Who’s got your back?
Since the moment we are born and hoisted into this world, we are under constant attack from pathogens. Disease-causing germs and microbes inhabit every imaginable nook and cranny of this planet.
These invisible organisms have extreme survival instincts; you can find them thriving in the frigid polar ice caps as well as piping hot natural geysers. Pathogens have a tendency to invade healthy hosts, suck from nutrition from them, and proliferate.
This is basically what an infection is.
Contaminated food and water, polluted air, unhygienic living conditions – these are the havens for pathogens.
Every waking second these dreadful organisms surround us.
So how come you don’t catch a deadly bout of infection or disease every time you step out?
That’s because thanks to millions of years of evolution, human beings have successfully developed a natural guard against these pathogens called the “Immune System”.
This immune system is a complex network of organs, structures, and biological processes which shield us from disease-causing organisms.
The immune system of the human body mainly constitutes the lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, thymus, and the WBCs (White Blood Cells).
These defend our body from foreign invaders by powerful secretions which have the capability of destroying pathogens.
When immunity backfires
The word immunity has Latin roots “immunis” which literally means “untouched” or “free”.
And this exactly what our immune system strives to do. Every second it is fighting against millions of pathogens that enter our body through skin, nails, nose, mouth etc.
Our immune system has a remarkable memory. It does a great job in “remembering” which ones are the healthy body cells and which ones are deadly pathogens.
As long as this strong defense system is fighting against the actual microbial invasions, everything looks great.
But the moment, our immune system starts attacking things which aren’t pathogens or own body cells, disaster ensues.
Sometimes, our immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as a deadly pathogen. As soon as it detects its presence in our blood or inhaled air, it triggers a chain of reactions by releasing IgE (immunoglobulin E antibodies).
These in turn release histamines.
To understand what histamines are, imagine a big burly bouncer at a club. Histamines want to stop this supposed foreign invasion. So it initiates a series of reactions that cause inflammation in our eyes, nasal cavity, ears, throat, skin, and even digestive tract.
The end result is sneezing, itching, wheezing, rashes, and increased mucus production. In simple words, we call this an allergy reaction. So, basically, an allergic reaction occurs when our immune system confuses a harmless matter with a microbial attack.
The curse of Autoimmunity
Sometimes your immune system attacks an innocent foreign body; sometimes it attacks your own body. It makes a similar confusion, as it makes during an allergic reaction, and starts destroying your own healthy body cells.
The resulting ailments are ground under the category of autoimmune diseases.
There are more than 80 different types of such diseases – Type 1 diabetes, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Graves Disease, Celiac Disease and many more.
Scientists are still unsure what causes them. Yet, there have been definite studies which have linked the occurrence of the diseases to an unhealthy lifestyle and poor dietary habits.
Are you immune enough?
While it is highly possible that you don’t suffer from an autoimmune disease, but still there is a huge possibility that your overall immunity is compromised.
A weak immune system could wreak havoc on your body. People with lower immunity tend to be more vulnerable to colds, fevers, and infections.
If you have a perennially runny nose and a hoarse throat throughout the cold winter months, it is highly likely that your immunity is compromised.
Not only that, but a weak immune system could also lead to fatigue, nausea, headaches, dry eyes, upset stomach, weak digestion, fever, skin rashes.
It could also lead to aching joints, unexplained weight changes, and infections which keep revisiting.
That does sound like a long and troubling list.
Turns out, a weak immunity has become a part of our modern lifestyle. Our lack of physical activity, unhealthy consumption of packaged goods, burdening stress – these all are collectively deteriorating our immunity.
Immunity-boosters: Secrets revealed
So how do you restore strength to your body’s only line of defense against parasitic invasions? How do you ensure that your immunity doesn’t react against you?
How do you control and reduce those pesky allergy reactions? Read these amazing steps that will boost your body’s internal defense…
Foods to eat
- The tangy tasting citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes etc are a storehouse of Vitamin C. This is an essential vitamin to naturally power up your immune cells. A daily dose of these fruits will ensure you never run out this remarkable nutrient.
- Garlic pods contain a heavy concentration of sulfur compounds which naturally increase your T-cell count. These T-cells are the major fighters against cold and flu.
- Remember how almost every natural remedy for a sore throat contains ginger. That’s because ginger contains a substance called gingerol which has anti-inflammatory properties. This helps in reducing the magnitude of allergic reactions in your body.
- Brightly-colored fruits and vegetables are oozing with beta-carotene, vitamins C &E. And Zinc. These are great for building a strong defense against infections. Apples, papayas, berries, melons, spinach, kale etc are excellent immunity-boosting foods.
- The old wives tale about curing a common-cold with chicken soup was true after all. Till recent years, a warm bowl of chicken soup was considered an elixir against common cold mainly for it feel-good “placebo” effect. But recent studies indicate that chicken soup is a bowl-full of vitamin B6 (forms new RBCs), gelatine, and chondroitin. These foster a stronger immune system.
Exercise and immunity
- Running, walking, and other aerobic exercises tend to deepen and increase our breathing. Deep breathing flushes out toxins, pathogens, and other particulate matter out of lungs. This not only clears the air pathways but also gets rid of harmful bacteria from our lungs which could have got mixed with the bloodstream.
- When you exercise, along with heavy breathing, you tend to sweat more too. The sweat expelled from our body is another channel through which we get rid of disease-causing germs and toxins.
- Intense physical workouts and weight-training raise your core body temperature. This rise in temperature kills the bacteria in your body. It is similar to having a high temperature during fever which is immune system’s way of warding off diseases.
- The best forms of exercises, hence, are the ones which speed up your breathing, increase your core temperature, and involve sweating.
- 150 minutes of physical exercises must be done every week to get the maximum benefits out of the exercising schedule.
- 20-30 minutes of walking, cycling to work instead of hailing a cab, taking up a sport (golfing or tennis), running, hiking, trekking etc can have astounding effects on your immunity.
Lifestyle changes for a stronger you
- Overall lifestyle changes are imperative for a stronger immune system. Our modern living is devoid of healthy activities and dietary restrictions. In addition to this, stress plays a major role in suppressing our immune system.
- The most significant lifestyle change you can bring to elevate your immunity is by reducing stress from your life. Cortisol and adrenaline – the stress hormones, tend to send our body to a state of increased inflammation while simultaneously suppressing our immune responses.
- Another tragic way stress inhibits our immunity is that it makes us more susceptible to substance abuse. Alcohol, smoking, drugs – all these constitute an unhealthy coping mechanism which has a corrosive effect on immunity. Leaving behind these toxic habits are thus a necessity in improving your body’s immune response.
- Studies have indicated that having positive thoughts, being happy, having a good social circle, and laughing more directly impact your immune system. Positivity is a key step towards a healthy defense mechanism.
- Yoga and meditation are equally benefitting. These ancient and time-tested techniques help in clearing your congested chest, improving blood flow and supply of oxygen, increasing the WBC count, improving your gut health, stimulating your thymus gland, and de-stressing your body.
You can do it!
Having a robust immune system is in your control. By incorporating these simple and healthy changes in your diet and lifestyle, you can strengthen your overall immity.
A weak immune system often comes in the way of enjoying your days. You feel hesitant in trying street food or enjoying the fresh monsoon rains.
Be it the changing seasons or traveling, a runny nose and rash-ridden skin will always stop from living your life to the fullest.
It will also hinder your energy levels and make you addicted to pills.
So, to break free from this sad, unhealthy routine, just follow these basic steps and fortify your immunity naturally!
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