In recent months, the concept of immunity has been discussed and analysed more closely than ever. While immunity passports may not be viable in the future, it is important to understand innate immunity so you can distinguish between quick-fix solutions and real long-term ways to keep your immunity levels up.
NOTE: Strengthening your immunity does not guarantee that you will not contract the COVID-19 virus or any other virus. However a stronger immune system means that it’s easier for your body to deal with the attack, so you are less likely to have severe symptoms.
Understanding innate immunity and infection
The concept of immunity is actually quite complex. Your body has multiple lines of defence against aggressors, from physical barriers like your skin to the way the cells are produced to fight infections.
The first and most active system of defence in your body is your innate immunity. It consists of physical barriers like your skin or bodily hair such as eyelashes or nasal hair that prevent bacteria or viruses from entering your system. It also functions as an alarm, notifying your adaptive immunity to begin working, and sets off the healing functions.
When you are exposed to germs, your innate immunity kicks in. It tells your body to produce cells that will destroy the infection. If you are injured, it triggers the inflammation response and begins healing. If a foreign body enters your eyes or throat, it reacts with tears or coughs to expel it. This buys time for your adaptive immune system to understand the threat and respond in the appropriate manner.
The adaptive immune system is the second line of defense of the body. Once the bacteria or disease has been recognized and reacted to by the innate immunity, your body can respond by creating antibodies to fight it and prevent it from multiplying.
Your adaptive immunity has a memory that helps it remember a threat, so that it can fight it faster and more efficiently the next time. This is called acquired immunity. This type of immunity can only be built after exposure to pathogens or infections.
Active and passive immunity
When you inject antibodies by vaccination or when your body produces antibodies after you have been infected by a virus, this is called active immunity. This type of immunity is usually long-lasting and is quite a strong defence.
Passive immunity is passed on through antibodies, whether through the placenta in utero, or through blood plasma from a donor who has the antibodies.
How to keep your immunity systems healthy
Your innate and adaptive immunity are naturally formed, but you can do a few things to help preserve their health.
1. To keep your system healthy, you should maintain a moderate and well-rounded diet. The food you put into your body fuels your life and energy level. It also affects your short- and long-term health. Eat at the right time and include a healthy mix of vegetables and ingredients so that you get the vitamins and minerals that you need. You should also drink enough water to stay hydrated.
If you aren’t sure about the right balance of vitamins and minerals for you, it might help to consult a nutritionist near you.
2. One of the most important functions of your body is elimination. Through bowel movements and urination, your body gets rid of any waste matter that has accumulated. Left too long, that waste can be toxic and will cause bloating, nausea, constipation, and other issues.
To keep your elimination function healthy, avoid too much processed food and add fiber, fresh vegetables and fruit, and plenty of water to your diet. And finally, make sure you set aside enough time to go to the toilet every day – a complete and regular bowel movement is critical to your health.
3. Exercise is important to your health for many reasons. It increases your heart rate, helps your body eliminate toxins through perspiration, and regulates your circulation. All these benefits add up to stronger and more responsive innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
To get a good workout, you don’t need to go farther than your own living room. Try our 30 minute home workout for beginners, or browse our top recommendations for Youtube fitness channels that you can follow for a daily new workout at home.
Infection and the innate immunity system
When a potential threat attacks your body, your innate immunity system is the first battle it must fight. There are two levels on which this fight takes place:
Physical barriers like your skin or hair (repels attackers), mucous (traps and removes foreign bodies), or physical reactions like a sneeze (expels irritants). This is usually the first time the attacker is coming in contact with the body.
Biological reactions like swelling, fever, or a runny nose, that helps the body focus on healing and repairing the infection or injury. Your innate immunity causes this reaction, to create an opportunity for the adaptive immunity system to react.
In these times, it is important to keep your body healthy and your immune system functioning well. The practices you put into place now will help you during flu season or if you are prone to allergic reactions. Read our blog post on immunity here for more information on keeping your immune system strong.