What Is Immunity building?
Immunity building refers to any measures taken to assist and strengthen the body’s immune system to function optimally and to help ward off disease. Proper functioning is necessary for us to maintain ideal health.
The state in which the immune system is functioning sub-optimally is called immunodeficiency. Immunodeficiency states can have serious consequences e.g. predisposing to life-threatening infective diseases or cancer. Overfunctioning of the immune system is also common. Conditions in which the immune system over functions are hypersensitivity reactions or allergies, as well as autoimmune diseases (when the immune system recognises the body's cells as "foreign" and starts to attack them).
The immune system is intricately and very detailed in its design. The system is divided into innate and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is the body’s first defence against external factors. These include physical defence mechanisms such as skin, mucosa and cell walls, as well as scavenger immune molecules that catch foreign particles in the blood and lymphatic streams.
It is an immediate defence mechanism and non-specific. It does not adapt over time. White blood cells called macrophages and phagocytes form part of the body’s innate system. Once the innate immune system recognises a threat to the body, these cells activate a system called the complement cascade which leads to further activation of more of the immune system's cells.
The adaptive immune system is more focused and contains antibodies that are formed after exposure to specific foreign substances called antigens. Antibodies are called immunoglobulins, and lymphocytes are the cells responsible for activation of the innate immune system.
Poor diet, fatigue, stress as well as certain substances or medications can all lead to over- or underperformance of the immune system. Organs that form part of the immune systems include your spleen, tonsils/ adenoids, lymphatic system and bone marrow.
What Are The Symptoms Of Immunity building?
- Recurrent or frequent colds or respiratory tract infections
- Constant feeling of fatigue or lethargy
- Difficulty losing or gaining weight
- Frequent yeast infections such as gastrointestinal or genital candidiasis
What Are The Causes Of Immunity building?
Causes of reduced immunity can either be intrinsic/ hereditary or acquired.
Intrinsic or primary immunodeficiencies are inborn genetic errors. There are more than hundred different types and forms of primary immunodeficiency syndromes described. These include immunodeficiency syndromes such as selective IgA deficiency, DiGeorge syndrome and Ataxia Telangiectasia.
Secondary or acquired immunodeficiency states can be due to diseases or conditions such as:
- Malnutrition or being underweight
- Auto-immune disorders
Medications or substances:
- Long-term corticosteroid use
- Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF) used in auto-immune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Chemotherapy or radiation.
- Pregnancy is a normal physiological state of lowered immunity.
- Ageing is also a natural process that causes lowered immunity.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Immunity building?
- Exercise frequently. At least 30mintes per day of light to moderate exercise 3-5 times a week. Exercise increases immunoglobulin levels, as well as the efficiency of innate system's cells. Extreme amounts of exercise may, however, lead to a weakening of your immune system. Balance is key.
- Reduce stress levels. Learn relaxation techniques. Take frequent breaks. Go on holiday when possible, or take time off from work 3-4 monthly.
- Follow a diet providing optimal nutritional support.
- Assist your body in its functioning. Hydrate and help your body to detoxify. Drink at least 2 litres of clean, purified water per day.
- Optimise sleep quantity and quality. Adults need 6 to 8 hours of good quality sleep per night.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Immunity building?
- Do not expose yourself to sudden changes in extreme temperature environments e.g. walking out into the cold after a full-on gym session.
- Do not smoke. Smoking causes generalised inflammation of body tissues and leads to weakened immunity and poor tissue healing.
What Are The Best Foods For Immunity building?
- Foods high in antioxidants, especially berries.
- Vitamin C is a potent anti-inflammatory and immune booster. Foods rich in vitamin C include Grapefruits, oranges, red bell peppers, strawberries, papaya.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to some auto-immune diseases. Foods rich in vitamin D include egg yolks, beef liver, cheese, mushrooms, fish such as tuna and salmon.
- Probiotic rich foods lower intestinal inflammation and stimulate good bacteria in the gut, strengthening the immune system. Foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha.
- Garlic cloves. Garlic has long been used for its antibacterial and antiviral properties as well as immune boosting abilities.
- Ginger boosts immunity and is anti-inflammatory.
- Coconut oil contains lauric acid that has a strong antiviral and antibacterial component.
- Zinc helps fight infections. Zinc is especially rich in shellfish foods.
What Are The Worst Foods For Immunity building?
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates. High glycemic index carbohydrates and sugar wreak havoc on your body's immune system, by causing insulin spikes and blood sugar surges, increasing inflammation and lowering immunity.
- Processed foods especially high in colourants, preservatives and chemicals all increase inflammation and lower immunity.
- Foods high in saturated fatty acids.
- Excessive alcohol intake reduces white blood cells in the immune system after long term use.
What Are The Medicines For Immunity building?
What Are The Tips To Manage Immunity building?
Nutritional and complementary substances that have shown to improve immune system functioning include: