How Can You Strengthen Your Immune System?

February 19, 2018

To be immune to something means to be protected from it. And that’s the purpose of the immune system. It’s the body’s natural defense to fight against infections. That ‘s why, if the immune system is weak, your body’s capacity to face infections diminishes. You become more vulnerable certain diseases. Below we give you some tips to strengthen your immune system naturally.

How does the immune system work?

The main cells of the immune system are called leukocytes or white blood cells. Thus, when the organism detects a threat, these cells are mobilized and travel through the bloodstream until they reach the noxious focus. Their function is to repair the tissue which has been damaged, serve as a barrier to contain the infection, and produce algogenic substances which promote pain.

Inflammation is the immune system’s way of dealing with infections, whether they’re caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa, or prions. Your immune system detects the particles which are harmful to your health. Later, in response to their invasion, it reacts by attacking and destroying them. The swelling goes down only when the threat disappears.

One white blood cell among many red blood cells.

When the immune system doesn’t work properly…

When the immune system is compromised, there are many negative repercussions on the body. Immunodeficiency is one of them – the “guard down” of the system. Immunodeficiency causes the natural protection and defense mechanisms to be less active than normal.

Another negative repercussion is the emergence of certain autoimmune diseases, which cause the system to mistakenly attack the healthy cells of the body. The organism stops being able to differentiate between its own tissues and the infectious agents. And, because it’s confused, it inflames body parts which are healthy. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases. Although in many cases their causes are unknown, it’s believed that they have a strong hereditary component. They also have a higher prevalence in women.

Tips to strengthen your immune system

Just as there are internal factors which disturb the body’s proper functioning, there are other external factors which you can control better. Therefore, you can intervene and modify these external factors to strengthen your immune system. What are these factors?

A well-balanced diet

This is the main factor to strengthen your immune system. Your diet must be well-balanced. That means, it must be based on the consumption of all the nutrients your body needs in their proper measure.

A well-balanced diet includes monounsaturated fats (nuts, salmon, tuna, olive oil), dairy products, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Additionally, other nutrients which can supplement your diet and help strengthen your immune system are:

  • Vitamin E – which is present in wheat germ oil, sunflower, safflower, corn, and soybeans. You can also find it in almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts, or in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach.
  • Vitamin C – it predominates in vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli, as well as in fruits such as orange, grapefruit, guava, and lemons.
  • Vitamin A – is contained in milk, butter, and cheddar cheese. Also in vegetables, such as carrots or cabbage.
  • Iron – is found in lean red meats, such as veal or beef, shellfish, liver, and eggs.
  • Zinc and selenium – there’s lots of this in beef, turkey, and chicken. As well as in shrimp, lobster, and in most fish. The good thing is that these minerals are present in almost all of the food people consume on a regular basis.
Happy woman eating a salad.

Avoid infections

On many occasions, personal hygiene and food hygiene are nowhere to be found. Throughout the day we place our hands in many different places: doorknobs, bathrooms, computer keyboards… Due to this, all the possible viruses or bacteria which are in the environment can get to us. Therefore, you should wash your hands thoroughly before putting anything in your mouth. Although it may seem obvious, it’s important and is a very good way to prevent infections.

Likewise, even though food goes through a food safety chain , it’s highly recommended to wash fruits and vegetables well before consuming them. Using water and vinegar are usually enough. In the same sense, it’s advisable to maintain the cold chain when cooking meats and fish.

Practice sports

Physical exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week is another habit which can work in your favor. This regularity keeps your muscles active. It also helps every cell in your body get oxygenated and perform their functions better.

It is essential that the activity you decide to perform implies putting almost all the muscle groups of your body to work. For example, swimming, tennis, cycling, running or just walking. All of these activities favor coordination, flexibility, and complete movement of the body.

But be careful! Because just as a sedentary lifestyle harms blood circulation and promotes certain cardiovascular diseases, too much exercise can increase the vulnerability of your immune system. Exceeding the limits of your own body damages your defenses because you take it to extremes and exhaustion. It’s important to calibrate the intensity of the work out and know just how far you can and cannot take it.

Meditation and relaxation

In many cases, stress, anxiety, or depression have the power to reduce your ability to cope with adversity. If they occur continuously, on top of disturbing your state of mind, they can deteriorate and weaken your defenses and favor the appearance of diseases. A good way to avoid this and strengthen your immune system is to practice yoga, tai-chi, mindfulness, or meditation. They are all relaxation techniques which allow you to improve your breathing. As a consequence, the balance between your mind and your body will improve as well.

Woman meditating by a lake.

You are constantly exposed to harmful agents: tobacco smoke, environmental pollution, dust, aerosols… Therefore, strengthening your immune system is the best way to prevent damage to your body. If you put these simple guidelines into practice, your immune system will be strengthened and your body will appreciate this.