Our body responds to the environment around it. It is constantly protecting us from attacks from our external environment. Imagine our immune system being the cellular level guard against foreign substances (antigens). When they enter our body, our immune system works to recognise them as foreign to our own cells and neutralise them.
The integrity of our immune system is affected by a variety of environmental factors such as pollution, viruses and other infections, stress, and ageing. Combined and separate, these factors have the ability to strengthen or compromise our immune system.
Our lifestyle affects our immune system in many ways, factors such as lack of sleep, stress, and alcohol consumption can compromise our immune system and throw it out of balance, where an illness might develop. Some of the key lifestyle components that affect our immunity are:
When you don’t get an adequate amount (at least 7hrs) of sleep, your immune system becomes suppressed. If you have inadequate or poor sleep, you will be more susceptible to illness. Getting adequate, quality sleep may strengthen your immune system and sleeping more when you are sick will allow the immune system the energy it needs to better fight the illness. If you have trouble sleeping eliminate blue light-emitting devices an hour before bed, go to bed and wake up at the same times each day and sleep in a completely dark room.
Chronic stress suppresses the protective immune responses, promotes inflammation and creates imbalances in immune cell function. It also exacerbates pathological immune responses so relieving stress and anxiety is vital to a healthy immune system. What may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another so sources of stress are different for everyone, as are our methods of coping with it. Activities that may help with stress management may include meditation, yoga, exercise, journaling or talking with a therapist.
Regular moderate exercise may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate regularly. It helps maintain a healthy weight and promotes good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body and do their job efficiently. Be careful not to overdo it, prolonged intense exercise is a stressor on your body and may cause inflammation and suppress your immune system.
Consuming too much alcohol certainly impacts immune function, so to fight infections and promote immune system health, you may want to cut back. Alcohol negatively impacts gut health, decreasing immune function making you more susceptible to harmful pathogens. To boost your immune system, try to limit consumption to less than two standard alcoholic drinks per week.
It is important to protect yourself and those around you by avoiding touching your face, frequent and adequate hand washing, staying at home when you are sick, containing coughs and sneezes and seeking medical attention and treatment if needed. It is also necessary to practice good food hygiene to avoid food-borne infections. Cook meats thoroughly, clean surfaces and utensils, adequately store foods and keep animals away from preparation and eating areas. For hygiene on the go, opt to carry a Hemp Oz hand sanitiser with you whenever you are out and about.
In short, the answer to how we control the world around us, and in turn our immunity, is to make diet and lifestyle decisions that support a strong immune system.