A healthy immune system keeps us safe from many kinds of diseases. Its purpose is similar to a fortified wall that protects a kingdom from any would-be invaders. If we don’t take care of ourselves enough, disease-carrying microorganisms can successfully penetrate that wall. At its best, we might get sick and feel uncomfortable for a few days, but at its worst, we might suffer dangerous or even fatal health consequences.
Fortunately, boosting immunity isn’t that difficult and inconvenient. You can start simply by staying more hydrated, exercising, and avoiding bad habits such as smoking and drinking. Washing hands regularly is also recommended because a lot of diseases can actually get into our skin. Overall, it’s helpful to keep your immediate environment clean and sanitary to keep bad microorganisms out of our systems.
The Causes of a Weak Immune System
In order to fully appreciate how certain methods can boost our immune system, it’s worth considering what brings it down in the first place. Learning about these factors can make us actively avoid the kind of habits that aren’t really contributing to good health. These include:
- Poor diet: All systems in our body depend on proper nutrition to carry out its duties. Hence, if your diet is composed of processed foods which are mostly sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat, chances are, your body isn’t getting the nutrients that would allow it to function optimally. Switching to healthier meals will significantly improve your internal and external workings.
- Excessive exercise: Exercise is good for the body, but too much of it is also bad. If you don’t have enough recovery time between workouts, your body has to work harder to repair your overly exhausted muscles. As a result, your immune system will also have a hard time protecting you from diseases.
- Drinking and smoking: Drinking alcohol beyond the recommended amount reduces the number of your white blood cells, which are necessary for fighting off infections. Likewise, the chemicals found in cigarettes are also nothing but bad for the immune system, so it’s best to just give up these habits altogether.
- Medications: While medications are primarily used for treatments, some of them can actually weaken the immune system. Examples include cancer drugs, immunosuppressant drugs, and chemotherapy.
- Inadequate sleep and stress: When you don’t get the right amount of sleep on a regular basis, you’re a lot more likely to get easily tired and stressed out. In such cases, the body produces more cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol can break your body down over time. Not only will it affect your immune system, but it can also affect your body’s other tasks such as digestion and cognitive functions.
- Immunodeficiency disorders: These diseases can cause the immune system to fall apart and make a person immunocompromised. Examples include malnutrition, viral hepatitis, HIV, and some types of cancer.
If you notice that you’re tired most of the time, you’re always sick, you’ve started having digestive problems and joint pain, and you’re taking longer to heal (e.g. illnesses, wounds, etc.), then your immune system may have been compromised. Now is definitely a good time to change that.
Supplements and Immunity
According to a 1997 study by Chandra, a person lacking in zinc, iron, folic acid, copper, selenium, and certain vitamins (A, B6, C, E) are more likely to have a weakened immune system. Hence, a diet that is rich in these vitamins and minerals will usually improve the symptoms of an otherwise healthy individual. It’s recommended to include a variety of vegetables for every meal –– the more colorful your plate is, the better.
It also helps to take in supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps. Sometimes, our food choices alone may not be enough to fulfill our daily nutrition needs, especially if we’re just transitioning from years of bad diet. In such cases, supplements can provide the necessary vitamins to maintain good health. High-quality immune system-building supplements usually contain vitamins (A, C, D, E), selenium, and zinc. Others also contain colostrum and herbal ingredients such as Echinacea, ginger, and turmeric nz.
The question is, how do you know if what you’re taking is safe? When you’re shopping for supplements, here’s what you should inspect on its label:
- Recommended dosage
- Amount of every nutrient in one pill or tablet (expressed as a percentage of RDA for an adult)
- Statement of health claims (e.g. not meant to replace a balanced diet and no “too good to be true” kind of statements).
Ultimately, a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are still the best ways to boost your immune system. While a high-quality nutritional supplement is not a replacement for healthy meals, it’s a convenient option that can help ensure that your daily nutritional requirements are met. Be sure to ask your trusted health professional for recommendations, especially if you’re dealing with any medical conditions.
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