Winter is just around the corner and the change of season tends to bring lower immune system function and illness along with it. Getting sick can be a real inconvenience as you may have to take time off work, and it just leaves you feeling weak and tired. However, there are things you can do to help boost your immune system to help fight off those winter ills and chills, so that you can go about your life without the inconvenience. Here is a breakdown of what your immune system is, and some ways that you can help strengthen your immune system.
Immunity is your ability to protect yourself from pathogens and toxins. Your immune system if made up of 2 different parts, your innate immunity, and your adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is the type of immunity you are born with. It is the fast acting and non specific part of your immune system, which means that it responds exactly the same to each potential threat it encounters. The innate immune system is made up of 3 parts. The first is physical barriers that protect the body from invasion of external factors. This is things like your skin and eyelashes. The second part is chemical barriers that work to destroy potentially harmful pathogens. This includes your tears, mucous, and stomach acid. The third part is your cellular defences, which identify foreign substances and pathogens that are potentially dangerous, and works to destroy them. This cellular defence is non specific, which is what differentiates it from your adaptive immunity.
Adaptive immunity is your acquired immunity to specific pathogens. The first time you are infected with a specific pathogen your body starts to create cells that work to detect and destroy that specific pathogen. This can take some time for this process to happen, which is why you will be sicker for longer the first time you are infected with a specific pathogen. If you are later exposed to the same pathogen, your body has already learned how to respond to it, and has developed specific cells that know how to detect and destroy this pathogen. This means that after the first time you are infected with something, your body’s response will be significantly faster, as your immune system has already learned how to fight off that specific pathogen. If you want some more information on the different parts of the immune system and how it works, have a read of this article: https://www.technologynetworks.com/immunology/articles/innate-vs-adaptive-immunity-335116.
There is so much more to chiropractic than just helping back pain, chiropractic care has actually been shown to help improve immune system function. Chiropractic care is all about removing interference from the nervous system. Because the spine and nervous system have such a close relationship, misalignments of the spine can cause interference in how the nervous system is functioning. Chiropractors are able to find these areas of the spine that are misaligned and perform an adjustment, which removes the interference from the nervous system and allows it to function properly. When the nervous system is free of interference it allows the brain and the body to communicate effectively. This allows the brain to better to detect what is happening in the body, and allows the immune system to work faster and better. Decreased nervous system interference also allows our brain and nervous system to better coordinate all body systems. When the immune and nervous system can coordinate their responses more efficiently this keeps our body more resilient and healthy. The more coordinated our immune and nervous systems are, the more likely are to beat sickness and infection fast.
Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient for humans, and plays a large role in the function of the immune system. Vitamin C supports the cellular functions of many parts of both the innate and the adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports the barrier function of cells against pathogens, and helps with microbial killing. It is needed for clearance of dead cells at the sites of infection, which helps minimise potential tissue damage. It is also essential in many of the other functions of the immune system. Vitamin C deficiency can result in impaired immune system function and higher susceptibility to infections. If you do become infected with something this can further decrease the amount of vitamin C in your system, leaving you vulnerable to further sickness or infection. Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. It is a good idea to supplement vitamin C throughout the winter months to help strengthen your immune system. If you do become sick, increase your vitamin C intake even more, as your body will be using up a lot more vitamin C as it fights the sickness, and vitamin C will help you to recover in a shorter amount of time. If you would like some more information on the science of how vitamin C works in your system, have a read of this article here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29099763/.
Sleep and immunity are very closely related, so getting enough sleep is important in staying healthy. Not getting enough sleep or not getting good quality sleep has been linked to having a higher susceptibility to sickness. It is important for adults to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. If you are sick you should try and get even more sleep than normal, as the extra sleep will help your immune system to fight the illness.
What you are eating plays a role in the strength of your immune system. Make sure you are eating mostly whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetable, nuts, seeds, and legumes. These foods are high in the nutrients and antioxidants that your body needs to fight harmful pathogens. The antioxidants in these foods also help to decrease inflammation in your system, which will help to reduce sickness. It is also important that you limit added sugars, as these have been shown to contribute to increased weight and obesity, which can in turn increase the likelihood of you getting sick.
Moderate exercise has been shown to boost immune system function, and helps your immune system cells regenerate more regularly.