Blog at a Glance
- The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness of the importance of a strong immune system for protecting you and your family against infection.
- Learn exactly what the immune system does and the three different types of Immunity.
- Learn about some of the key signs and symptoms that your Immune System needs strengthening to help it fight infection.
One of the positives of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has motivated us to think about how we can strengthen our immune system naturally to protect ourselves and our loved ones against this destructive virus. While we have heard the word immunity over and over again, many of us are still in the dark as to what our immune system actually does.
The first step in learning how to strengthen your immune system is understanding exactly what your immune system actually is and how it works in the body. Read the first part of our blog series on immunity below to learn about the immune system and the key signs and symptoms that your immune system could do with some strengthening.
What is the Immune System
Our immune system is an incredibly complicated defence system that works day and night to protect us against germs, infections or foreign invaders and parts of our body which may have changed (E.g. cancer) or is being broken down for disposal. To function properly, an immune system must detect a wide variety of agents, known as pathogens, from viruses to parasitic worms, and distinguish them from your body’s own healthy tissue.
The Three Types of Immunity — Innate, Adaptive, and Passive:
Innate immunity: Everyone is born with innate (or natural) immunity, a type of general protection. For example, the skin acts as a barrier and blocks germs from entering the body.
Adaptive immunity: Adaptive (or active) immunity develops throughout our lives when we’re exposed to diseases or when we’re given vaccines. Adaptive immunity allows the immune system to recognise when certain invaders are foreign and could be dangerous. For example, once you have had the measles, your body recognises the measles virus and can fight off another possible infection.
Passive immunity: Passive immunity is “borrowed” from another source and it lasts for a short time. For example, antibodies in a mother’s breast milk gives her baby temporary immunity to diseases she has been exposed to.
There are 2 functions of the immune system that are particularly important. One part is the ability of the immune system’s white blood cells (Leukocytes) to attack and dispose of invaders. There are many types of white blood cell (Leukocytes) but the main ones are Phagocytes and Lymphocytes. Phagocytes literally chew up invading organisms whereas Lymphocytes help the body to remember invaders and destroy them.
Signs your Immune System Needs Support
When our immunity is weakened it is unable to do its crucial role in protecting us from infection. There are several signs or symptoms that indicate the immune system has been weakened or overwhelmed. These include:
- Poor sleep – sleep is the foundation for all well-being and has a reciprocal relationship with our immune system. If you are not getting 8 hours of quality, undisturbed sleep every single night you are making it harder for your immune system to protect you. Poor sleep is also a sign your immune system could do with some additional support.
- Recurrent illness – do you constantly find yourself battling bugs and infections? Or if you do get a virus, it seems to take you a long time to recover fully. If so, your immune system is definitely in need of some further support.
- Stress – chronic and acute stress can take its toll on our immune function. Stress creates inflammation in the body and unmanaged inflammation wreaks havoc on the immune system.
- Slow-healing wounds – a healthy immune system supports the skins ability to heal quickly. If you have cuts or scrapes that take time to heal, then it is likely your immune system is in need of some help.
- Digestive upsets – Whilst it goes everywhere in your body, your immune system is mainly located in your gut, so if you are having issues with your digestive health and experiencing symptoms such as bloating, pain, gas, constipation or loose stools then it is likely your immune system has been compromised.
- Not enough sunlight – vitamin D is needed for a healthy immune response and the best way to get vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. At least 32% of New Zealanders are suffering from low vitamin D levels.
- Weight – Carrying extra weight puts pressure on your body systems, including your immune system. Not being able to lose weight when actively trying can be a sign that your immune system is already weakened.
- Exercising at the wrong time – Working out too close to bedtime, can increase stress hormones in your body making it difficult to unwind for good night sleep and therefore, puts additional pressure on your immune system.
- Inflammation – inflammation is common with all chronic diseases and when left unmanaged, can damage the body. Unmanaged inflammation can harm the immune system.
- Poor diet – if you are not eating a variety of whole, nutrient-dense foods and absorbing the nutrients in your food your immune system needs to function, you will definitely benefit from additional nutritional support in the form of a supplement.
For more practical information on what you can do to strengthen your immune system to help you fight off any infection, read our next blog launching next week, ‘Sleep Your Way to a Healthy Immunity’.
If you would like further support to strengthen your immune system, we invite you to book a consultation with our experienced Naturopathic Doctor at our Sleep and Wellness Centre. This thorough consultation includes an assessment of over 70 markers impacting your immunity including inflammation, digestive imbalances and liver health.
If digestive issues are impacting your immune health, we are offering 50% off our IGg testing this month to help identify food allergies or intolerances that are compromising immune function.
To book a consultation or IGg test, call today on 0800345888 or book online www.sleepandwellnesscentre.co.nz
Source: The SleepDrops Research Team