In the strict sense, “immunity” defines an acquired resistance to infectious disease that is specific, i.e., resistance against a particular disease-causing agent(Pathogen). A person who has had measles once will not suffer from measles a second time, and is thus called immune. Our immune system recognizes the pathogen as foreign based on certain surface structures, and eliminates it. Activation of the mechanisms of innate immunity, also known as the primary immune defences, takes place when a pathogen breaches the outer barriers of the body. An immune response is a reaction to an immunological stimulus. The stimulating substances are known as antigens and are usually proteins or complex carbohydrates.
The inability to initiate an immune response to the body’s own self antigens (also termed autoantigens) is known as immunological tolerance.
Tips to improve body immune system
- Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation increases the hormone cortisol, prolonged elevation of which suppresses immune function. Eight hours of relaxing sleep per day is essential for the body to rejuvenate and strengthen body immune system.
- Avoid tobacco smoke. Lung diseases caused by smoking include COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Cigarette smoking causes most cases of lung cancer asthma, tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make an attack worse.
- Drink less alcohol. Excessive consumption impairs body immune system and increases vulnerability to lung infections. The liver is an organ which helps break down and remove harmful substances from body, including alcohol. Long-term alcohol use interferes with this process. It also increases risk for chronic liver inflammation and liver disease. The formation of scar tissue destroys the liver. As the liver becomes increasingly damaged, it has a harder time removing toxic substances from the body.
- Alcohol and women: Women are at higher risk for developing alcoholic liver disease as they are likely to absorb more alcohol and need longer periods of time to process it. Women also show liver damage more quickly than men.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, which will provide your body with the nutrients your immune system needs. Some foods which boost immunity are citrus fruits, nuts and seeds, ginger and garlic, proteins like eggs and fish, fresh vegetables etc.
- Probiotics. Some food supplements reduce the incidence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Fermented milk products have shown to reduce gut infections.
- Vitamin D : Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels correlate with a greater risk of respiratory infection. Ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure daily is mandatory for children and adults.
- Vaccines in time- Vaccines are agents which induce immunity inside body for resistance against diseases. Children should be vaccinated in time to prevent few life-threatening diseases. Few vaccines are also available for adults which can prevent sufferings like yellow fever vaccine before travelling to an endemic area.
- Avoid contact with infected materials- Cleanliness is a major part of our lifestyle and should be taught from childhood. Many infectious diseases spread by droplet infection and direct contact. Proper sanitary measures can avoid spreading of such diseases.
- Vitamin supplements may be essential for those children who are unable to follow a balanced diet and avoid taking fruits and vegetables.
- Early consultation saves sufferings– Sometimes common cold and sore throat can lead to rheumatic heart disease if not treated in time. Hence consult a doctor as early as possible.
- Avoid drugs and over-the-counter medications – self-medications can lead to allergic reactions and drug interactions which can be life threatening.
- Discard Stale food, be cautious of food preservation – A good household rule for food preservation saves family members from certain gastrointestinal problems.
- Healthy habits from childhood- Teaching children about cleanliness, healthy food habits and benefits of exercise is part of preventive care and essential for a healthy future life.