With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the necessity to improve the strength of our immune system has grown. The immune system acts as our body’s defence system, protecting our body from infections and diseases by preventing the entry of foreign substances and pathogens. Immunity refers to the body’s ability to resist diseases and stop the invasion of pathogens. Pathogens are foreign disease-causing substances such as viruses and bacteria. Antigens attached to the external surface of pathogens stimulate an immune response in the body. During a pandemic, having a strong immune system is essential to being healthy.
There are three types of immunity and, they are:
Passive immunity – This refers to the immunity obtained from the antibodies from a foreign body. Antibodies that a child receives from a mother during childbirth is a common example of passive immunity. It protects the child for about a year from diseases that the mother is immune to.
Innate Immunity – This is the type of immunity that a person is born with, it is someone’s natural immunity. Examples include skin that prevents the entry of foreign germs into the body.
Adaptive Immunity – Acquired or adaptive immunity is one that a person has developed over their lifetime. When a body is exposed to a specific antigen, it starts developing antibodies for that antigen. The body has a memory of that antigen the next time it attacks to fight it off. The antibodies can also be acquired by vaccination.
Factors affecting the performance of the immune system are diet, sleep and stress. Managing stress levels is an effective way to improve immune health. Meditation techniques can help reduce stress levels which keep the immune system working at optimal levels. Ways to decrease levels of stress include yoga, meditation, journaling, spending time with your hobbies and other mindful activities. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential to good immunity. Children and teenagers should aim to get 8 to 9 hours of sleep, while adults should get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. Engaging in moderate exercise helps your immune cells regenerate regularly which boosts your immunity. Yoga, cycling, jogging and swimming are some fun exercise options. Even elderly people should at least try to walk for 15 minutes a day inside their houses to get in some physical activity.
The most important aspect of building your immunity is to have a healthy, well-balanced diet. Whole plant foods are rich in nutrients and antioxidants essential for maintaining a healthy mind and body. These foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts. Healthy fats found in fish, olive oil and nuts decrease inflammation, which improves your resistance to diseases. The fibre in these foods also feeds your gut bacteria, which provides overall immunity to the body. You must also avoid eating food that has refined carbs and added sugar as they may contribute to obesity, which increases your chances of getting sick. Along with this, hydration is key to a healthy life.