Must Know: Your Immune System
What is the Immune System?
- Cytokines. These are chemical messengers that help your immune cells communicate and coordinate an immune response.
- Natural killer (NK) cells. These are the white blood cells (WBC) that recognize and destroy infected or abnormal cells by injecting granules into them, causing them to explode. Your WBC count is key in understanding your overall health – an elevated WBC count can indicate an illness and a low WBC count can put you at risk for illness.
- Macrophages. These are special WBC that engulf and ingest bacteria and cellular debris.
- Dendritic cells. These are the WBC that present foreign substances to B and T cells, initiating an adaptive response.
- B and T cells. Both B cells (which mature in bone marrow) and T cells (which mature in the thymus) are lymphocytes – WBC cells that are able to recognize previous invaders and destroy them with a specific response.
What Are Immune System Disorders?
- Allergies and asthma. This is an immune system response to substances that are typically not harmful. For example, a peanut allergy or an anaphylaxis response to a bee sting.
- Immune deficiency disease. Some people suffer from immune system disorders in which their immune system is missing key parts. This makes it hard for these people to fight off disease and bacteria. You can be born with an immunodeficiency disorder (congenital) or develop the disorder later in life (acquired). Acquired disorders are more common than congenital disorders.
- Autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease causes your own immune system to attack your own cells and tissues. This happens by mistake and is attributed to having an over-active immune system. Common autoimmune diseases include ulcerative colitis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.
How to Strengthen Your Immune System
- Natural supplement. Take AHCC. Research proves that AHCC can modify both the innate and adaptive immune response. We know that AHCC can increase the production of cytokines, increases the activity of NK cells by 300 – 800%, increases the population of macrophages, increases the number of dendritic cells, and increases the number of T cells by as much as 200%.
- Sleep and rest are critical. There is a good reason why doctors and other healthcare professionals advocate for rest and recovery. You need to give your body time to heal. Studies show that immune system strength and sleep are closely linked – the better your sleep, the better you immune system strength. This is one of the reasons why when you are sick, you feel more tired and want to sleep. This is your body telling you to slow down and take the time to heal.
- Exercise for health. A healthy body is one that is strong, limber, and fit. This takes some work on your part. Integrating a daily walk, yoga practice, swim workout, or weight workout, for example, is just the stimulus your immune system needs. An added benefit to this exercise is that it can help you destress and sleep better.
- Control your stress levels. Yes, we know this is easier-said-than-done, but too much negative stress does have a detrimental impact on your immune system. Take steps to limit your negative stress. For example, devote time in your day that is just for you (take a walk at lunch free from your cell phone and coworkers), join a club or take up a hobby that lets you relax (pottery or watercolor painting can free your mind), surround yourself with positive people, or enjoy a regular movie night (choose a funny movie that is guaranteed to get you laughing).
- Wash your hands. Numerous studies have shown that clean hands and frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Be aware of how often you touch your face or mouth. Always wash your hands after visiting the restroom. Try to sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Cover your mouth when you cough. Clean any cuts, scrapes, or wounds – keeping them covered and protected from germs.