To stand the best chance of beating harmful viruses, now’s the time to start strengthening your immune system
Every minute of our lives, we are bombarded by viruses, fungi and bacteria that can make us ill and, simplistically, it is the job of our internal network to sift through the trillions of micro-organisms in the body, working out which are good, which are harmful and which can be nurtured.
When it’s doing its job properly the immune system – comprising white blood cells, antibodies, the spleen, bone marrow, thymus, and the complement and lymphatic systems – ignores the good bacteria and targets the bad, remembering them in case they return.
However, fighting these pathogens is hard work, and we can make it easier – or more difficult if you are a heavy drinker, smoke, use drugs, or are obese – for our immune systems to perform as it should.
But there is no quick, easy fix. Despite what you may have heard, putting sage between your toes every night doesn’t really work. Neither does rubbing garlic into your eyes.
What we need to do is maintain the immune system’s strength to enhance its ability to stave off infection, and the easiest ways to do that are having balanced diets, exercising, sleeping well, and managing our mental health.
There is some evidence that deficiencies in zinc, iron, copper, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E can alter immune responses, so a balanced diet including fresh fruit and vegetables will go a long way to keeping you healthy. Remember, experts recommend at least five different portions of fruit and veg a day – as well as plenty of fluids – to sustain ideal body weight.
Regular exercise is one of the pillars of modern living, so staying fit and active can lower your risk of falling ill and keep your immune system healthy. Moderate aerobic activities – think a brisk walk, light aerobics, swimming and cycling or anything that gets you slightly breathless and your heart pumping harder – are the best choice, say experts.
State of mind is a powerful weapon against infection because stress and anxiety are debilitating and major factors in lowering the body’s immune response.
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine – not only does not it lift the spirits and increase mental resilience but it gets the heart racing to nearly the same levels as mild exercise, helping you de-stress.
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