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The Immune System, and how to keep it youthful
An organism's immune system is a network of biological processes, a collection of interconnected systems, that defends it from microbes and cancers. It can identify and respond to a wide range of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, and foreign objects like wood splinters as well as cancer cells, while discriminating them from the organism's own healthy tissues.
The immune system consists of organs, cells, and molecules that work together to fight infections. White blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow are the key components of the immune system.
The skin is a first line defense and barrier against microorganisms: it produces antimicrobial proteins and immune cells can migrate to specific layers of the skin to fight microbes. Skin sweat also contains anti-bacterial enzymes that kill microbes.
Mucosal tissues and layers are situated in the respiratory system and the gut, and they can trap microbes. The mucous lining also contains antibodies that can bind and neutralize microbes. The stomach acid can kill most microbes. Saliva and tears contain anti-bacterial enzymes that kill microbes.
The bone marrow contains stem cells that can transform into a range of different cell types, including immune cells.
Lymphocytes comprise different types of immune cells that circulate throughout the bloodstream, patrolling for infections.
The thymus, a tiny organ in the upper chest, is where T lymphocyte immune cells mature.
The lymphatic system is a network of channels and tissues, containing the lymph, that serves as a pathway for communication and transit between tissues and the bloodstream. Immune cells travel through the lymphatic system and converge in lymph nodes located throughout the body. Immune cells sample information taken in from the body at lymph nodes, which serve as a communication hub. If immune cells in a lymph node recognize fragments of a microbe brought in from some other part of the body, they will activate, reproduce, and leave the lymph node to circulate and fight that specific pathogen. Swollen lymph nodes indicate an active immunological response, likely to an infection.
The spleen is a digestive organ found behind the stomach. It is vital for processing information from the bloodstream, even though it is not directly connected to the lymphatic system. Immune cells are concentrated in certain parts of the spleen, and when blood-borne infections are detected, they activate and respond rapidly.
Antibodies, often referred to as immunoglobulins, are used by the immune system to recognize and destroy microbes by binding to them.
The complement system is a component of the immune system that enhances and complements the capacity of antibodies and immune cells to eliminate microbes and damaged cells from an organism.
The aging immune system
Our immune response capacity deteriorates as we age, leading to an increase in infections and cancers. As life expectancy has risen in affluent countries, so has the prevalence of age-related diseases. While many people age well, studies have found that the elderly are more prone to get infectious diseases and, more crucially, are more likely to die from them than younger people. Respiratory infections, such as influenza, the COVID-19 virus, and pneumonia, represent primary causes of death in persons over the age of 65 worldwide. Scientists have noticed a link between the higher risk to infections and a decline in certain immune cells, which could be due to the thymus atrophying with age and producing fewer of these T cells that combat infection. The response of older people to vaccines has also indicated a decline in immune response to pathogens. For example, investigations of influenza vaccines have revealed that the vaccine is less effective in persons over 65 than in healthy young people. Vaccinations for COVID-19, influenza and pneumonia viruses, despite their reduced efficacy in older people, have however dramatically reduced the incidence of illness and death when compared to those not vaccinated. In older people there also appears to be a link between nutrition and immunity.
Immunosenescence is defined as a reduction in immunological function due to changes in immune cell abundance as we age. A healthy immune system requires nutrition. People who are malnourished are more prone to infectious diseases. There is evidence that micronutrient deficiencies, such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E, influence immunological responses. Micronutrient malnutrition is a type of malnutrition that is surprisingly widespread even in prosperous countries, and it results from the lack in some vital vitamins and trace minerals in our diet. Older adults tend to eat less and have a diet that is less varied.
Immune function and stress. The importance of the mind-body connection has been recognized by modern medicine. Emotional stress has been related to a number of health conditions, including gastrointestinal conditions, rashes, heart disease, as well as a compromised immune system.
Foods that boost the immune system
Citrus fruits are among the best-known foods for boosting the immune system because of their vitamin C content. Vitamin C aids in the development of the immune system, especially the formation of white blood cells, which are important in fighting infections. With so many options, incorporating such fruits or juices into any meal is relatively simple. Grapefruit, oranges, clementines, tangerines, lemons, and limes are all popular citrus fruits containing vitamin C which is required on a daily basis because the body does not create or store it.
Red bell peppers have nearly three times the amount of vitamin C as oranges of the same weight. They also contain beta carotene. Vitamin C may help to maintain healthy skin in addition to boosting the immune system. The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which helps maintaining the eyes and skin healthy.
Broccoli is nutrient-dense and high in vitamins and minerals. Broccoli is one of the healthiest veggies one can eat, with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber and many antioxidants. Cooking it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all — is the key to preserving its potency. Steaming is one of the best approaches to maintain more nutrients in food.
Garlic is used in nearly every cuisine on the planet. It gives food a good taste and is beneficial to the health. Its importance in the fight against illnesses was already recognized by ancient cultures. Garlic may also assist in preventing artery hardening, and there is some evidence that it can help decrease blood pressure. The immune-boosting benefits of garlic appear to be due to a high quantity of sulfur-containing substances like allicin.
Ginger has been shown to lower inflammation, and therefore can soothen sore throats and inflammatory disorders.
Spinach is high in vitamin C, but also in antioxidants and beta carotene, which can help the immune systems fighting infections. Spinach, like broccoli, is healthiest when cooked as little as possible to preserve its nutrients.
Yogurt contain live bacterial cultures that help the immune system fighting infections by stimulating it. Plain yogurts are preferable to those that are flavored and loaded with sugar. Instead, one can sweeten plain yogurt with fresh fruits and a dab of honey. Yogurt can also be a good source of vitamin D which can improve the body's natural defenses against illnesses by regulating the immune system.
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that is essential for a healthy immune system. It's a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it needs fat in order to be adequately absorbed. Almonds contain both vitamin E and healthy fats.
Sunflower seeds are high in phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins B-6 and E, among other minerals. Vitamin E is necessary for immune system regulation and maintenance. Sunflower seeds also contain selenium which is beneficial to many physiological systems.
Avocados and dark leafy greens are two other foods that are high in vitamin E.
Papaya is high in vitamin C, and consuming a single fruit provides the double of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. Papayas also contain papain, a digestive enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties. Papayas also contain potassium, magnesium, and folate, all of which are good for health.
Kiwi, like papaya, are packed with critical minerals such as folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Vitamin C helps white blood cells fight infection, while the rest of the minerals in kiwis have numerous other beneficial effects.
Shellfish has been overlooked by many people when it comes to the strengthening of their immune system, but certain varieties of shellfish are high in zinc. Zinc doesn't get nearly as much attention as other vitamins and minerals, but it's essential for our immune cells to operate properly. Oysters, crab, lobster, and mussels are among the zinc-rich shellfish varieties.
Mushrooms have many immunity-boosting properties, in addition to numerous other health benefits. Over 2,000 edible mushrooms have been identified, many of which have been demonstrated to have antiviral, antibacterial, and immunity-boosting properties. Medicinal mushrooms have been used to prevent and treat infection and illness since ancient times. Over 270 different medicinal mushroom species have been identified as having immune-boosting effects. Mushrooms are high in fiber, riboflavin, niacin, and selenium, and each serving contains a considerable amount of these nutrients. They're also one of the few plant-based food sources of vitamin D, a vital mineral that helps the immune system work properly.
Supplementing with specific types of medicinal mushrooms has been shown to improve immunological health in a variety of ways, as well as alleviate symptoms of certain illnesses like asthma and lung infections. The most potent immune-boosting mushrooms are cordyceps, chaga, lion's mane, maitake, shitake, reishi, and turkey tail.
Chaga mushrooms, in particular, have excellent antibacterial capabilities and are high in antioxidants including gallic acid and protocatechuic acid. Other constituents isolated from Chaga mushrooms have shown broad spectrum antiviral properties.
Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to boost immunity by enhancing the activity of immune cells in the body. A study showed that individuals who ate shiitake mushrooms for four weeks had significant improvements in immune function as well as lower levels of inflammation.
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world. They're praised for their delicious flavor and a variety of health advantages. Around 1,000 to 1,200 years ago, people in China began farming shiitake mushrooms, which they called dongo or shanku. Eritadenine, a chemical found in shiitake mushrooms, has been shown to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. They also include beta-glucans, which assist to decrease inflammation and limit cholesterol absorption in the intestines and support the immune system. Lentinans and other beta-glucans, that are abundant in shiitake mushrooms, protect cells from damage, aid the immune system, and increase the synthesis of white blood cells in the battle against infections. Anti-inflammatory effects are also found in polysaccharides of this mushroom.
Miso is a sort of fermented paste used in Japanese cuisine that comes in a variety of colors, textures, and flavors. It's made by fermenting soybeans with salt and the fungus Aspergillus oryzae, also known as kji. Kji is a species of fungus that is also used to make other ingredients like as sake and soy sauce. There are three basic types of miso and they all have a long list of immune-boosting properties. Miso, like other fermented foods, is high in probiotics, which are healthy microorganisms that live in your gastrointestinal system. However, boiling miso is likely to kill these probiotic bacteria, but the bacteria-produced immune-boosting compounds may still remain active. Probiotics play an important role in immunological function. Some probiotics can help promote immune system function, which may be effective against respiratory illnesses such as the common cold and flu. One strain of bacteria identified in miso was even able to modify the amounts of numerous types of immune cells. Miso also contains a number of additional micronutrients that might help boost immunity. Miso is particularly high in manganese and zink which are vital minerals that also acts as an antioxidants and immune boosters. Consumption of miso has been demonstrated to dramatically reduce the duration of the common cold in various studies. Although miso is best known as the major ingredient in miso soup, it can also be found in sauces, spreads, and pickled meat and vegetable dishes.
Supplements that boost the immune system
Vitamin C (or L-ascorbic acid) is well-known for its powerful antioxidant and antiviral properties. It can be found in a variety of foods, including sweet potatoes, peppers, kale, broccoli, citrus fruits, berries, and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C consumption has been linked to an immunological response against specific flu viruses in several studies. Supplementing with L-ascorbic acid has been proven to improve the immune response to pathogens by increasing the activity of natural killer (NK) cells and T lymphocytes, which are immune cells that kill non-specific pathogens (NK) and particular antigens (T-cells) and produce immunological memory. Increased activity of these immune cells guarantees that the body is prepared to battle a variety of harmful microorganisms. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant. Due to an increase in free radicals, microbial infections generate oxidative stress in the body. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce oxidative damage by increasing absorption through diet or Ascorbic acid supplements, enhancing health and lowering the risk of certain diseases.
Green Tea is another excellent antiviral herb (Camelia sinensis). For thousands of years, green tea has been utilized in traditional medicine for its numerous health advantages, particularly as a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial agent. Epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate, a catechin, is the key component responsible for the herb's medicinal benefits (EGCG). According to recent research, EGCG may have antiviral properties against a wide range of RNA and DNA viruses. This is due to the compound's capacity to inhibit the primary stages of viral infection, such as virus binding and penetration into cells, by interfering with viral membrane proteins. Green Tea can be used as a tea or as a dietary supplement to provide additional health benefits.
Zinc is a vital mineral and nutrient that is essential for a variety of bodily functions. Zinc boosts the immune system, is necessary for bone growth, aids wound healing, vision, and brain development, among other things. Zinc's ionophoric activity, which has antiviral effects against rhinoviruses, has been indicated in many published publications to lower the severity and length of common colds (i.e. common cold). A rhinovirus infection of nasal epithelial cells causes the common cold. Most upper respiratory tract infections are caused by the rhinovirus. Zinc prevents the virus from infecting epithelial cells by binding to specific receptors. One study found that taking zinc within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms reduced the severity of cold symptoms significantly.
Rutin/Quercetin (Quercetin-3-O-rutinoside) is a naturally occurring polyphenol and flavonoid that is well recognized for its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. This vital antioxidant can be found in a variety of vegetables, fruits and berries, including red onion, berries and green tea. The antioxidant properties of quercetin have long been known. Its phenolic characteristics allow it to donate a hydrogen atom to neutralize free radicals. Quercetin supplementation has recently been discovered to also have antiviral properties. Furthermore, many quercetin-rich foods, such as red onion, apples, tea leaves, and berries function as a mucolytic agent, helping to remove trapped mucous and reduce pulmonary congestion.
Elderberries belong to the Sambucus genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The various species are commonly called elder or elderberry. Elderberries are high in bioflavonoids, which are naturally occurring chemicals with antiviral and antioxidant activities. Elderberries have been shown to promote immune function by increasing cytokine activity, which are signaling molecules that govern immunological responses and inflammation, according to studies. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that these fruits may have vital respiratory protective capabilities by assisting in the expulsion of mucous/phlegm that has become lodged in the lungs. The elderberry plant's fruit is normally consumed as a syrup or as dried fruits (that can be made into a syrup at home by adding dried elderberries, raw honey and boiling water). The flower can also be used to make a healthy tea.
Echinacea, often known as purple coneflower, belongs to a genus of herbaceous flowering plants, and is a popular herb all over the world. Echinacea is an immunomodulator with broad-spectrum effects that affects both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Echinacea has been used as a medicinal herb by Native Americans in the Midwest of the United States for over 400 years. Echinacea was utilized by the Great Plains Indians to treat anything from toothaches to snakebites. On their journeys, explorers Lewis and Clark learnt about the plant's medicinal advantages and sent echinacea seeds to President Jefferson in the 1800s. While pills are the most popular form of echinacea supplementation, the herb may also be found as teas, juices, and lotions. According to certain studies, the echinacea plant includes compounds that aid in the production of white blood cells in the body that are part of the immune system to combat infections.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of cysteine, a semi-essential amino acid involved in respiratory and immunological functions. One of NAC's most well-known benefits is that it aids in the production of glutathione, the body's most significant antioxidant, which aids in the battle against free radical damage and promotes longevity. Furthermore, NAC has been shown to promote respiratory health by assisting in the breakdown of phlegm and reducing lung inflammation.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for the normal functioning of our bodies, especially our immune systems. Counteracting vitamin D deficiency has been linked to improved immunological responses, less inflammation, and a lower risk of infection. Sun exposure is the best way to absorb vitamin D. However, due to their geographic location, many people acquire their vitamin D through regular supplementation to avoid insufficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated to several illnesses and disorders, from autoimmune disorders to cognitive disorders.
Baicalin is a phytonutrient from the plant Scutellaria baicalensis that has a long history of usage in traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties and beneficial effects on the immunological and circulatory systems. In vivo tests on mice revealed that oral administration of Baicalin inhibited infections with various viruses, confirming Baicalin's antiviral action. Baicalin is also known as Huang Qin, Chinese Skullcap, and the Hooded Willow Herb.
Black cumin seed oil has been shown to strengthen the immune systems and prevent colds and flu-like symptoms. The active element in black cumin seeds is thymoquinone, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Immunomodulatory, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties of black seed oil may be beneficial for a number of illnesses, including symptoms caused by cold or flu-like viruses. Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine have utilized black cumin seed oil for ages to enhance general wellness and heal the respiratory system. Black cumin seed oil can be purchased in capsule or liquid form online.
Adaptogens help your body deal with stress, whether it's physical, emotional, or environmental. They adapt to the body's needs at any given time - for example, if you're tired, they'll give you energy and help you focus (Cordyceps), and if you're anxious, they'll calm you down (Rhodiola rosea, Reishi). Supporting and modifying the endocrine and immune systems is their method of action. Adaptogenic herbs, in fact, are excellent for strengthening immunity. Herbs such as Astragalus, Withania somnifera, and Panax ginseng all have immune-protective qualities via reducing inflammation. Because they assist modulate the immune system in response to stressors like illness or injury, adaptogens are also known as "immunomodulators." Ashwagandha, ginseng, astragalus, cordyceps, and reishi mushrooms are among the adaptogenic herbs. Hundreds of herbs, roots, and foods are classified as adaptogens, and the majority of them support a healthy immunological response. The immune system has been proven to be boosted by adaptogens, which increase immunity-related proteins in the body while lowering inflammatory cytokines, which can worsen cold and flu symptoms. For instance, holy basil (also known as tulsi) has been used as an adaptogen for millennia and possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Astragalus, a popular respiratory herb, has been proven to boost the production of interferons. When your body is fighting off a cold or sickness, interferons are specialist immune cells that must be activated.
Essential oils (extracts from plants) are concentrated chemicals that originate from a number of plant parts such as flowers, leaves and the bark. Essential oils are extremely complex mixtures of compounds. A single Essential oil, for instance, can contain up to 400 distinct components with a wide range of physiological effects, including immunomodulation. Some of these compounds can stimulate and augment particular immune system components, boosting the activity of specific immune cells, and interfering with inflammation-related processes. Aromatherapy is usually the way of treatment with essential oils, and it mostly involves inhaling essential oils or applying a diluted solution to the skin to lower stress, improving sleep, and reducing pain. The following essential oils have been linked to immunological benefits:
Eucalyptus essential oil is extracted from the eucalyptus tree's leaves (Eucalyptus globulus). It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and it's been used for coughs and respiratory infections for a long time. According to certain studies, eucalyptus Essential oil can boost phagocytosis, the process by which immune cells engulf or "devour" germs. It may also aid in the reduction of inflammatory cytokines released by some immune cells.
Clove essential oil is extracted from the Syzygium aromaticum tree's dried flower buds. It contains pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. Clove essential oil has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years to relieve pain and heal wounds. Clove essential oil was discovered to decrease inflammation, while the immune system's production of antibodies and other proteins was increased. Clove essential oil has also been shown to reduce the presence of bacterial that cause food poisoning in the intestine.
Lavender essential oil is extracted from the lavender plant's blooms (Lavandula angustifolia). It's anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-stress have been highlighted by several studies. Lavender essential oil has been shown to activate a specific type of immune cells, macrophages, in response to staph bacterial infection, and reduce inflammation. The use of lavender essential oil massage resulted in higher levels immune factors in the saliva. Lavender essential oil was also proven to lower inflammatory levels at modest doses.
Tea tree essential oil is extracted from the tea tree's leaves (Melaleuca alternifolia). It's anti-inflammatory as well as antimicrobial. Tea tree essential oil has long been used to treat a number of ailments, including skin disorders and respiratory infections. A concentrated tea tree oil solution inhibited the generation of inflammatory factors in one study.
An immune system boosting lifestyle
Eating a well-balanced diet. Focus on eating nutritious foods, as the nutrients found in these foods can assist strengthen the immune system. The following are some examples of foods to include in an immune boosting diet: seasonal fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, reduced fat dairy products, and good sources of lean protein Some foods should be limited or completely avoided due to their pro-inflammatory properties. These include foods that are high in the saturated fats, trans fatty acids, cholesterol, refined carbs and, salt.
Maintaining a lean body mass and healthy weight. Excess weight is linked to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Stress reduction is essential for proper immune function. Stress and worry can have a harmful impact on the immune system. That's why it's critical to identify healthy and effective stress-reduction techniques. Exercising, yoga, and meditation are some of the best approaches.
Getting enough sleep is essential and the immunity may be harmed if sleep is compromised. Making sleep a priority and establishing a nighttime routine that promotes restful sleep will yield an overall better health. Exercising on a regular basis. Regular exercise can enhance your immune system by assisting with weight management, stress reduction, and sleep improvement.
Moderate alcohol consumption and quit smoking. Excessive alcohol use can wreak havoc on the immune system. Smoking raises the chance of a variety of adverse health conditions, including immune system issues.
Getting immunized against pathogens through vaccination is a really good idea. Vaccines provide effective protection against a variety of infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and the flu.
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