Obviously, a person isn’t able to see all of the happenings inside of their body all of the time, however, our bodies are constantly working to ward off whatever doesn’t belong — all thanks to white blood cells. Germs work hard to find a way to get under your skin, and once they do, they breed, infect and multiply. Luckily, our white blood cells found in our immune system work a little harder and are a little smarter. They can tell which cells should be there and which are foreign. While they have a short life of about a few days to a few weeks, your body is always constantly making them.

What’s even more?

Mainly found in our mucous membranes and tears, the body produces a chemical called lysozyme that destroys pathogens like a pro at sites of infection to keep us well and thriving. While this is all great, one might be wondering, if my immune system was made to protect me, why do I still get sick? This article dives into how taking care of your immune system helps it take care of you.

Fight, Flight or Falling Short?

Your immune cells work around the clock to prevent infections. These cells are sensitive to stress and go on high alert when you’re injured or under mental duress. Otherwise known as the “fight or flight” response. Fight or flight is a natural response to danger, although you are in far less danger than your forefathers, it is still working to keep you safe from the woes of modern life.

Your immune system is designed to work in conjunction with stress, but prolonged exposure to stress hormones causes the immune system to work less effectively. Working healthy habits into your daily routine may help lower the levels and prevent them from peaking in the future.

The Impact of Stress

boost immunity with exercise

In your day-to-day life, you are bound to encounter stressful situations. Whether it is your work environment, or carting your kids to all of their extra curriculars. But chronic stress can impact your immune system in a negative way by raising your cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone that motivates your body to fight infectious diseases, but in excess it decreases white blood cells and leads to inflammation. Cortisol is essential to activating the immune system, but long-term exposure decreases its ability to regulate inflammatory responses, according to Dr. Leonard Calabrese.

Over time, this weakens your immune system and leaves your body vulnerable to a multitude of viral infections, including the Covid-19 Virus.

When stress gives way to anxiety and depression, it leads to slower response times when antigens and pathogens enter the body. This causes you to become sick, in turn increasing your stress levels.

Luckily, there are many ways to lower your stress levels and, consequently, boost your immune systems. While there are many conventional medicines available, there are also many things you can do to remedy a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental issues — especially when it comes to your immunity.

Our Immunity

The main function of your immune system is to keep you healthy by fighting diseases, harmful environmental substances, and other pathogens. Your immune system is composed of a complicated network that identifies and destroys foreign antigens and pathogens entering the body.

Among this intricate network are two main systems, the innate and adaptive. The innate system works to fight antigens that enter the body through the skin and digestive tract with phagocytes. Phagocytes are aggressive cells that absorb and neutralize unrecognized substances. Your adaptive system creates antibodies to recognize germs and attack them accordingly. You won’t notice your immune system working, until it doesn’t. They have always been important and in these times, they’re even more important. Fortunately, there are many ways to support these vital systems so you can continue living your best life!

How Can You Reduce Stress?

Your immune system reacts to stress in very interesting ways. Raised cortisol levels stimulate oil production in the dermis and can upset the sebum balance in your skin. If you’re experiencing the same blemishes, in the same areas, your acne issues may be caused by stress. Salicylic acid and retinoids have shown promising results in healing acne and preventing future breakouts.

Exercise: Exercise can regulate cortisol production and release endorphins to improve your mood. Regular physical activity and the release of those “feel good” endorphins help to relieve tension, improve sleep, and even elevate self-image. Not only through the change of your physical body, but your overall self-esteem.

Meditation: Meditation is an established practice of self-reflection and relaxation. Recent studies have shown that meditation has positive effects on not only the mind, but also the body. Meditation is an effective tool to help you lower your stress levels.

Caffeine Reduction: Reducing your caffeine intake can also aid in relieving stress and anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that can lead to an increased heart rate, and contribute to anxiety levels. Energy drinks should be avoided, as they have high doses of caffeine and sugar.

Taking a break: Finding ways to reduce your stress at work is essential to a more balanced immune system. This can include setting boundaries about the workload you are capable of taking on. Make sure to take your vacation and paid time off. When possible, leave work where it belongs – at work. Your mental wellness is a vital component of achieving optimal health.

Sleep: What impacts healthy sleep patterns? Everything discussed in this article are potential contributors to poor sleep quality. Ensuring that you’re getting proper sleep every night is vital to the functionality of your immune system. Checking your phone before laying down should be avoided before bedtime. The blue light emitted from your phone disrupts the circadian rhythm and prevents melatonin from being produced, according to SCL Health. Social media and game apps know how to keep us engaged, even with blue light-blocking glasses. This stimulus can target your dopamine receptors in a negative way that can lead to possible sleep deprivation. Try journaling or reading before falling asleep to quiet the mind and prepare you for a good night sleep and more positive thinking.

Positive Thinking: Have you ever used a mantra or affirmation to help calm you down? It turns out positive thinking has more of an effect on the body than imagined. A study conducted by the University of Queensland has shown that participants with positive mindsets, aged 65-90, had healthier immune systems over a 2-year time period. Blood tests revealed healthier immune functionality, compared to participants who had an objectively less positive mindset. As separate as your brain and body may feel, improving your mindset can improve your immune system. Repeatedly telling yourself you are worthy, or taking extra steps to make yourself comfortable while practicing these acts are all great ways to show yourself love in a new way.

Covid-19 and the Immune System

An all too often overlooked fact about Covid-19 is its long-term impact on the immune system. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California found that out of 70 patients, both male and female, 36% had lingering symptoms 4 months after diagnosis. Women are 50% more likely to experience long term effects. Unfortunately, immunity after infection is not guaranteed long term.

Immunity and Covid-19
practice prevention

With this in mind, practice prevention by following the guidelines advised by the CDC. The most widely used ways to protect ourselves are hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing. The Corona Virus can live on skin for up to 9 hours without effective handwashing techniques. The CDC advises washing hands for 20 seconds at a minimum. Make sure to wash every surface, including between the fingers and under your nails.

Secondly, your mask matters! A three-ply cloth mask prevents 50-70% of infectious droplets from spreading. Social distancing is also vital in preventing the spread. Large gatherings and events should be avoided at all costs.

The vaccine has had promising results as well, but it may take months to create the herd immunity needed to slow the pandemic worldwide. It is vital to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during this turbulent time.

Conclusion

As we’ve learned, you can achieve optimal functioning of your immune system by getting enough sleep each night, making healthy choices in your diet, and reducing stress. Given current research, if we adopt healthier habits, it can and will have a positive effect on our bodies.

And although we are living in uncertain times, taking care of ourselves in loving ways, learning from our mistakes and listening to our bodies can make the kind of impact that will help us get on the road to longevity. And for that, we should value these important factors to achieving a healthy immune system and overall wellness in our lives for…well, life.

Mell Green

greenmell08@gmail.com

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