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In our bodies, a complex system of mechanisms comes together to defend them from the external agents they come into contact with daily. They provide around-the-clock protection no matter what we’re doing – 24 hours day, seven days a week. Collectively this defence and monitoring system is known as the immune system.
What is the immune system?
The first barriers any potential intruders encounter is the skin, which forms an impenetrable layer, and the mucous membranes in the nose and throat, bladder and genitals, which contain immune cells to prevent microbes from attaching. Along with a number of immune cells that indiscriminately battle off foreign organisms, these form the non-specific immune system. Despite its effectiveness, some still make it through these first barriers, which is where our highly intelligent specific immune system comes into play.
The specific immune system can store information on intruders and foreign organisms that it has already encountered in the immunological memory. This way, when the body faces them again, its army of helper T-cells and cytotoxic T-cells is ready in minutes and knows what to do to battle them effectively. Overall, around 80% of our immune cells are located in the digestive tract, meaning that the gut plays a key role in the immune response’s effectiveness.
What can influence my immune system?
Like many of our bodily systems, the immune system exists in a sensitive balance, and our lifestyle can have a significant effect. Here are some of the key factors that can take a toll on your immune function.
Stress – Deadlines, commuting, finances, housework, relationships. In the busy lives we lead today, it’s easy to find yourself in a continual state of stress. This triggers your body to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which suppresses the immune system’s effectiveness. Furthermore, stress can adversely affect the gut, the home of the majority of our immune cells.
Lack of sleep – Not getting enough shut-eye can also lead to higher levels of certain stress hormones, which has been shown to impede the body’s ability to fight. Too little sleep also means that the body doesn’t have enough time for the all-important regeneration processes overnight.
Diet – Not only does an unbalanced diet mean that the body might not be getting the vitamins and minerals needed for normal immune function, but it can also affect the gut microbiota. Eating lots of refined, processed foods can reduce the diversity of bacteria there, which has been connected with a homeostasis of the organism. Homeostasis is the tendency to maintain a stable.
Too much exercise, or not enough? – On the one hand, a lack of exercise can limit the immune system’s function both in the short and long term. On the other, excessive exercise or overtraining without sufficient regeneration can lead to an excess of stress hormones, which can interfere with the body’s immune response.
How strong is your immunity? How to read the signs your immune system is sending you? Learn more about the signals from your immune system
But how do you know if your immune system is working quite as well as it should or could be? Look out for these signs that your immune system sends you.
Irritation- Have you noticed that you’ve been feeling more stressed recently? It could be a hint from your body that your immune system is under strain and could use a little help.
Tiredness – Are you feeling tired despite getting enough sleep? If your immune system has to work harder than usual, it will certainly be noticeable in your energy levels.
Allergies – Have old allergies suddenly resurfaced, or new ones cropped up? How well your body can handle allergens is greatly influenced by the effectiveness of your immune system.
Slower regeneration– Your body’s ability to regeneration relies on immune cells so a overstretched immune system could slow down regeneration time.
What can I do to keep my immune system strong? Give your immune system a helping hand
Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can support your immune system with a few small lifestyle changes.
Lactic acid bacteria
The digestive and immune systems are closely linked, so keeping the intestinal bacteria happy is a great way to take care of the gut - home of the gut microbiota – which constitutes 80% of the entire immune system. Studies have shown that adding a lactic acid bacteria supplement to your daily routine can positively influence the gut microbiota, BioGaia products contain the well-researched strain Limosilactobacillus reuteri Protectis, which has proven safe for both children and adults alike.
Getting regular moderate exercise can help reduce stress, allowing your immune system to get on with its work. If you can take it outside for an extra dose of fresh air, even better! You can get your circulation going and maintain sufficient moisture in your mucous membranes.
Drink plenty of water
When your body is well hydrated, it can fully concentrate on keeping those intruders at bay. Water contributes to the maintenance of normal physical and cognitive functions. It also contributes to the maintenance of normal regulation of the body’s temperature.
Furthermore, this also aids digestion and keeps the mucous membranes moist – an essential part of your body’s defence.
Get your vitamins
A balanced diet full of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables will provide your body with the vitamins and minerals for a robust immune system. However, there is one crucial vitamin for the immune system that is only found in a limited number of foods, vitamin D. Our body can meet most of its vitamin D needs from sun exposure. Since this can be difficult during the darker months, it can make sense to take a supplement. One or two BioGaia Protectis Chewable Tablets with Vitamin D contain 10 µg of vitamin D3, which will certainly help you get enough vitamin D each day!