Every fall, “immunity” becomes a buzz word that floods the internet and inundates us with new bio hacks and health trends with hazy origins and even more hazy credibility. With cold and flu season lurking around the corner, and in the wake of the COVID pandemic, people want to know how to optimize their immune system and make sure they are protected. However, sifting through the fluff to get to the facts can be discouraging. So, to help decipher the truth, here is a thorough breakdown of the human immune system. We will cover exactly what our immune system is, how the human immune response operates, and proven science-backed approaches to keeping it healthy and strong!
What is the immune system?
The human immune system is a complex network made up of organs, cells, and proteins. All the components work together to protect our cells and fight off infections caused by harmful substances and germs. The most noteworthy parts include:
- White blood cells
- The complement system
- The lymphatic system
- The spleen
- Bone marrow
- The thymus gland
Each one of these plays a unique and vital role in keeping the immune response operating optimally.
How does immunity work?
White Blood Cells:
These cells are manufactured inside the bone marrow and are a part of the lymphatic system. They include lymphocytes, as well as a variety of other types of immune cells. Their primary function is to move throughout the body’s blood and tissue looking for foreign invaders. These unwanted microbes could take the form of bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. Regardless of what form the enemy arrives in, white blood cells are responsible for discovering them, and launching an immune response.
Foreign microbes are identified by antigens that cling to their surface. When certain white blood cells known as B-cells encounter these antigens, it triggers a reaction that releases millions of antibodies into the bloodstream. These antibodies then react to the foreign invader’s antigens by marking the microbes for destruction.
The Complement System:
This system consists of proteins and is called the “complement” system because it supports the activity of the antibodies. It’s three main functions include activating inflammation, helping to label invading microbes for clearance or destruction, and directly killing the targeted cells and microbes.
The Lymphatic System:
The lymphatic system consists of lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and lymphocytes- another name for white blood cells. The lymph nodes trap foreign invaders, while the lymph vessels carry the lymph fluid throughout your body. This fluid transports the infection-fighting white blood cells to where they need to be for any given immune response.
This organ filters the blood and is responsible for removing and destroying unwanted particulates such as microbes or damaged red-blood cells. It is also involved in the creation of antibodies and lymphocytes.
Our bone marrow is a relatively soft, spongy tissue that resides in the core of our bones. It is essentially a factory that produces our red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
The Thymus Gland:
This small organ is a part of the lymphatic system that works to filter and monitor the content of the blood. It also manufactures a specialized type of white blood cell called T-lymphocytes or, more colloquially, T-cells.
Clearly, our immune system is complex and dependent on the proper function and interaction of a vast array of moving parts. Now that we have a better understanding of what it is, what can we do to best support and protect it?
How to Boost Immunity
When it comes down to it, there are 5 main lifestyle choices you can make to keep your immune system operating at top capacity.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
The link between diet and immunity is well established, like any other system in the body, the immune system relies on having access to sufficient amounts of a wide variety of micro-nutrients that it uses to function. Any gaps in your nutrition can interfere with your immune system’s ability to carry out its various functions and make you more susceptible to infection and illness. The best way to ensure you are getting proper nutrition is to include a wide variety of whole foods in your diet and periodically get your blood levels checked by a physician. A quality multivitamin like Terraseed can also help to bridge any potential gaps and give you peace of mind!
Check out the research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9772031/
There is a reason that nearly all health advice includes a recommendation for some sort of physical activity. Exercise has a nearly miraculous impact on the human body, and the effect on our immunity is no exception. The data indicates that exercise has a clear boosting effect on overall immunity, so don’t forget to fit your daily run into your schedule throughout this cold and flu season. The good news is, it doesn’t seem to matter what form your physical activity takes, as long as you get your blood pumping!
Check out the research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6523821/
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to incorporating habits into your lifestyle to help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve the quality of your sleep. This includes things like going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting screen time before bed, not eating or drinking caffeine past a certain time, and keeping your sleeping environment cool, quiet, and dark. The result of good sleep hygiene is better sleep- it goes without saying that there is a slew of benefits that come with it. One of these benefits is an improved immune response. Not only does high quality sleep have a supportive effect on immunity, but sleep deprivation has been shown to induce an inflammatory state that weakens it! Even more reasons to get your beauty sleep this autumn and beyond.
Check out the research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8602722/
Stress is an inevitable part of life, and healthy levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are normal and necessary to give us energy to overcome challenges or even just get through the day. However, if stress levels become chronically high, it can disrupt the normal function of the body and cause a host of problems. In fact, chronic stress has been shown to suppress immune function! This is why any healthy lifestyle should include coping mechanisms to help manage and reduce unnecessary stress. These techniques could include breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, peaceful head clearing walks, regular therapy, or anything else that helps you exhale!
Check out the research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
Avoid Smoking and Alcohol Use
Both alcohol and tobacco use have been shown to increase inflammation and negatively impact the body’s immune response. It goes without saying that these substances are generally harmful and should be avoided for numerous reasons, immunity being only one of them. While eliminating them completely may not be realistic for every individual, we highly encourage mindful consumption this cold and flu season to make sure you have the best fighting chance!
Check out the research:
Like any other part of the body, the immune system is composed of living cells that require an overall healthy lifestyle to keep them operating at their best. The system is extremely sophisticated, but the actions required to keep it running smoothly are surprisingly simple and intuitive. Fortunately, the same habits that are good for your immune function are also good for the rest of your well-being. Adopt these practices this fall to improve your ability to avoid getting sick and recover more quickly when you do!
To further fortify your immune system and fill potential nutritional gaps, consider incorporating a quality multivitamin like Terraseed into your daily routine. Multivitamins are a convenient way to ensure that your body receives essential micro-nutrients vital for immune function. By combining the recommended lifestyle choices with a reliable multivitamin, you can optimize your immune system's resilience, helping you stay strong and resilient during the cold and flu season and beyond.