There are many factors that influence our immune response, some are out of our control such as aging while others require individuals to make good choices.
Age: The elderly are more at risk, people over 60 tend to have a reductions in T lymphocytes (T cells) which are essential to fight virial attacks.
Sleep: Less than 6 hours sleep can reduce our adaptive immune response, a single night of inadequate sleep can reduce your T cell function by over 60%, while decreasing the bodies response to inflammation. 7 – 9 hours sleep each night also reduces risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Hydration: Our body is up to 70 % water, our skin and mucus membranes are our first line of defense but when dehydrated are unable to protect us fully from infections and removal of unwanted debris. Water is also needed to transport our white blood cells (cells that destroy bad microbes) around the body within the lymphatic system .
Exercise: It is best to do moderate exercise regularly rather than an intense session once a week as this can suppress immune function and has been linked to respiratory illness. Exercise not only helps to transport blood and oxygen around the body but also reduces inflammatory cytokines reduces stress and increases good T cells.
Stress: Physical or psychological stress disrupts our nervous and immune systems. When stress hormones become elevated, it leads to the reduction of white blood cells making you more susceptible to infections. People with immunologic endocrine disorders such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and adrenal disorders are at higher risk of infection.
Medication: Antibiotics can reduce our natural microbiome diversity, which in turn impairs our overall immunity, it is vital we rebalance our good flora during and after antibiotic use.
Alcohol: Excessive consumption can disrupt the functions of T and B cells, making you more susceptible to infections
Smoking: Immune boosting nutrients are depleted from smoking such as vit C, it also reduces oxygen levels and increases toxicity load.
Toxicity: Household cleaners, heavy metals etc can all impact our phagocytic cells and increase oxidative stress, in turn, lowers our immune function.
A nutrient rich diet is not only required for a healthy immune system but required for our overall health and wellbeing. Studies have shown nutritional deficiencies directly impact human cognition, behavior and emotions
Increase intake of foods high in Antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, essential fatty acids, vitamins A, C, D, E, zinc and selenium.
Berries, broccoli, kumara, green leafy greens, citrus, capsicum, carrots, kefir, nuts and seeds and herbs such as turmeric, garlic and ginger.
Decrease intake of foods that can cause inflammation and immune deficiency: table salt, saturated fats, and SUGAR! Sugar reduces white blood cells for up to 5 hours, making you more susceptible to infection.
To summarise – to strengthen and support your immune system ensure you get enough rest, water and good nutrition!
Next week, what supplementation is available to help your immune function.
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