The Best Defense: How Your Immune System Protects You From Germs
Think of your body as a castle. Your immune system is like the moat surrounding the castle that keeps out foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and harmful chemicals. Keeping your defenses functioning is a full time and complex job!
A Series of Communications
Your immune system is a protective network of cells, tissues, and organs, all working together to identify and destroy harmful substances. There are three main lines of defense: physical barriers such as your skin; non-specific inflammatory responses, in which blood flow changes bring chemical substances to injured areas; and specific immune responses, which occur when your body learns to recognize certain invaders and eliminate them if they return.
Telling the Difference
The key to efficient immune response is your body’s ability to distinguish between your own cells and those that are foreign. When immune defenders encounter cells or organisms with “outsider” characteristics, they quickly launch an attack. Symptoms such as fever and fatigue, for example, are indications that your immune system is fighting off an infection.
Help Your Immune System Help You
While your body is naturally primed to fight the germs you’re exposed to, there are some simple ways you can help strengthen your immune system. Here are a few strategies to help boost your resistance this season.
Get Enough Rest
Missing out on deep sleep has been linked to a laundry list of health issues, including those that result from an impaired immune system. Studies show that your T-cells go down if you’re sleep deprived, while inflammatory cytokines go up, increasing your risk of bacterial infection. Put another way, sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. For example, fever response (a way your body fights infection) is higher during sleep. If you don’t rest, your body can’t fight as hard as it should.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Sleep experts agree that most people need at least seven hours of sleep a night to function at their best. Create the right bedroom environment by turning off your TV and computer. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Avoid caffeine after lunch and minimize alcohol consumption within six hours of bedtime. And for extra help to relax and improve the quality of your sleep, we suggest Schiff® Melatonin Ultra which contains melatonin, the brain compound that signals your body to initiate sleep. By age 70, our bodies only produce 25% of the melatonin they did at age 20. Taking melatonin at bedtime helps promote healthy levels to encourage normal sleep patterns.
Finding it tough to fit exercise into your busy holiday schedule? Here’s some motivation. In one recent study of more than 1000 adults, people who exercised at least five days a week had 43% fewer upper respiratory tract symptoms than those who exercised one day a week or less. Even when they got sick, frequent exercisers reported symptoms that were one-third less severe.
Researchers don’t know exactly how exercise improves immunity but have several theories:
- Helps flush bacteria out of your lungs, decreasing your chances of catching a cold, flu, or other airborne illness.
- Speeds up antibody and white blood cell response. Faster-circulating blood may also activate hormones that warn immune cells of intruding bacteria or viruses.
- Raises your body’s temperature, which may prevent bacterial growth and allow your body to fight infection more effectively.
- Slows down the release of stress-related hormones that increase the chance of illness.
The Sunshine Vitamin
If you’re spending less time outdoors this season, you may not be getting enough Vitamin D, often called the “sunshine vitamin” because sun exposure causes your body to make it. Vitamin D is believed to play a key role in boosting your immune system by triggering and arming your body's “search and destroy” T-cells. T-cells need Vitamin D in order to transform from inactive immune cells to killer cells.
Schiff® Mega-D3® provides 5000 IU of Vitamin D3—the most powerful form of Vitamin D. In addition, Mega-D3 contains Resveratrol and Red Wine Extract, key nutrients that support areas of health that often decline with age. With Mega-D3, you get the health benefits of red wine without the alcohol and calories.
Practice Good Hygiene
This time of year, good habits are more important than ever. So wash your hands often with antibacterial soap. Wipe down gym equipment before and after you use it. Carry a personal sanitizer in your purse or pocket and keep one in the car. And if your grocery store offers sanitizing wipes for the cart, use them!
Even if you don’t feel as thirsty during the cooler months, it’s important to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. A well-hydrated system delivers oxygen and nutrients to your cells, while flushing out bacteria and other harmful substances. If you’re flying during the holiday season, drink plenty of water to help moisten nasal passages. Otherwise, the plane’s dry air can cause tiny fissures that increase your chances of catching an infection.
Take Helpful Supplements
Your immune system works hard to keep you healthy. A core component is balancing harmful versus beneficial bacteria in your intestines since 70% of your immune system exists in your digestive tract. Digestive Advantage® creates an optimal environment for your immune system by providing daily helpful bacteria called probiotics. And unlike other probiotics, Digestive Advantage® is specially formulated to withstand your stomach’s hostile gastric environments.
To support your immune system when it’s under stress, try Airborne®. The key ingredients in Airborne® products have been shown to support the immune system.* Airborne contains a proprietary blend of Vitamins and minerals and is an excellent source of zinc & selenium.