Is My Immune System Really That Important? You Betcha!
Do you ever feel like you constantly have some sort of sniffle, cough, or sneeze going on? Does it feel like you are always under the weather? Are you dragging a little more than usual, no matter how many cups of coffee or bottles of energy drinks you consume? If this sounds like you, then chances are, your immune system is not up to snuff. Like anything else in life, we tend not to pay much attention to the things we need until they stop working properly. Our immune systems are no different. We take for granted that they will defend us against every icky germ, virus, or bacteria that cross our paths. If we want our immune systems to kick butt, we have to do our part to help keep them in fighting shape.
Immune Systems 101
We all know that we have an immune system, right? If you ever sat through a health class in school, you (hopefully) learned all about yours. But knowing you have one and understanding why it is important are two different things. Did you know that most people run into 60,000 germs every day? And that is just the germs. Do not even get us started on the viruses and bacteria that cross our paths. If we think about it too long, it makes us feel a bit…queasy.
When your immune system is healthy, it takes one look at those viruses and bacteria and slams the door in their germy little faces. There are several components to our immune systems that work together to keep us safe.
- Skin is the physical barrier to germs. If it does its job correctly, germs can’t find their way into our bodies.
- Mucus is the next line of defense and acts as an anti-bacterial agent. It’s sticky and gross, but it lines your lungs and mucus lines to catch germs before they can do much damage.
- The gut contains between 70 and 80 percent of your body’s immune system cells, making it an important player. When your gut is in excellent condition, it can deploy a small army of friendly bacteria to help fight off the invaders.
- The lymph system has a really important job. It is the superhero of your immune system. It brings water, food, and oxygen to every cell in your body while removing waste. In the bone marrow, it produces and releases white blood cells that fight off viruses and bacteria. The spleen regulates blood production in the body and removes damaged cells.
Signs of a Weakened Immune System
Your immune system knows when it is not working well and will send out an S.O.S. Those warning signs often go ignored because we are unaware of what our body is trying to tell us. If you have any of the following ongoing issues, it’s time to have an honest conversation with your body and take whatever steps are necessary to boost your immunity.
- You’re constantly stressed out
Life is stressful. Whether it’s your job, your kids, or the fact that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. Whatever is causing your anxiety to go sky high, you need to get it in check, or your immune system will suffer. Being in a constant state of stress reduces our body’s ability to fight off antigens. The result is you will pick up every germ, every cold, every illness that comes down the pike.
- You’re always sick
The average adult can expect to have two or three colds each year. If you are always sick with something, or it takes you longer than 10 days to recover from an illness, it might be your immune system’s way of letting you know it needs some TLC.
- Your tummy is distressed
If you are gassy, bloated, or dealing with chronic constipation or diarrhea, that is your body’s way of alerting you to an unhealthy gut.
- Your wounds heal slowly
Does it seem like it’s taking that papercut forever to heal? It’s probably not your imagination. It’s your immune system warning you it’s not in tip-top shape. If your immune system is sluggish, it will take forever for cuts, scrapes, and burns to heal.
- You’re exhausted
There are several reasons why you might be exhausted. We all go through periods of unrest. But if it seems like you’re always fatigued, no matter how much sleep you get, then it’s time to pay attention to your immune system.
Drop that Mop
This is going to sound incredibly counter-intuitive, but we are going to say it anyway. Did you know there is such a thing as too clean? As women around the world collectively gasp at this very suggestion, let us explain. Cleaning and disinfecting are necessary for our fight against germs, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Practice good hygiene and clean normally. If you find yourself bleaching every time someone sneezes, you should probably drop that mop and take a “less is better” approach to your cleaning habits.
Boosting Your Immune System
Figuring out your immune system is in distress is one thing. Knowing how to boost it is another. There are helpful ways you can strengthen your immune system to fight off illness and other diseases. The most important thing you can do is choose to live a healthy lifestyle. This means getting enough exercise and eating a well-balanced diet. There are some other healthy-living tactics you can employ to bolster your immunity:
- Do not smoke. Smoking is bad for your heart, lungs, and yes, your immune system.
- Eat your fruits and veggies. They are loaded with nutrients that boost immune function.
- Drink in moderation. Alcohol can suppress your immunity. If you drink too often or binge drink regularly, it is like a constant assault on your immune system.
- Get enough sleep. Healthy adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Simply put, lack of sleep can make you sick.
- Practice proper hygiene. With a global pandemic happening, there is a lot of emphasis on hygiene. Proper handwashing is a good practice, even when we aren’t in the middle of battling a nasty virus.
- Supplement wisely. Some supplements may strengthen your body’s immune response. Not all supplements are created equally, so be sure to do your research before buying.
Immune System and Age
Ladies and gents, we hate to break it to you, but our immunity gets weaker as we age. Getting older is challenging to say the least. Our bodies go through a lot of changes – some more frustrating than others. Just because aging presents some challenges where our immunity is concerned does not mean we should take defeat lying down.
Since we know our immune systems have to work harder as we age, we must get our acts together now and do the things mentioned in the last section to give ourselves a fighting chance. Get into the habit of healthy living when you are younger, and instill those practices in your children. We may not be able to reverse the aging process, but we can give our bodies all the ammunition they need to maintain health and well-being well into our golden years.
The Bottom Line
We may not have a lot of control over the functioning of our immune systems, but we can do our best to keep them in optimal condition. Eat right, get plenty of rest, and exercise in moderation. Keeping up with healthy lifestyle habits is the best way to encourage a healthy immune system. Good luck, and stay healthy everyone!