A Beginner’s Guide to Boosting Your Immune System
Your immune system can get bogged down or tired when you aren't well-rested or nourished. It also requires more support as you age. While a wide range of factors affects the health of your immune system, your diet and lifestyle choices are the factors within your control. Boosting your immune system means providing it the nutritional support it needs, lightening its burden, and avoiding things that suppress it. In this guide, you'll learn how to best improve and support the health of your immune system in the long term.
What Is Your Immune System?
Simply put, your immune system is your body's defense system against harmful infections. The way it works, however, is incredibly complex, involving different types of cells and multiple organs. The immune system is not only continuously defending the body but also learning from its environment and adapting to better protect you. It keeps a record of the pathogens it fights over time so it's ready to respond to the same germs in the future.
Components that Make Up the Immune System
- The Thymus Gland - Sitting between the lungs, the thymus gland produces white blood cells in order to fight infection.
- Bone Marrow - Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the center of your larger bones, and it's another place white blood cells form.
- The Gut - Healthy types of gut bacteria tell receptor cells in your gut to secrete a protective layer of mucus in response to bad bacteria in order to prevent the bacteria's spread to the bloodstream.
- The Lymphatic System - Made up of lymph nodes and lymph vessels, the lymphatic system carries fluid called lymph through your organs to flush out toxins and foreign invaders.
Ways to Support Your Immune system
Stress triggers your body to enter the mode of "fight or flight," which suppresses the activities of the immune system to redirect your energy. In the case of chronic stress, continued immune suppression can cause infectious invaders to accumulate and eventually overburden your immune system. That said, reducing stress hormone levels through stress management techniques is critical for immune health.
Meditation, which has been extensively studied as a technique to manage stress, has been found to improve immune function. In patients with HIV, regular meditation was even shown to slow the decline of immune cell counts. Besides meditation, some of the other ways to reduce stress include yoga, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Besides the well-known health benefits of exercise for your heart and musculoskeletal system, exercise also boosts your immune system when it's consistently part of your routine. On the other hand, frequent overtraining can suppress your immune system, so it's important to get all the rest and recovery you need between workouts in order to reap these benefits.
There are a few ways keeping physically active helps your immune system:
- Working out pumps the lymphatic system, which doesn't have a muscle to help fluids circulate the way the heart pumps blood. Contracting and expanding your muscles helps lymphatic fluid drain and transport destroyed pathogens out of the body.
- Exercise promotes the production of white blood cells and allows them to circulate more rapidly. As a result, they can better do their job of detecting pathogens and synthesizing the required antibodies to neutralize them.
- You get better sleep when you exercise, and quality sleep is needed for optimal immune function and repair.
- Consistent exercise lowers stress hormones and improves your central nervous system's ability to bounce back from stress.
A healthy diet not only supports immune function in the gut but also system-wide by giving immune cells the nutrients they need to generate and thrive.
Amino acids are key players in the formation of immune cells, including white blood cells and the antibodies they in turn produce. In fact, being deficient in amino acids has been linked to immune function impairment. Several of the essential amino acids can't be synthesized by your own body and need to be obtained from protein-rich foods. Eating a variety of seafood, meat, dairy products, and high-protein plant foods like quinoa and chia seeds will ensure you're getting the amino acids your immune system needs.
Fruits and vegetables are critical sources of vitamins and minerals. Since micronutrients carry out cellular functions that are interdependent on one another, it's important to avoid deficiencies of any kind to have a well-supported immune system. The water and electrolytes in fresh plant foods also support lymphatic drainage. Meanwhile, antioxidants in the form of vitamins, minerals, plant pigments, and other plant chemicals protect immune cells and organs from free radical damage so they can perform optimally. For a complete and convenient daily vitamin pack, check out MTS Nutrition Immortal.
Keep sugar and caffeine within healthy limitations because they suppress the immune system by elevating stress hormones. Adequate hydration is key to supporting the mucosal and lymphatic components of immune function, so keep drinking water throughout the day and use a sports drink during workouts to replenish electrolytes.
The organs and cells that make up your immune system require adequate nutritional support, which you may not be getting through your diet alone. In addition to essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, certain herbs are known to have immune-boosting effects. Here are the supplements that can give your immune system a helping hand:
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
- Zinc - Supports the function of macrophages, which are immune cells found in virtually every organ of the body tasked with detecting harmful pathogens.
- Vitamin B6 - Plays a role in the synthesis of white blood cells and T cells, which attack invaders like viruses and bacteria.
- Vitamin C - Vitamin C assists immune cells in destroying infectious microbes, which is why it's shown to reduce the length of common colds when taken regularly.
- Vitamin D3 - Regulates immune response by influencing gene expression and helps immune cells create pathogen-fighting proteins.
You get exposed to unfriendly pathogens on a daily basis, so getting a dose of good bacteria each day can ensure you keep the bad in check. Studies suggest that supplementing with probiotics, which are health-promoting bacteria, can reduce the length of respiratory infections like colds and flus.
Reishi mushrooms are edible mushrooms you can find in supplement form. They bolster your immune system by regulating its response and promoting homeostasis. As immunomodulators, reishi mushrooms can regenerate activity when immune function is suppressed, as well as inhibit overactive immune responses like allergies and chronic inflammation. If you take medication for high blood pressure, consult with your physician before trying reishi mushrooms since they also lower blood pressure. Reishi can be found in products containing the PeakO2 blend, such as MTS Nutrition Peak Physicor and Core Bolic.