There is no doubt that the emergence of new viruses and bacteria is the whole threat. In these epidemic days we are in, we understand the importance of maintaining a strong immune system more than ever.
The difficulty or ease of contracting an infection or disease directly depends on the state of our immune system. So, can immunity be increased? Answer: Yes!
Immunity is a specific defense system that our body has. When the body does not recognize something as its own, autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, allergies occur. The problem can be triggered by both external factors (sun, pollution, viruses, bacteria and other antigens) and internal factors.
TYPES OF IMMUNITY
Our bodies have several types of immunity that can be boosted to protect us from infections and other threats. Our immune system has different lines of defense that protect us against all kinds of threats, both external and internal.
Passive immunity is the immunity found in each of us from the fetal stage to the first months of life. It is passed to us from our mother through IGG Immunoglobulins, the only thing that crosses the placenta. And it is preserved in the first months of life. This type of immunity continues until we begin to build up our own defenses during breastfeeding.
This type of immunity engages two types of barriers to eliminate any external aggression: innate and adaptive.
If our body senses that one type of immunity is not sufficient to attack pathogens, it automatically activates another.One type of immunity reacts first, and if that’s not enough, the other will step in. The aim is to remove the foreign matter with the least possible effort.
Innate Active Immunity (Natural Immunity)
The first to step in is innate immunity, which consists of, for example, skin, mucus, cough and tears. These defense cells are responsible for sending signals to other cells to send more ‘soldiers’ into battle. In this battle, you may notice an inflammation in the area.
Adaptive Active Immunity
If this first battalion is not enough, the second line of defense will step in: adaptive or acquired immunity.
This defense system develops and self-regulates as a result of our lifetime exposure to pathogens. Cells acting against the infection quickly recognize the pathogen if we become infected again, and stop producing defenses when eliminated. The harder we work to boost immunity, the better our body will perform in the fight against viruses and bacteria.
HOW DOES IMMUNITY ACTIVATE?
When a virus, bacteria, fungus, toxin or any pathogen enters our body, the skin and mucous membranes come into play first and respond thanks to innate immunity.
If the pathogen manages to cross this first barrier, our adaptive immunity will generate large amounts of IGM antibodies, Immunoglobulin G, Immunoglobulin A, Immunoglobulin E. Immunoglobulins D and the production of B lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).
These are released into the blood to adhere to the pathogen, inhibit it and destroy it. And they also produce memory. They stay in the infected tissues, so if we come into contact with this antigen again, the immune response will be much faster.
When what we are infected with is a pathogen living in our own cells (some of which are found and multiply very quickly within cells, known as intracellular viruses, they can cause anything from mild infections such as herpes to serious infections such as influenza, AIDS or hepatitis) production of other types of lymphocytes come into play: T lymphocytes, cytotoxic T lymphocytes and T Helper lymphocytes.
Some are responsible for secreting messenger cytokines to activate immune cells, and others work to destroy the pathogen.
This entire complex defense system kicks in the moment our body senses that something strange is invading us or intending to do so. In short, we are more than just having a perfect defense system.
HOW TO GAIN IMMUNITY?
There are two ways to obtain immunity naturally: through vaccines or by passing on the disease.
Memory B cell (B lymphocytes) are produced through vaccines. These enable the body to produce antibodies and appropriate defenses if we come into contact with the pathogen in question so that we do not get the disease again or have serious consequences.
When we already have a disease (flu, coronavirus), we produce memory lymphocytes that act as described above.
How to get herd immunity?
We are currently in the middle of a coronavirus vaccine campaign with the intention of building herd immunity. Herd immunity consists of many people who are immune to an infectious disease. This can only be achieved by vaccination. If 7 to 9 people in a community of 10 are immune to the infection, the entire community is protected.
The biggest advantage of herd immunity is that it acts as a firewall, slowing or preventing the spread of the disease to other people.
7 WAYS TO STRENGTHEN IMMUNITY
It is possible to strengthen our immunity and fight more strongly against all these external and internal factors that can affect our body.
Here are 7 ways to boost immunity:
Hippocrates, “Let what you eat be your medicine” he said. In this sense, the best medicine for our immune system is to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables. Especially red pepper, garlic, onion, leek, ginger, red fruits, citrus fruits (lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, kiwi), pomegranate, watermelon, papaya, broccoli and all dark green leafy vegetables and mushrooms should be consumed.
In addition, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), shellfish, whole grains, seeds and nuts such as sesame, flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and white meats such as chicken or turkey, which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, should also be consumed.
Diet plays a fundamental role in boosting immunity. It is necessary to limit the consumption of red meat, processed foods and fried foods that can trigger inflammation. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, sugar, highly processed foods and trans fats.
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Be Aware of Special Vitamins and Minerals
With a healthy and balanced diet, you can get all the vitamins and minerals without the need for food supplements. These are the most suitable for boosting immunity:
Vitamin A: Protects mucous membranes and helps stimulate the immune system.
Vitamins of Group B: Especially B3, B6 and B9 are necessary to produce antibodies, slow down the aging of the immune system and strengthen the mucous membranes.
Vitamin C: It is an antioxidant vitamin that also has an anti-inflammatory effect, improves the immune system and is necessary for synthesizing collagen and strengthening the skin barrier. It also increases the production of interferon, a natural antiviral substance that helps the immune system fight infections.
Vitamin D: Produces activation of T lymphocytes that fight infections. It reduces inflammation and supports the activation of innate immunity.
Vitamin E: An antioxidant vitamin that strengthens cell walls and reduces inflammation.
Selenium: It is a powerful antioxidant that plays a role in the production of cytokines, which are proteins that are released to send signals to the immune system, so that the immune system starts to work at full capacity. It is great for boosting immunity. It also has antioxidant properties.
Iron: This mineral is essential for the body to have an effective immune response against invaders. Its deficiency causes us to have a lower lymphocyte count, loses skin defense effectiveness and increases the presence of free radicals.
Omega 3: The fatty acids DHA and EPA found in Omega 3 reduce inflammation and accelerate healing after an infection. In addition, omega 3 is a general anti-inflammatory.
Coenzyme Q10: It is also a powerful antioxidant, cardiovascular protector (improves the recovery of the heart after illness) and immune booster. It also reduces fatigue by increasing the oxygenation and resistance of tissues.
Keep Your Gut Healthy
80 percent of immune cells are found in the intestines. The balance of the intestinal microbiota helps all our cells to respond adequately, to digest well, to prevent constipation, and to synthesize vitamins B and K, which support the absorption of iron, calcium and magnesium. An imbalance in the gut microbiota can cause celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
The proper functioning of the intestines allows not only to increase immunity, but also to the correct functioning of the immune system. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains provides plenty of fiber and nourishes the good bacteria in our intestines.
In addition, consumption of probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, pickles, olives and dark chocolate strengthens immunity and supports the development of good microorganisms.
Regular physical exercise should be a part of your lifestyle. Walking is an aerobic physical activity that anyone can do. Doing 30 minutes a day will suffice. The most important thing is to avoid doing very intense or prolonged physical exercise, as this has the opposite effect: It causes the release of stress hormones (cortisol and catecholamines) that reduce defence.
There are experimental studies in animals and humans that show that when we are stressed, we produce high levels of glucocorticoids and catecholamines that reduce or suppress the functioning of the immune system.
In addition, stress may cause prolonged treatment time or cause more relapses. Therefore, it is best to avoid the things that stress us out. So how? Through activities that improve our health, such as conscious breathing, mindfulness, outdoor exercises, or various therapies.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of rest increases stress, and worsens the repair and healing mechanism. The ideal is adequate and quality rest. That is, for a sleep to be restorative it needs to last at least 7 to 9 hours a day. Since 23:00 to 03:00 are the most healing hours for the body, you should keep your working hours regular and not go to bed too late. During this time, cytokines are released that protect us from infection and inflammation.