Our immune system is the body’s defence system that protects against infection and disease. It protects with layered defences of increasing specificity. The physical barriers, such as skin, protect against pathogens such as bacteria and viruses from entering the body. If a pathogen breeches these barriers, the innate immune system provides an immediate response.
If pathogens successfully bypass the immediate response, humans possess a second layer of protection, the ‘adaptive immune system’ which is then activated. This immune system adapts its response during an infection to improve its recognition of the pathogen. This is then remembered by the body after the pathogen has been eliminated, allowing the body to provide faster and stronger attacks next time the pathogen is encountered. This is why once you have had certain illnesses once, you don’t get them again – such as chicken pox.
Our first line of defence is our skin. However, as organisms can’t be completely prevented from entering our bodies, our lungs, intestines, urinary and reproductive systems act to protect the body. For example, we cough and sneeze to mechanically eject pathogens from the respiratory tract.
We can also help our bodies by boosting our immune system in the ways below:
Research has shown that our gut bacteria helps our immune system keep us healthy. The beneficial bacteria prevent pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria from taking root in our tissues. Foods rich in fatty acids may foster a healthy immune system. Eat a wide range of plant based foods, avoid high processed foods, boost probiotics in the gut with fermented and probiotic foods.
Research over the past few decades has shown that sleep deprivation depresses the immune system’s disease-fighting capabilities by decreasing the proliferation of cells.
Even one night’s bad sleep can have an impact on the efficacy of our immune system.
In order to have a good night’s sleep, start a relaxing bedtime ritual to help your body and mind switch off and unwind from the day. This may be taking a hot bath, reading or practising meditation. Remember to switch off all electronic devices avoiding blue light an hour before bedtime, ensure your bedroom isn’t too hot, and avoid heavy meals in the evening and caffeine.
ENJOY THE SUN
Increasing the amount of vitamin D within our bodies is known to activate the production of anti-microbial peptides within the skin, helping the body fight against new infections. Just make sure not to overdo it. Too many rays can result in sunburns or skin cancer. You only need a few minutes between 15-20, to get the D dosage you need.
LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST - WASH YOUR HANDS
Regular hand washing with soap and water will wash away any bad bacteria and stop you from spreading it further round your body. The soap will suspend the dirt, the friction of rubbing your hands together will pull the dirt/ grease free from your skin and the water will rinse it away.