Keeping well during a pandemic crisis is at the least, confusing. In an unprecedented moment, with new and constantly evolving updates as we learn more from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and local governments, the focus on the impact is becoming personal. Many of us are beginning to check-in on our own immune systems, and people are becoming increasingly unsteady in their own ability to combat the disease.
WHAT IS IMMUNITY?
From the moment we enter the world, we begin to develop our own unique immunity. But even before that happens, mother nature sees to it we are born with a natural (or Innate Immunity) to protect our infant selves from a bacteria and virus filled biosphere. The innate immune system is the first line of defense against disease, and remains that way throughout our lives. Innate immunity is the first part of the body to detect invaders such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and toxins, or to sense wounds or trauma. Upon detection of these agents or events, the innate immune system activates cells to attack and destroy the outsider, and initiate repair.
The second type of immunity is called Adaptive immunity: Adaptive (or active) immunity develops throughout our lives. We develop adaptive immunity when we’re exposed to diseases or when we’re immunized against them with vaccines. Our immune system is “updated”, and our new and improved immune system is then protected from the newly introduced virus or pathogen.
This is the immune system we are relying to work well with the introduction of any new virus. We need adaptive immunity to be on it’s “A game”, and effectively work just as efficiently with our innate immune system. The two arms of our immunity need to team up to beat the introduction of the virus; the first, second, third and so on times we may come in contact with it.
Lastly is Passive Immunity: Passive immunity is “borrowed” from another source and only lasts for the interval we are borrowing it. For example, antibodies in a mother’s breast milk give a baby temporary immunity to diseases to which the mother has been exposed.
IMMUNITY HEALTH CHECK
Even with every aspect of our immunity functioning well, there are still things we can do, and not do, to help or hurt our immune system. Removing things that compromise our immunity is only half the battle, we have to include activities and foods that build it up too. The following are 8 of the most critical immune boosters or immunity assassins to include, and avoid right now.
Smoking/ vaping. Smoking or vaping is more than a dirty habit, it’s an assault on every cell in your body, and damages the sensitive tissue in the lungs as well as the immune system, often irreparably.
Aside from the damage it does to every other organ in the body because of the over 70 known carcinogens in a single cigarette, there are added elements like tar, oxidizing chemicals, metals and radio-active compounds that the body’s immune system is forced to process, causing greater susceptibility to respiratory infections such as pneumonia and influenza, with the un-welcomed effects of longer-lasting illnesses.
Change your diet to include colorful fruits and vegetables. There is little debate there is a direct connection between the foods we eat and health. It is often so direct, that stomach distress can come immediately after eating a food that doesn’t agree with us.
When we eat a fatty, high sugar, processed food diet manufactured with chemicals, colors and additives, our bodies work hard to eliminate the toxins that are introduced. The more poisons our body have to deal with, the less likely over-time it will effectively be able to eliminate them, causing stress on the systems of the body, particularly the immune system.
Including different vegetables and fruits in our diet, boost immunity and keeps hormones regulated, making the body stronger to face an infectious disease.
Exercise every day. Moderate exercise has a beneficial effect on the immune function, which could protect against upper respiratory tract infections. Exercise has positive effects on both the humoral and the cellular immune system.
Studies among athletes have surprisingly uncovered that after strenuous exercise, athletes pass through a period of impaired immune resistance. Pointing to any activity that causes stress on the body, mind or emotional state which is the root of the exhaustion. In essence, the body does not distinguish between fatigue from exercise and exhaustion from anywhere else, so moderation when building immunity is the key.
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is at epidemic proportions, and the number one factor behind many diseases today. Food manufacturers over-process with staggering measure to the point where the nutrition we take in is more often than not off-set by the way the food is made.
Over the years, advertisers and social media influencers have normalized poor diet, resetting what we might consider a ‘healthy’ food. In 2016, the World Health Organization reported 1.9 billion people were overweight; that was the better part of 15 percent of the total population of 7.9 billion people at that time.
Carrying extra weight impacts every system of the body, and as we age the effects are catastrophic. People who carry just 5% extra of their body mass are subject to disproportionate health risks such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arterial disease, stroke, cancer, and depression compromising the body’s immunity.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol impairs mucosal immunity in the gut and lowers respiratory development, and leaves the body open for progression of certain cancers.
The National Library of Medicine reports, clinicians observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. In recent decades, this association has been expanded to a greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), and certain cancers; a higher incidence of postoperative complications; and slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma, including poor wound healing.
Sleep. Although our immune system works round the clock, it’s when we sleep that our immunity kicks into full gear. When our body rests, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep.
Cytokines participate in many physiological processes including the regulation of immune and inflammatory responses. In turn, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
Further, researchers in the study of gene expression reported that circadian rhythms govern a large array of metabolic and physiological functions and are generated by an intrinsic cellular mechanism that in-turn controls a large range of physiological and metabolic processes. So, in essence, when we lose sync with our sleep clock, a whole range of health issues can crop up, leaving our conceded immune system to clean up the pieces.
Avoid infection. Not as simple as it sounds as viruses or bacteria are all around us, some lasting on surfaces for days at a time, but there are plenty of measures we can take to reduce our risks.
· Get vaccinated, and make sure your kids are too.
· Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing.
· Stay home if you are sick (so you do not spread the illness to other people).
· Use a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand.
· Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or using tissues.
· Clean children’s toys regularly, especially if they are sharing with friends.
· Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands.
· Do not share cups, glasses, dishes or cutlery.
Avoid harsh chemicals. Our kitchens, bathrooms and gardens are filled with harsh or even deadly chemicals. Because we use them every day, means we become used to their hard odors and therefore come in close contact with them on a regular basis.
Additionally, environmental pollutants used by businesses taking advantage of current relaxed environmental laws are mostly unseen and can cause havoc on our immunity. Metals such as lead in paints have been long found to be immunosuppressive, but everyday chemicals as common as bleach, when inhaled can harm the lungs for just a few seconds or even up to days in some cases.
We need to be mindful of what we put into our bodies and what is around us, lurking in our environments. Simple changes can make a big difference in how we combat infectious diseases at the cellular level, and the healthier we are today, the better chance we have to take on new viruses and diseases tomorrow.