Why there is always some lucky soul who doesn’t get sick when the viral is spreading like a fume or why when chicken-pox is sending all the kids home from school, are there a few who remain untouched? Why do only some in a family develop allergies or eczema? Is it because of their strong genes or they are fortunate? To some extent our genes play an important role in our life, but more to it inside our body there is an amazing protection mechanism called the immune system. It is designed to defend us against millions of bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites.
Unlike other system in the body, the immune system is not confined to a particular group of organs or tissues, but works like a huge army, manned by a great rank, all of which function in tandem to protect us against hostile invasions of bacteria, virus and other villains, which threaten our well-being. Whenever such unfriendly outsiders appear, the immune system springs into action, forming a barrier to prevent invasion by recognizing and trapping foreign bodies and then destroying them.
The immune system has a whole battery of first-line defences to fend off attack and prevent microorganisms from entering the bloodstream. This consists of a set of barriers which repel external attack including the mucus membranes in the mouth, nose, vagina, small hairs in the nose and ears that sweep foreign organisms out. It also includes tears in the eyes and the acid pH balance and sebum in the skin.
According to Dr Atul Luthra, senior consultant, internal medicine, Fortis La Femme, hospital, Delhi, India, “there are two types of immunity. One is cell-meditate immunity and other is antibody-meditate. Immune system is a defence system of the body. Whenever body is challenged with an external force the immune system acts activated to fight that force by producing an immune response which is through white blood cells. White blood cells either can destroy the external agencies by producing antibodies or by cell-meditate.”
Antibodies are special proteins designed to help the body neutralize or destroy invading organisms. When a germ enters our body for the very first time, it takes several days for antibodies to be manufactured. During this time the signs and symptoms of the infection develop. The blueprint of the antibodies is then stored in the immune system’s memory so when the same germ threatens the body again, the immune response goes in top immediate action and produces the very same antibodies. This time around you may not even be aware that you have been threatened by infection, because there are few or no signs and symptoms.
Various lifestyle factors can weaken the immune system. Culprits include antibiotics, contraceptive pills, smoking, and junk food diet, bingeing on alcohol, pollution and stress. With exercise, balanced diet, and controlling the stress level, one can stay healthy.
Balanced diet is similar to life-saving drug which includes fresh fruits, green vegetables, nuts, sprouts, etc. Fresh foods not only carry a diverse mixture of vitamins and trace minerals absent from most processed foods, they also have vitality. Sugar is an immune suppressant. Children often complain of a sore throat that develops after gorging on sweets, or they have recurrent ear infections or chronic tonsillitis if they consume a lot of candy, and sugared beverages. Other stimulants-such as coffee and sodas-seem to have a similar result if they are overused. Foods that are loaded with chemicals leave us burdened, rather than energized.
A low-fat diet is very important for a strong immune system. Excess fat hampers the ability of the body to fight off bacteria and free radicals. Lowering fat in the diet can be accomplished by limiting the intake of fatty foods and making low-fat and low-calorie meal substitutions. Even the antioxidants help in boosting the immune system. Vitamin C aggressively reacts on cancer cells. Good sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, green peppers, cantaloupes and broccoli. Vitamin E helps to slow down the symptoms of ageing and strengthen body cells that fight infection.
Regular exercise is a must
When we exercise moderately, we actually stimulate our immune function. Regular exercise increases the circulation in white cells. Exercise also causes our blood vessels to expand so that circulation is increased. More white blood cells circulating to more areas of our body, means a greater ability to fight and prevent disease.
Adapt relaxation techniques
Stress has become a part of our life because of the tough competition and a fast-paced life. In fact we don’t have the time to relax and enjoy the happiness we achieve with our small efforts. Creating a deep sense of relaxation can have the positive effect on the immune system. Adrenalin triggers the sympathetic nervous system-that ‘fight-or-flight’ response. A relaxation technique that, like daydreaming, involves allowing images to drift through your mind heightening immune response to disease. Just relax and let images come to you. Also, poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and numbers of killer cells. Avoid sleep robbers such as eating, drinking alcohol, smoking, or exercising right before bedtime.
Have a positive approach
Having a positive outlook when under stress can make you and your immune system feel high. Negative emotions release stress hormones that suppress immune activity, while positive emotions increase immune function and even help people to recover faster from illnesses. Make friends. Going out with your friends can boost your spirits and your defences.