Wondering how to strengthen the immune system? Are there foods you can eat to boost your immune system? What about activities? Supplements?
Read further to find out what you should do to be stronger and healthier by having a powerful immune system. And also for a surprising comment by a physician about our immune systems.
What is the Immune System?
This “system” is made up of several organs that work together to fight off infections or heal an injury. The system fights off viruses (think COVID-19), bacteria (the stuff that makes your cut red), fungi, and toxins. The organs are:
- Bone marrow
- Lymph nodes
- Lymphatic vessels
- Peyer’s patches
There are two parts to your system. The first is the innate immune system that you are born with. The second is the acquired one that develops in reaction to attacks. For a little more information on this, click on this link from Johns Hopkins.
How are Senior’s Immune Systems Impacted as We Age?
Like the rest of our bodies, as we age our immune system ages also. Our organs aren’t functioning at peak performance so we can’t fight off the “attackers” as well as those that are young.
That’s one reason why COVID-19 has been so devastating to the senior population. The virus attacks our lungs and can result in pneumonia, which is an infection. A strong immune system would be able to fight that.
The other reasons, as we have heard, are a body that is already compromised with other problems, like COPD, diabetes and obesity. These have all been linked to more serious cases of COVID-19 disease. And they are more prevalent in the senior population than younger people.
As we age, our T-cells aren’t as numerous. These are the cells that attack the bad guys. Our bodies need these cells to fight infections off. In fact vaccines need them also, and we just don’t have what we need. (Apparently there is an exception; the shingles vaccine. It works well in seniors and is highly recommended for people over 60.)
Because of these factors we are more likely to get sick and to recover slower.
What Should I Eat to Boost My Immune System?
First of all, scientists state there is no way to improve our immunity with food or supplements. Dr. Suzanne Cassel of Cedars-Sinai says, “You want your immune system to be balanced, not stronger”. She further states that taking vitamins and supplements don’t seem to help either. See the complete article here.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat right. What is eating right? Eating vitamin and mineral rich foods, which are basically fresh fruits and vegetables. These help your body, including your immune system, function at optimal levels.
From my research, I note that over and over a diet low in saturated fat and high in fruit, vegetables and whole grains is best. The Mediterraean diet is promoted as one that fulfills these requirements. Our American diet is notorious for not promoting such foods. Trust me I struggle with changing my eating habits.
As your Mom may have said, (or at least we hear that Moms said this), “Eat your vegetables!” Great wisdom from Mom!
What Can I Do to Strengthen the Immune System?
Besides eating healthfully, there are other actions you can take to make your immune system a super power. Or rather, to be in good health, because as I stated above, there really isn’t much we can do to boost our immune system.
Here’s a list of what I found:
- Get some sort of gentle exercise. Exercise just helps all around. It reduces pain, helps us feel better mentally, and helps keep a healthy weight. Which brings me to the next point.
- Keep a healthy weight. This assists all the organs to function better. With some exercise and a diet with vegetables and fruit, you should be able to maintain that.
- Get plenty of rest. I have an article (How to Sleep With Chronic Pain) on how to do that, but in addition, make a regular bedtime and waking time part of your schedule. Shut off the electronics a few hours before bed.
- Don’t smoke. I beg of you to see how to quit if you smoke. I have a few friends who have been able to quit. On the other hand, my Dad wasn’t able to quit, and it is what killed him. Please, let this be a wake up call to you. Here’s a link about the most proven programs to quit smoking if you want to!
What About Vaccinations?
This topic has become a controversial subject these days. I am not informed enough to recommend or not recommend what you should do. I know my chiropractor was against vaccinations. But my understanding is that most school districts require them.
Now what’s in the news is a vaccine for COVID-19. Will you get it once it is available? I think I will.
I confess; I get my flu shot (vaccine) every September. I do so because I believe the vaccine is helping me build immunity. I have a couple of high risk factors; I am a senior and grew up in a house where there was smoking.
Vaccinations work by making your body fight the virus that the vaccine introduced to your body. Your body fights off the weak form of the virus and therefore builds up an immunity, or if not an immunity, at least some defense against it. It’s an immune system workout!
How to Stay Healthy
We have all been confronted with how the COVID-19 virus is transmitted. I know that wearing masks is controversial. So I won’t pontificate on my beliefs or practices, but I think we can all agree to:
- Wash Your Hands!
- During this time, avoid crowds if at all possible.
- Wipe down surfaces.
- Go outside for a short time. New research says we need sunlight to get our vitamin D. Supplements don’t do it.
- Deal with stress in a healthy way, not a destructive way. By that I mean exercise, or journal, or talk to a friend.
- Which brings me to this point; drink alcohol only in moderation.
I’ve also written an article about COVID-19. Check it out for more information about how it impacts seniors.
Bottom line, you can’t strengthen your immune system. But you can practice a healthy lifestyle to increase your chances of staying healthy.
Comment on any questions you may have or what you think of this topic. I’m open to suggestions. You may even give me inspiration for another article.
I am not a healthcare professional. This article is from my research in hopes to inform you about staying healthy; a concern we seniors think about daily. Contact your physician if you start any new diet or exercise program. Or to quit smoking. Or if you need to cut back on alcohol. I wish you the best.
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