Health and Beauty

Immune System 101

What you need to know to maintain a healthy immune system

By Brianna Tran

Your immune system is a network of cells and proteins that defend your body against infection. It keeps a record of every germ it has ever defeated so it can recognise and destroy the germ quickly if it re-enters your body. The healthier your immune system, the less severely cold and flu symptoms will affect you, and the faster your symptoms will disappear.

Humans have three types of immunity:

  • Innate immunity is a type of general protection that everyone is born with. For example, your skin and immune system are built-in defences against threats.
  • Adaptive immunity develops throughout your life when you’re exposed to diseases or immunised against them. For example, chicken pox usually only affects a person once.
  • Passive immunity is borrowed from another source and lasts for a limited time. For example, the antibodies in a mother’s breastmilk give her baby temporary immunity to diseases the mother has been exposed to.

Key immune-boosting nutrients

There are lots of things you can do to support a healthy immune system year-round. Practising good hygiene, getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals and exercising regularly are great ways to start. Ensuring you include key immune-boosting nutrients in your diet is also crucial to maintain a healthy immune system to give you a far better chance of fighting off illness and infection.

  • Vitamin C is involved in many parts of your immune system. It encourages your production of white blood cells and helps them function more effectively, while protecting them against damage from free radicals. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant for your skin and helps strengthen its barriers.
  • Zinc is found in your cells and helps your immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Zinc also supports would healing and helps your taste and smell senses function well. A lack of zinc can make you more susceptible to disease and illness.

Vitamin C and zinc both have other important functions involved with keeping you healthy, so are helpful nutrients for all-round wellbeing. Each are not naturally produced by your body, so must be consumed via food or quality supplementation.

  • Garlic contains compounds that help boost the disease-fighting response of some white blood cells. It has been used for centuries as a treatment to prevent colds and viruses. The way garlic is prepared can change its health benefits, so while it can be taken by either food or supplementation, aged garlic extract may be the form with the best results.
  • Olive leaf extract is a herbal form of immune protection which has traditionally been used to enhance the functioning of the immune system and help manage viral infections. Olive leaf extract also supports your gut and nervous system, and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
  • Echinacea is a group of flowering plants and is another herbal remedy known for its immune system support. Studies show that echinacea may help your immune system fight infections and viruses, which may help with faster recovery from illness.
  • Manuka honey has anti-viral, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. It is a go-to germ fighter which can be used to boost your immune system to help fight off illness. Its anti-microbial properties also make it helpful for skin health and wound healing.
  • Probiotics restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut. Around 70 percent of your immune system is located in your intestines, so your gut microbiome plays a big part in keeping out invaders. Probiotics – ‘good’ bacteria – promote your production of natural antibodies. Taking a probiotic supplement and eating a healthy diet are key ways to maintain a healthy gut bacteria balance.

To discover the right supplement to support your immunity, talk to the experts at Health 2000, Milford Centre.

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