Does it seem to be the lovely cold and flu season lately?
I could definitely feel my immune system gearing up as Others have been getting stuffy noses and the lovely cold symptoms we all want to avoid. With colder days from the approaching winter season and kids going back to school, yes we are a bit more diligent from keeping clear from germs, but they still pass around and can find any way to get around.
That made me start to think about our immunity and what it really is. I am taking a NASM sports nutrition certification and I found a great interest in diving deeper into our Immunity and how it world and what is involved with what our incredible bodies do to work out the germs that we encounter to stay at homeostasis.
What does your immune system mean to you? Can you tell when it's low or when you are fighting something? What are some ways you have heard to help strengthen your immunity?
To start, this begs the question.. What do we even need an immune system?
Our immunity isn't just a system you can occasionally call up like a handyman when you notice something is not working right when the cold and flu season is approaching and you hear that “bug” is going around. Our immunity must be built over time and like training, it takes time to build up strength to fight off the “bugs” that come along here and there. It works 24/7 every day of the year fighting anything and everything that is a threat to our bodies. We are surrounded by many thousands of microorganisms that we cannot avoid.. Not all are bad, but some can become a threat to our bodies.Don't be afraid though.. That's why we have our immune system. It's a huge networking system throughout our bodies that fights the swimming in a sea of billions of pathogens we are exposed to.Back to the microorganism, not all are bad either… Many are actually beneficial and can even work to be beneficial to support our immunity and promote good health.
Knowing that our immune systems are always fighting, I began to wonder exactly how our immune systems work and how they stay efficient to always be working to fight off whatever we are exposed to.Our immune systems include the thymus, liver, bone marrow, tonsils, lymph nodes, spleen, and blood—all of which play a role in immune cell function. Its a big system as i mentioned!Our lymphatic system and bloodstream are swimming with millions of immune cells. Yes our immune system is a symbiotic array of cells that find pathogens to wither fight off or consume to protect our bodies. These cells act as patrol officers looking for atypical molecular structures of pathogens, which are called antigens. Within minutes after a pathogen is detected, a protective immune response is coordinated.It works super fast! After an immune cell find something to alert, Specialized immune cells are sent into the bloodstream and attempt to destroy the pathogen by consuming it. While the pathogen is being destroyed, the immune cells on the front lines are communicating with the immune system at large, providing valuable information about the nature of the pathogen and how to best defeat it. That set of specialized systems of immune cells are then sent to locate and kill already infected cells to make sure the pathogen is gone for good!
In the meantime, other immune cells continue to work and bulls more antibodies, proteins in the millions that will attach to a given pathogen’s antigens and destroy it.
This is why building and taking care of our immune system is important, and nutrition can play a big role in helping aid the production of building more immune cells and providing the body the proper nutrients to continue to build immunity.
We look at nutrition as the fuel for a car, but when it comes to micro nutrients, those are the oil that keeps the body running efficiently like our immune system and cellular regrowth.
Then I asked, if our immune systems are always working and fighting the bad guys that break in, how in the world do we get sick then?! The immune system ebbs and flows with health and the ability to fight things off. When it is healthy, it will quickly fight a pathogen in a few days without any noticeable symptoms. However, our immune systems can be compromised and pathogens are very aggressive little guys. They strive to break in and get what they want and if the immune system is tired and compromised, these pathogens can make the immune system work overtime. That's when the symptoms arise and we get sick. The cold and flu systems we get don't actually come from the pathogen itself, which you would think would be that exact pathogen to create that fever or that runny nose. The symptoms that we get are actually a natural process defined by our amazing bodies as a 2nd line of defense of the immune system to help the immune system if that first line attack was unsuccessful.
An example would be A fever or elevated body temperature creates conditions that slow the growth of bacteria and viruses. Inflammation is a form of cellular signaling that stimulates a stronger local immune response.
So yes! Our symptoms are defense strategies. Maybe that will make it a more positive perspective to treat our bodies with care knowing the annoying cold symptoms are just another way to fight a nasty aggressive pathogen off.
With all that information I really wonder what we could do additionally to keep our immune systems strong and continue to keep building them to fend off those nasty pathogens…
There are foods, behaviors, and other factors that can inhibit our immunity and weaken those cells making them susceptible to losing the battle and working over time.
focus on the pillars of good health… The immune system is strong if we are healthy. The pillars are our sleep, nutrition, movement, and stress management.
1- eat a blanched, nutrient dense, whole foods diet. Protein doesn't just only build muscle, but is a huge factor in cell signaling and especially immune cells. A “whole foods diet” is simply a diet based on real, unprocessed foods close to their natural state. Whole foods will often have more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals than ultra-processed foods.
2-get enough sleep! Yes sleep is so crucial to your overall well being and it is the time your body rebuilds cells and forms new ones.A lack of sleep and poor sleep quality severely impairs immune function (slows activity and inhibits cellular reproduction) and increases susceptibility to infection. Even a single night of bad sleep can reduce immune cell activity by 70%.
3- avoid chronic stress: While acute stress can up-regulate the immune system, chronic stress impairs immune function, increases susceptibility to infection and extends the amount of time it takes to recover from illness.One way you can reduce stress is to do some breath-work, make sure to sleep well, try some meditation and other ways to help you relax and feel at peace.
4- There are some supplements you can take to help the immunity though I always recommend getting most of the vitamins and minerals from food sources first as they can be most digestible and bioavailable. Some supplements that you can take to fend off the sickness is Vitamin C, Zinc, elderberry, Vitamin D with K12. These are water soluble so it is best to pair them with some kind of fiver and healthy fat to become more soluble and help the body uptake the vitamins more efficiently. When I feel a cold coming on, I have also found a combination of cold calm, Kick ass immune, and elderberry and zinc do a great job to help my immune system fight and win the battle of the evil pathogen.
What are ways you fend off the nasty pathogens? comment below!