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A Brief Guide to Your Immune System

Our body’s immune system is a complex system that serves to defend and fight against infection. Our immune system is made up of two components, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. This post focuses on the function of our innate immune system. Our innate immune system is paramount in keeping us healthy. It does this by responding to, and fighting off infectious substances (pathogens) that we come into contact with. The skin, our largest organ, plays a vital role in our immune system as it forms a physical barrier against foreign pathogens. There are many different white blood cells (WBCs) that make up our innate immune system. They help to kill off pathogens, which includes viruses, parasites, and bacteria and removing them from our body. There are specific WBCs that help to protect during allergic reactions and those that help to heal wounds. Numerous dietary and lifestyle factors can have both positive and negative effects on the functioning of our immune system. Listed below are some of the factors that compromise our immunity and predispose us to getting sick and having a slow recovery.

Immune System Disruptions Sugar Sugar is detrimental to the function of our white blood cells (WBCs) which are the main cells of our immune system. Consumption of high amounts of sugar reduces the activity of WBCs which decreases our immune response. Sugar also competes with vitamin C for absorption. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that supports our immune system cells, so if there is too much sugar Vitamin C will be low and the immune system is impacted.

Stress Cortisol is a hormone is our body that is released by the adrenal gland. It has a wide variety of functions, including regulating the immune system, and it is essential for life. However, of prolonged or chronic stress can result in high levels of cortisol being released from our adrenal glands, which causes inflammation. Inflammation can disrupt the function of our immune system (impairs function of immune cells), leaving us susceptible to infections.

Lack of Sleep Inadequate sleep has been shown to dampen down our immune system response. This may be caused by an increase in inflammation and a theoretical ‘shut down’ of the immune response if not enough sleep has been had. It is recommended that a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night is required for optimal immune function.



Low Fruit and Vegetable Intake Low fruit and vegetable intake has been associated with decreased immunity. Fruit and vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants which help to keep the immune system healthy by aiding in the removal of harmful products that the immune system has accumulated. Therefore, a lack of fruit and vegetables compromises immune function.


 

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