The immune system is the body’s defense system. Through a series of steps called the immune response, the immune system attacks organisms and substances that endanger our vital systems and are causing diseases. The resistance of the immune system in every organism is different.
Some people seem untouchable from viruses and infections, while others constantly have complaints. With the time, the constant contact with the disease carriers makes the immune system resistant to their influence. Which explains why children more often suffer from colds, inflammation and other health problems. It is therefore important the strengthening of the immune system to begin in the early years of their lives.
The immune system has three types – innate acquired (active) and passive.
The innate immune system protects the body from certain diseases by microbes which affect animals and plants. It also includes the outer defenses of the body such as the skin and mucous membranes.
Acquired (active) immune system develops with age. It is directly dependent from the lymphocytes (white blood cells that enable the body to remember and recognize disease-carriers and destroy them) and acts when the body is exposed to unhealthy environments. Specific safeguards to antigens are realized by acquired immunity through T- and B-cells.
Passive immune system is activated by side sources and is short-lived. But it is an integral part of the overall immunity and needs constant strengthening. Breastfeeding is essential for building a passive immune system – antibodies in breast milk provide the baby’s temporary immunity to diseases that the mother has spent, and also protect it from infections in its early childhood.
How to strengthen the immune system naturally?
- First is a healthy diet that strengthens the immune system and makes it function properly. In a poor of proteins diet the number of existing T cells and macrophages drops down, as well as reducing the formation of immunoglobulin A (IgA), which are the “agents” of the immune system. Raw fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamins and minerals to the body.
There is no child who does not love fruits. When they are naturally sweet and are a great alternative for breakfast. You can offer them raw or in the form of paste, if the child prefers them so. Give honey, but limit sweets. The intake of 100 g. Sugar (8 tablespoons) a day can weaken the ability of the white blood cells to destroy germs. The immunosuppressive effect of sugar starts working in less than 30 min. after its intake and can operate for five hours. Also avoid fatty foods. If the child is a fussy eater, devise an attractive and clever way to serve meals. But remember that it must accept nutritious foods regularly and in a relaxed atmosphere.
- For a healthy immune system should drink plenty of fluids. Dryness and dehydration are favorable for the bad bacteria. In your daily menu you should include at least one liter fluids daily , such as water, milk or fruit juice, not soda or cola, because they have harmful effects on the stomach and the teeth.
- You need vitamins and minerals on a daily basis – deficiency of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, vitamins A, B6, C and E destroys the body’s defenses:
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C increases the formation of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon (the antibody, which covers the surface of the cells). A number of studies have shown that this vitamin is that with the greatest power enhances the immune system. It is easily found in many fruits (kiwi, lemons, mandarins, oranges) and vegetables (cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, broccoli).
- Vitamin E. This important antioxidant and immunomodulator is no less important than vitamin C. Vitamin E increases the production of B cells (immune cells forming antibodies which kill bad bacteria). You can get it from seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), vegetable oils and more grains.
- Vitamin B or more precisely Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) stimulates the correct assimilation of protein and fats. It is necessary for the formation of antibodies and red blood cells. When you have B6 deficiency the immune responses at the cellular level weaken. It is found in meat, fish, dry fruits.
Nuts are among the richest in vitamin B6 foods and particularly the pistachio. Good sources are the flaxseed, sesame, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews. Cereals also contain vitamin B, the on the first places are rice and wheat bran. From legumes the good sources of vitamin B are lentils and chickpeas and from the fruits – bananas and avocados.
- Carotene. Beta-carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells and so called T-cells. It is a powerful antioxidant that releases free radicals and fights aging. In addition, beta-carotene is used for prophylaxis against cancer. Carrots, apples, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables with red, yellow or orange are rich in betacarotene. Our body converts the beta-carotene into vitamin A.
- Vitamin A. It has an important role in combating infections and supports mucous membrane, influencing the T and B cells and cytokines. Vitamin A deficiency weakens the immune system and increases the risk of infectious diseases. But too much vitamin A can act toxic to the body. Therefore, it is best to get it obtain from food, leaving the body alone to regulate how much of carotene can transform into vitamin A. When the body has enough of the vitamin A, it stops producing it.
- Iron. Iron deficiency has a negative influence on the development and activity of the immune system. In body iron exists in the form of two groups: iron from animal and plant sources of iron. When both groups are in equilibrium, the defenses reactions of the immune system are best. Plant sources of iron include spinach, raisins and molasses. Iron from animal origin can be found in red meat and fish.
- Zinc. This valuable trace element increases the production of white blood cells that fight infections. Zinc also reduces the growth of cancer cells. Zinc increases the number of the infection-fighting T-cells. But be careful – excessive amount of zinc (more than 75 mg. per day) can suppress the immune function. Zinc is found in abundance in various meat products such as beef liver, beef and lamb and whole grains, wheat germ.
- Selenium. This mineral helps the blood cells produce cytokines – proteins that chase viruses and mobilize the cells fighting cancer formations. Selenium can be found in tuna, lobsters, shrimp, whole grains, brown rice, egg yolks, white chicken, sunflower seeds and lamb chops.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. It boosts immunity by increasing the activity of phagocytes (white blood cells that destroy bacteria). Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flaxseed oil and oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or mackerel), eggs and nuts. Some studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids increase the flow of air to the lungs and protect them from cold, and infection. In fact, these fats are key contributors to good immune system because they help cell membranes to effectively absorb nutrients and toxins.
- Folic acid. Deficiency of folic acid into the body leads to reduced cellular responses, and the number of synthesized antibodies are declined. Folic acid is contained in wholegrain snacks, in vegetables with green color, orange juice and legumes.
- Probiotics. Last but not least these “friendly” bacteria are normal inhabitants of the intestines and have favorably affect to the digestive processes, and have a proven positive health effects. They inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in the gut and thereby maintain the balance, which guarantees their normal function. Probiotic foods are mostly yogurt, sour-milk products, some vegetables, sauerkraut, kefir, etc.
Accepted regularly, probiotics maintain the good condition of the gastrointestinal tract, which ensure good health in general. Most probiotics are not “multiply” in the intestine and to have an effect, they must be mobilized and daily in an amount sufficient to maintain an optimal intestinal balance and to reduce the risk of a number of diseases including intestinal infections.
- Healthy sleep is very important for the immune system because the body needs time to regain its strength and load with energy. A child’s body, for example, is spending a lot of stock in the process of development. For children up to 3 years is recommended 11-12 hours of sleep for children 3 to 6 years – 10-11 hours of sleep. Their room should be aired regularly, and the temperature at night to be about 18 degrees.
- Regular movement or exercising is a strong point for a healthy immune system. Any movement is beneficial on the cbody – running, swimming, playing, walking, biking, sports, even dancing at home.
- Fresh air. You must spend at least two hours outdoors. If possible choose areas with abundant greenery and less urban traffic. Do not overdo with clothes, because in physical activity the body sweats and too warm clothing will not allow your skin to breathe.