Before we get to that question, let’s have a look at the immune system.
What Is The Immune System?
The immune system of a human body is responsible for resistance and protection against harmful foreign elements in the form of bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms. As a system, different parts or organs contribute to the overall ability of warding of various health ailments.
White Blood Cells, also known as leukocytes, circulate through the entire body in the blood vessels. These blood cells are stored in the various location in our bodies, such as the thymus, spleen, bone marrow and lymph nodes (they are also referred to as lymphoid organs).
Leukocytes are further divided into two types: Phagocytes and Lymphocytes. Phagocytes actively destroy the pathogens while Lymphocytes keep track of previous invaders and alert other leukocytes upon encountering them.
Functioning Of The Immune System
Inside our body, the leukocytes are on constant lookout for pathogens. When they encounter one, they start multiplying while also sending signals to other cells about the invasion.
Once the leukocytes find foreign bodies (virus, bacterium, fungus), antibodies are released to act on foreign entities. Your immune system relies on a combination of antibodies and killer cells to fight against the antigens (foreign bodies).
Several Types of The Immune System
Immunity in humans is of three kinds – innate, adaptive and passive.
Innate immunity is the kind that we are born with. Since you were born, you get some form of resistance system in place to prevent an attack from foreign bodies.
Adaptive immunity is the one that develops throughout your life. Once we are exposed to pathogens, the body fights and also keeps a record of the antigen and how to fight against it in the future. This aspect is also the principle of how vaccination works.
Passive immunity is a temporary resistance ability against external agents. This resistance is usually borrowed from another source.
Passive immunity acquired from the mother is what protects the baby from foreign elements during its early years of life.
Which Key Factors Affect The Immune System
As you grow older, from a baby to an adult, the immune system evolves. Though foreign body exposure contributes to the development of immunity, there are other factors that affect how effectively the immune system deals with the threat.
The following are some of the factors that affect the functioning of the immune system:
- Proper Food,
- Sufficient Sleep,
- Physical Exercise,
Let’s have a brief idea about how each aspect affects our immunity.
Proper Food – Maintaining A Healthy & Nutritious Diet
Your diet is a source of various nutrients required for maintaining health and maintaining numerous bodily functions. So, it is not hard to associate our dietary needs with immunity. That said, this immunity assessment of humans is yet to be performed.
Currently, we only know that diet alters the immune system in some way (from animal studies).
The best we can do to ensure strong immunity is to have a balanced nutrient-rich diet. One can opt for health supplements if their regular diet isn’t sufficing.
Sufficient Sleep – Sleeping For The Right Amount of Time
Sleeping helps to relax, providing time for the body to recover from the workload. Think of it as your body’s maintenance period. It is vital for your body to rest to avoid overworking and straining body functions which are achieved from sleep.
Physical Exercise – Working-Out Is Helpful
While sleep helps recover, exercise ensures proper health by keeping your body active. Any form of exercise involves the movement of your body which improves blood circulation. Blood is a vital fluid which helps in the transport of nutrients within our body. Thus, enhanced circulation helps in improved nutrient transport and absorption.
Again, that said, there’s not enough concrete evidence to correlate between exercise and immunity.
Stress – Stressing Weakens Your Immune System!
Anything that affects us mentally alters the chemical structure in the brain. Stress is something that influences you negatively, changing your behavior and thoughts.
Then again, there is no uniformity in stress, meaning something that is stressful for you might not be for your friend. There’s no way to assess stress, except for measuring related factors like heart rate.
Though stress has effects; how and what effect it has on the immune system is still very much unidentified.
- The relation between diet and immunity is still unknown territory.
- Supplementation can bring health benefits, but it does not directly benefit the immune system.
Steps for Maintaining The Immune System
We know things like diet, exercise affects our immunity; but how exactly it affects is a mystery. Hence, without much information, we can only rely on practicing habits that are beneficial for our immune system for the time being.
The following things that can help you with maintaining a good immune system:
- Avoid smoking and drinking. If you drink, do it in moderation.
- Have a nutrient-rich diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get sufficient sleep
- Be hygienic
- Try to reduce stress as much as possible
The Truth about Boosting The Immune System
Everyone is different, with different immune systems functioning at different levels.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no boosting of the immune system possible – at least not in the sense that people perceive it to be. The general mass thinks boosting the immune systems results in them being ‘kind of’ invincible to infections and pathogens. But that is not the case.
Boosting means reducing deficiency or normalizing immune function to base level in a weak or underperforming immune system. As stated earlier, there are factors affecting our immune system. Concerning today’s time, neither the food habits boast of nutrition, nor the activities keep us active enough. Hence, there’s a high probability that our immune system isn’t performing up to its full capability. A simple change in diet and activities can make a huge difference.
Another aspect of immune system boosting is related to our genetics or prevailing health conditions. There might be cases where a lack of specific element results in affecting the immunity of a person (immunodeficiencies, autoimmunity, and hypersensitivity). In such cases, knowing the cause and working to prevent its influence on immunity can help with restoring its strength.
With that said, a properly functioning immune system cannot have its performance enhanced (dissimilar to popular belief). Unless you have some pre-existing health problem which affects your immunity, we suggest following a healthy diet with adequate exercises to strengthen your immune system.
The other option is supplements. Health supplements provide a convenient form of strengthening immunity if you are restricted from exercising (due to some health condition) or lack a healthy diet.
Products meant for boosting immunity
Numerous products in the market claim of boosting or strengthening the immune system. You need to understand that these products are supplements, not a cure. You cannot use these to treat health ailments. They only help to fill the nutrient-void that relates to the proper functioning of your immune system.
The following are some of the trusted products in the market meant for strengthening your immune system:
(A herbal supplement for healthy immunity; Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Kosher, and Lactose Free)
- Benefits: maintains immune system, supports cellular health, promotes vitality and healthy energy levels
- Dosage: 0.5 ml three times daily (adults and children 12+ years)
- Side-Effects: None
(A supplement formula consisting of L-Lysine, Echinacea, vitamin C, and other influential herbs; Free of Yeast, wheat, milk, rye, soy, oats, barley, sugar, preservatives, and artificial flavor)
- Benefits: improve and maintain immune system
- Dosage: 3 tablets daily
- Side-Effects: might make your body smell
Medicinal Mushroom Power Pack | AbsorbYourHealth
( A herbal supplement of Chaga, Cordyceps and Reishi mushrooms.)
- Benefits: improves anti-inflammatory effects, enhance underperforming immune system, normalizes blood sugar and cholesterol
- Dosage: “At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for these supplements. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician.” Source – webmd
- Side-effects: health problems likely if patient having mushroom allergy
The other Side of Supplemental Immune Boosting
Concerning immunity, the key is to understand if you need to refine practice or adopt supplementation. Don’t just rely on supplements as an easy way out while you continue munching fast foods. It will pay dividends in the long run if you understand what your body needs. Performing adequate physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, getting proper sleep and following hygienic practices should be your first concern.
Supplementation provides a convenient way of strengthening immunity. However, it does have some caveats. The thing is, supplementation invokes an inflammatory response from the immune system. This constant inflammation response due to supplementation can lead to cardiovascular problems which can be dangerous.
So, coming back to the question – can supplementation boost your immune system?
Yes, and No. Yes, if you have an under-performing immunity and No if you already have an able immune system to fight against foreign bodies.