Our immune systems have been a hot topic the last couple of years. Some may say it’s a boring topic, but I find it so fascinating what this system can actually do for us. I’d like to highlight some of its beauty as well as ideas on how to boost and better care for it.
First things first, I think an explanation of what the immune system is would be a good place to start. The immune system is a complex network of cells and organs that defend the body against infection. The main parts of the immune system are:
-white blood cells
The immune system is working hard for you 24 hours a day against thousands of potentially deadly attacks. The first line of defense is known as innate immunity. This is a range of protective mechanisms we are born with. It provides protection against various pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and worms. A number of defense mechanisms serve the innate immune system, which includes physical barriers such as the skin, chemical barriers such as antimicrobial proteins that harm or destroy invaders, and cells that attack foreign cells and body cells harboring infectious agents.
Long story short, the skin has layers of cells serving as a protective barrier to infection. It secretes fatty acids and enzymes. These fatty acids can break down the outer wall of certain bacteria. Meanwhile, mucous membranes lining the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts provide a protective barrier of cells that are constantly being renewed. The membrane traps small particles to prevent them from attaching to cells. If invaders make it past these barriers they will then encounter a variety of chemical substances that attempt to prevent their growth. How amazing and intricate is our immune system?!
We often think of inflammation as a negative thing in our body but when it is short lived that is a wonderful thing. Inflammation can eliminate infection or hold it in check until specific, acquired immune responses have time to develop. Infection usually results in tissue damage, which may trigger an inflammatory response. The signs of inflammation include pain, swelling, redness, and fever which are induced by chemicals released by macrophages.
The second line of defense is called acquired immunity. It is called acquired because we are not born with it, it is acquired through exposure to pathogens. It is well-established that when someone contracts certain diseases and survive generally do not catch those illnesses again. When your system is exposed to a pathogen, it learns to recognize it and can make your immune system better equipped to fight off that type of germ the next time you’re exposed to it. One of the many incredible abilities of the immune system is that it keeps a record of every microbe it has ever defeated. This enables the immune system to recognize and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again before it can multiply and make you feel sick.
Not all immune systems are created equal. Age, location of where you live, genetics, and what someone has been previously exposed to play important factors. That is why it is important to do things to help strengthen the system you have. Your best defense is to live a healthy lifestyle. Not only will your immune system benefit but your whole body will function better. Here are a few tips:
-eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
-maintain a healthy weight
-if you drink alcohol, drink in moderation
-get adequate sleep
-try to minimize stress
I know you have heard this over and over before, but it is so important to have a diverse diet. When we become micronutrient deficient we are not doing our immune systems any favors. If you can’t eat and drink nourishing foods, then consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Lastly, finding ways to reduce stress can do wonders for our bodies. When we are constantly stressed hormones are released and can stay present throughout the day. The result of chronic stress leads to a never-ending list of diseases and illness. During times of stress, the immune system may also be inhibited. Therefore, regularly participating in stress-reducing activities is not only beneficial to overall health but general immunity as well. Now go on and show your immune system some love, it’s the only one you have. And just because I want to get you started on your immune boosting journey, here is a ginger shot recipe I found by Elizebeth Rider (you should follower her, she has the BEST recipes).
Honey Ginger Shots (Antiviral & Boosts Immunity)
- 1/2 Cup chopped ginger root, washed and roughly chopped (no need to peel as it will be strained later)
-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice about 2 - 4 lemons
- 1 TBS honey but can use up to 3 for more sweetness
-1 cup cold filtered water
-1/4 TSP turmeric powder (optional)
-Pinch of cayenne pepper
Add the ginger, lemon juice, honey, water, and cayenne pepper to a blender and pulse until thoroughly mixed.
Strain the mixture (or leave the pulp in for fiber) and pour into an airtight jar to keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days. One to two ounces is a serving.