We all feel run down sometimes, but if you constantly find yourself getting ill, catching every bug that’s going round, it could be a sign that your immune system has been compromised. Your body’s immune system is an incredible multi-layered set of processes which work together to identify and eliminate disease-causing agents such as bacteria, viruses and other harmful micro-organisms.
Once a harmful organism breaches the skin, the body’s first line of defence, it faces an onslaught from a cocktail of chemicals and biological agents. Nevertheless, lifestyle factors can impair your body’s ability to defend itself, leaving you vulnerable to illness.
Keep on Moving
Exercise is particularly beneficial for your immune system for a number of reasons. First, exercising increases the circulation of blood through the body. White blood cells (leukocytes), of which there are five types, are pivotal in the fight against harmful agents, so the quicker they arrive at a site of infection, the better chance you have of fighting it off. The process of eliminating accumulated toxins from the body is also quickened during exercise.
Of course, aerobic exercise, like Street Fit®, is also central to any weight loss programme and if you’re struggling with obesity your ability to reproduce white blood cells and to trigger the inflammation process will both be impaired. Inflammation is a key process in healing, dilating the blood vessels to speed up the arrival of white blood cells, while attacking infective agents with anti-viral chemicals, etc.
Exercise also elevates mood and helps you to sleep; low mood and chronic lack of sleep have both been linked with a low T-cell count (T-cells are a type of white blood cell matured in the thymus), although exactly how optimism and sleep can boost the immune system is not yet known.
Manage your Stress
Stress is thought to play a part in ninety per cent of all illnesses. Although recent studies by the Stanford Institute have demonstrated that short bursts of stress act as a boost to the immune system, chronic stress, with associated high levels of cortisol, are known to suppress prostaglandins, an important ‘messenger molecule’, similar to a hormone. Prostaglandins have a diverse range of functions, including controlling inflammation and regulating the blood.
In addition, the high levels of stress associated with pessimistic thoughts is one possible reason for the link between low mood and low T-cell count; so try to relax and look on the bright side of life!
When you are dehydrated, toxins accumulate in the body, putting you at greater risk of illness. Dehydration can also keep you awake at night, affecting your immune system. Although you don’t need to cut out tea, coffee and alcohol completely, remember that these drinks ultimately dehydrate your body, as well as introducing toxins of their own. Sugary drinks also cause problems, since every 100g of sugar has been shown to delay white cell production by five hours. Therefore, ensure that a large amount of your fluid intake consists of plain, old-fashioned water.
Sun, Smoke and Medication
Other lifestyle factors that can impact on your immune system are excessive exposure to the sun, smoking and improper use of antibiotic medication.
A sun tan was never your body’s way to make you look attractive. The pigment melanin is its way of absorbing harmful UV radiation before it can damage your cells. Any damage caused by the sun’s rays requires fixing, and that takes vital resources away from your immune system.
Smoking cigarettes introduces over 400 toxins directly into your body, while taking antibiotics inappropriately (e.g. when they are not needed or not completing the course) can lead to the creation of resistant ‘superbugs’.
If you do follow a healthy lifestyle, yet still suffer from constant illness you may want to talk to your GP. There are various diseases that cause immunological deficiency as well as autoimmune diseases (where your body uses its immune system against its own cells).
Disclaimer: This blog post is for information only and does not constitute expert health advice. For expert advice, consult with your GP or trusted healthcare expert.