The Immune System - By Ralph Weinstein
Posted September 01, 2021 by Matthew Romans
The immune system is the body's biological defense system. The main purpose of your immune system is to protect your body from viruses and bacteria. Viruses and bacteria would have free reign and you'd be constantly falling ill. Your immune system works by recognizing the difference between your body's cells and alien cells, allowing it to destroy any that could be potentially harmful. This usually works well but can cause problems if your immune system wrongly classifies some of your cells and attacks them instead, resulting in autoimmune disorders.
The Innate vs. Adaptive Immune Response
The innate immune system is the body's first line of defense against germs entering the body. It responds in the same way to all germs and foreign substances, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the "nonspecific" immune system. The main purpose of the innate immune response is to immediately prevent the spread and movement of foreign pathogens throughout the body. Therefore, it acts very quickly. For instance, it makes sure that bacteria that have entered the skin through a small wound are detected and destroyed on the spot within a few hours. The innate immune system has only limited power to stop germs from spreading, though.
The second line of defense is called the adaptive immune system. It takes over if the innate immune system is not able to destroy the germs. It specifically targets the type of germ that is causing the infection. But to do that it first needs to identify the germ. This means that it is slower to respond than the innate immune system, but when it does it is more accurate. It also has the advantage of being able to "remember" germs, so the next time a known germ is encountered, the adaptive immune system can respond faster.
A strong immune system equates to a healthy body. Here are some ways to help boost your body's natural defenses and fight harmful pathogens or disease-causing organisms.
Get sufficient sleep. Sleep and immunity are closely tied. Inadequate sleep may increase your risk of getting sick. Inadequate or poor sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness. Most adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Eat more whole plant foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. The antioxidants in these foods help decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body.
Eat more healthy fats. Healthy fats like olive oil and omega-3s found in salmon are highly anti-inflammatory. Since chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system, these fats may naturally combat illnesses.
Eat more fermented foods or take a probiotic supplement. Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which populate your digestive tract. These foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto. Fermented foods and probiotics may bolster your immune system by helping it identify and target harmful pathogens.
Limit added sugars. Added sugars contribute significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, all of which can suppress your immune system. Lowering your sugar intake may decrease inflammation and your risk of these conditions.
Immunosenescence is the age-related decline of the immune system and is generally associated with increased susceptibility to infection and reduced responses to vaccination. This decline in immune function affects both innate and adaptive immune systems. Elderly are less likely to benefit from vaccinations as preventative measures against infectious diseases due to the inability of the immune system to mount a successful defense.
The greatest harm to immune function is training/working out exhaustively without giving your body time to recover. There is a cumulative effect whereby an exhaustive workout followed closely by another exhaustive workout compounds the negative impact training heavily has on the immune system. At Total Results, we do one or two 20-minute workouts per week which result in ample time for recovery, generally 48 to 72 hours.