates that memory T cell amounts decrease with age. Memory T cells are those that remember that we’ve been infected by a pathogen in the past. Without memory T cells to keep the immunity against the pathogen, older people can get the infection again.
Older people don’t develop immunity as well as young people when given the influenza vaccine and possibly other vaccines. Both the pneumonia shot and the influenza shot are given to older people to prevent these diseases and they have been found to be successful, despite the reduced immunity of the elderly.
Diet and Immunity
The immune system must live off the nutrition you give it. Those who are malnourished are more likely to get infections. There are few studies done on nutrition and immunity, although some have identified deficiencies of selenium, zinc, copper, iron, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and vitamin C as being sources of poor immunity in animal studies.
What Can Be Done to Improve Immunity through Diet?
If you don’t thing you are getting enough of these essential micronutrients in your diet, try taking a multivitamin with minerals so that the immune system has something good to run on.