Have you seen how the COVID-19 caught us off guard? It “paralyzed” the whole world in so many aspects. Wherever I go, I can see how it leaves people and news headlines talking about the spread of infectious diseases. Well, let me give you a break! ?
In this article, I will help you shift your focus into building a stronger immune system — our body’s natural “army of defense”! You will find out different ways to have an immunity that can stand strong against any disease, virus or infection. Truth be told, the pandemic showed how we underestimated the power of prevention. Therefore, let’s take it as a major (and hard) lesson taught by Teacher COVID!
It’s a universal principle that “staying healthy”, by all means, is the best way to boost our immunity. So, further down, you will discover some of the top immunity-boosting foods! We will also talk about the importance of staying active, getting enough sleep and keeping our hormones balanced for our overall menopausal health.
There’s more! I will tackle another area beyond these general principles: The power of a positive outlook. By the end of this article, you will realize the importance of your emotions in keeping your immunity in tip-top condition!
Let’s start by having a quick review of how our immune system works. ?
The Immune System: How It Works Against Viruses and Diseases
The immune system functions as your body’s natural line of defense against disease-causing substances. Without an immune system, there’s no way for us to fight harmful environmental substances that enter our body! So, how does the immune system work? ?
The immune system “detects” and neutralizes bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. These harmful substances are collectively called “pathogens”. The immune system also kills abnormal cells that can cause disease within the body — like cancer cells.
According to Cancer Research UK , the immune system has two main parts:
- Innate Immunity (protection from birth)
This kind of immunity is always ready and acts immediately to defend our body! You can find this in-built protection in:
- the skin, formed as a barrier around the body
- the inner linings of the gut and lungs (produces mucus and traps bacteria)
- stomach acid (kills bacteria)
- helpful bacteria growing in the bowel (prevents other bacteria from taking over)
- urine flow (flushes bacteria out of the bladder and urethra)
- white blood cells called “neutrophils” (search and kill bacteria)
Some events can damage these natural protection mechanisms. For example, something may break the skin, such as getting a wound. The open wound can make the body vulnerable to bacterial infection.
Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen our innate immunity! We will talk about them further down. ?
2. Acquired Immunity (protection developed after having certain diseases):
This is also known as the “adaptive immune system”. Acquired immunity happens when the body learns to recognize different kinds of bacteria, fungus or virus that it meets for the first time.
When the same “bug” invades the body next time, it is easier for the immune system to fight it. This is why we usually get infected only once by diseases like measles or chickenpox.
Vaccination works by using acquired immunity. A vaccine contains a small amount of protein from a virus or bacteria. It allows the immune system to recognize the disease if they meet again. The immune response can then stop you from getting the disease again. Some vaccines also use small amounts of live bacteria or virus. Scientists do it by changing the virus or bacteria, so that it is capable of stimulating the immune system to make antibodies.
However, it would be strange if we got a vaccine for every disease. Our body was not designed that way — it has the natural capability to heal itself! Moreover, not all vaccines are created equal. For instance, vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, polio, smallpox and influenza have a long history of safe use. These vaccines were developed in line with the standard requirements of regulatory agencies. ✅
On the other hand, newer types of vaccines that are not yet fully evaluated can bring a serious setback. One of my worries is that a vaccine may be administered before its efficacy and safety are clinically proven. I truly hope that regulatory agencies are considering ways to accelerate treatments while carefully assessing how these drugs work beyond killing a virus — and inform the public about the potential long-term effects.
If you want to dig deeper, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Vaccine Explained” series features illustrated articles on vaccine development and distribution. Discover more about vaccines from the earliest of research stages to their rollout globally: Explainers (who.int)
As much as possible, we must go back to natural ways of strengthening our immune system. As the old saying goes: “Measure twice, cut once”. It’s better to be safe than sorry! We only have one precious life. We call the final shots on what we allow to enter our body. ?
Before we finally talk about natural ways to boost our immunity, watch this video first from UK Research and Innovation, so you will understand better how our immune system works!
Boost the Body’s Natural Immunity in 4 Simple Ways!
1. Embrace Healthy Eating Habits!
Among several things, your nutritional status hugely affects your immune system. So, let’s go back to the saying: “Let food be thy medicine”! Hippocrates was among the very first to believe in the power of diet in preventing diseases. Who are we to question the “Father of Medicine”?! ?
The foods we put on our plate can make or break the balance of our immune system. YES – a state of “balance” that neither overreacts nor underreacts to “threats”. Our immune system can be likened to the police giving a strong definite response – it should not make a passive or excessive force.
Now, what are healthy foods and lifestyle habits that can help boost our immunity?
Try the Keto-Green way of eating: The Keto-Green way of eating involves low-carb foods, healthy fats and protein. It observes the same practice as the ketogenic diet but adds emphasis on alkaline foods! Adding intermittent fasting to the Keto-Green way can help us achieve many health benefits such as:
- Improving the immune response
- Promoting insulin sensitivity
- Reducing blood glucose
- Purging of cancer cells
- Activating autophagy (our cells natural ability to self-heal)
I personally embrace the Keto-Green way of eating and practice intermittent fasting every day. This “magical duo” never disappointed me since the day I started doing them! ?
Moreover, the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a review about the ketogenic diet and found that it produces beneficial metabolic changes. Along with weight loss, health risks associated with excess weight have decreased, such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. There is also growing interest in the use of low-carbohydrate diets, including the ketogenic diet, for type 2 diabetes.
Want to learn more nutritional tips to boost your immunity? I have already done the job for you! The bullets below contain links to different articles I have written. Read them for more in-depth details!
- Take vitamins, minerals and essential supplements for triple support!
- Eat superfoods !
- Add herbs to your diet!
- Have some nuts and seeds as healthy snacks!
- Support your gut health with probiotics !
- Cut back on sugar and toxins !
- Maintain acid-alkaline balance !
2. Get Moving!
Sometimes, I find it funny how “moving” is considered vital for our health. How can something so “normal” be that important? We move every minute, every day, don’t we? ?
Well, years of research taught me that most of us don’t move enough every day. The latest study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 4 Americans sit for MORE than 8 hours a day.
Another study in 2010 found that people who spent more than 6 hours sitting daily had a 71% increase in mortality rate. Looks like “sitting” is the new “smoking”! How bad, isn’t it? ?
Exercise and activity are two different things. Exercise is an “intentional effort to raise your heart rate, strengthen your muscles or increase your flexibility.” On the other hand, “activity” is about “how much you move throughout the day.” A sedentary person spends much of the day sitting. An active person does things such as walking, climbing stairs, standing and moving around most of the day.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, a healthy amount of exercise and activity is:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 3-5 times weekly
- Getting at least five minutes of movement every hour
- Walking 10,000 steps daily
While we’ve long known that exercising is a healthy habit, it is also essential to be dedicated in increasing your activity level. Physical activity can be anything you enjoy that gets your body moving! There are lots of ways you can squeeze more activity into your day, like walking during lunch break, taking the stairs at work or getting out into your lawn or garden! Don’t be “too busy” for your health. ?
Exercise, Physical Activity and the Immune System
Generally, research supports that all forms of physical activity are beneficial for our health. Several studies also show that exercising and activity boost the immune system. It’s more than just a cliché, sweetie!
In adults, regular aerobic exercise appears to be a friend of the immune system! It helps prevent chronic inflammation — one of the biggest villains behind many diseases.
Watch this short video from Dr. Andrew Weil, an expert in integrative medicine, as he explains how inflammation triggers many diseases!
3. Get Enough Sleep!
Another habit you’ll want to embrace for a stronger immunity is a healthy bedtime! ?
You see, when we enter menopause and our hormones are out of balance, we may have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. In my own experience, having sleep problems had a big impact on my menopausal life. I was easily vulnerable to colds and flu. I also became a “not-so-loving” wife back then (sorry for that phase, hubby)!
Study after study shows that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick easily after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover!
How come? ?
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called “cytokines”. These proteins are needed when you get an infection, have inflammation or when you’re under stress. Now, sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep!
Therefore, your body needs enough quality sleep to fight infectious diseases. To optimize your immune system, the ideal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours every night.
Get into bed early and make your bedroom a place where you can achieve undisturbed sleep! ?
4. Avoid Stress!
Today, more and more medical experts have come to appreciate the relationship between the mind and body. A wide variety of health problems, including stomach issues, skin problems and even heart disease are linked to the negative effects of emotional stress. Despite the challenges, scientists are actively studying the relationship between stress and immune function.
For one thing, stress is difficult to define. A stressful situation for me may not be a struggle for another woman. Therefore, most scientists studying the relationship between stress and immune function focus more on “chronic stress.” Chronic stress can be caused by constant and frequent stressors. It could be due to relationship problems or sustained challenges at work or in business.
But here’s the thing: In general, stress has been regarded as immunosuppressive. So, stress may influence the onset of infectious, inflammatory or allergic diseases.
One “stress” counts, dearest! It may be just a small burden, but the longer it “sits” in your heart, the heavier it gets.
So, try to stay away from anything (or anyone) that worries you! I know, stress is one of the inevitable things in life. Often, it is unpredictable, but it makes us stronger emotionally and mentally! As the classic saying goes, anything that’s “too much” is bad — especially when our health is at stake! ?
Before, when I faced a stressful situation, I got overwhelmed easily. But when I started welcoming healthy habits for the mind and body, I felt “stress-proof”! Try them for yourself too! ?
Happier = Healthier: When Emotions and Immunity Meet
As mentioned above, our body has the ability to heal itself naturally. All we need to do is HELP it — by giving the right “materials” it needs to build a natural defense. We’re done talking about healthy eating, staying active, getting enough sleep and avoiding stressful situations. Now, let’s zoom in to the power of a positive outlook in strengthening the immune system! ✨
I always hear the line “happier people live longer.” I was guilty of not taking it seriously! Until I finally saw one study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that people who had higher levels of optimism had a longer life span. They also had a greater chance of living past age 85. How cool is that?!
What’s more interesting to know is that the emotional and immunological systems share very similar functions. Both the emotional and immunological response helps us distinguish between what we like and what we do not like. They also help us counteract a broad range of challenges and adjust to the environment we are living in! ?
Furthermore, the field of medical psychology indicates that the emotional state affects the function of the immune system directly. Let me share these surprising facts from the Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience with you:
► A positive emotional state increases the function of the immune system. In contrast, a negative emotional state decreases the function of the immune system. A negative emotional state also increases a person’s possibility of getting infectious diseases.
► Positive emotion regulation (the ability to have control over your emotional state) leads to enhancement of the immune system, while negative emotion regulation reduces the immune response.
► Emotional disclosure (expressing strong emotions by talking or writing) can alleviate the negative effects of stress and trauma on the immune system. It also promotes faster recovery and improvement of the immune system.
► Suppressing a negative emotional experience can reduce the function of the immune system and cause more serious physical or psychological issues.
To sum up, here’s a motivational talk from Jennifer Stellar, the Director of “Health, Emotions, and Altruism Laboratory” (HEAL) at the University of Toronto. In this Ted Med Talk, Jennifer talks about the favorable effects of positive emotions on our overall health! ?
You see, there are many ways to boost our body’s natural protective “troops” against diseases. We don’t have to wait for the symptoms and problems to show up! Take care of your body and have a positive outlook.
Your first line of defense is to make a decision now and choose a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to try all the tips I have shared with you at once, dearest one! Start with the easiest step you can take to optimize your immune system naturally.
Our immune system is called a “system” for a reason — it is not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. And what has the biggest influence on your internal state? Your lifestyle choices! ?
What is the Role of the Lymphatic System in Promoting Immunity?
The lymphatic system is vital to our body’s immunity. One of its major roles is trafficking the immune cells. It produces and releases lymphocytes (white blood cells) and other immune cells that “search and kill” foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi). Therefore, keep your lymphatic system strong and healthy too! Maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and healthy food. Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals. Also, observe proper breathing techniques so that our lymph can easily move throughout the body! Learn more ways to optimize the lymphatic system in my article here!
We would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to add your comments below
Let´s support each other. Use the share buttons in this article, so more women can get help and feel great!
How does the immune system work? – InformedHealth.org – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
How Does Our Immune System Work? | Cornell Research
The immune system and cancer | Cancer Research UK
The Perspective of Acquired Immunity to Combat against Infectious Diseases: An Overview (scirp.org)
How to boost your immune system – Harvard Health
Keto Diet: Your 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, Boost Brain … – Dr. Josh Axe – Google Books
Nutrients | Free Full-Text | Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis (mdpi.com)
IJERPH | Free Full-Text | Link between Viral Infections, Immune System, Inflammation and Diet (mdpi.com)
Is Regular Exercise a Friend or Foe of the Aging Immune Syst… : Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (lww.com)
COVID-19: sitting is the new smoking; the role of exercise in augmenting the immune system among the elderly | African Health Sciences (ajol.info)
Frontiers | Physical Exercise and Immune System in the Elderly: Implications and Importance in COVID-19 Pandemic Period | Psychology (frontiersin.org)
Sleep and immune function | SpringerLink
Sick and tired: does sleep have a vital role in the immune system? | Nature Reviews Immunology
Stress Hormones, Th1/Th2 patterns, Pro/Anti-inflammatory Cytokines and Susceptibility to Disease – ScienceDirect
Connecting the immune system, systemic chronic inflammation and the gut microbiome: The role of sex – ScienceDirect
Positive Emotional States and Enhancement of the Immune System – Kathleen M. Dillon, Brian Minchoff, Katherine H. Baker, 1986 (sagepub.com)
Effects of Emotions on Immune System (psych.ac.cn)
Affective immunology: where emotions and the immune response converge (nih.gov)
Role of the immune system in regeneration and its dynamic interplay with adult stem cells – PubMed (nih.gov)
Keto And Keto-Green Dieting: What’s The Difference? – Dr. Anna Cabeca (drannacabeca.com)
Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The amount of physical activity you need – Better Health Channel
Why Exercise Isn’t Enough to Keep Your Heart Healthy | Johns Hopkins Medicine
How much physical activity do adults need? | Physical Activity | CDC
Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? – Mayo Clinic
Sleep & Immunity: Can a Lack of Sleep Make You Sick? | Sleep Foundation
If you are happy and you know it… you may live longer – Harvard Health
The Lymphatic System: Integral Roles in Immunity (nih.gov)
Lymphatic System: Parts & Common Problems (clevelandclinic.org)