In medical terms, having immunity means that you have resistance to infection or a specified disease. So if you have low immunity, it means your immune system isn’t up to par and that you have a greater chance of getting the infection.
There are many factors that affect your body’s response to a foreign invader, including how you’re feeling at the moment you’re introduced to a suspect germ. But if you consistently end up with the latest flu bug or stomach virus, your immune system may be running on empty.
Imagine your immune system as the front line in your body’s war against foreign invaders. The vast network of glands, tissues, and cells are all soldiers working together to get rid of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and anything that invades their turf. The major troops in this war are the lymphatic system, made of the lymph nodes, thymus, spleen, and tonsils; white blood cells; and other specialized cells such as macrophages and mast cells. Each of these troops has a specialized job in enhancing the body’s ability to fight off infection.
Lymph nodes are responsible for filtering out waste products from tissues throughout the body. Under the lymph nodes’ command are cells that overtake bacteria and other potentially harmful foreign bodies and crush them like ants. That’s why your lymph nodes swell up like golf balls when you are actively fighting off an infection.
The thymus is your immune system’s stealth warfare command center. You may not have heard of the thymus, but without it you would be one sick puppy. The thymus is a gland that produces many of those disease-fighting foot soldiers — the white blood cells that come to your defense against many types of infections. And the thymus produces hormones that enhance your immune function overall. So if your thymus isn’t working as it should, your body may have trouble fighting off infection.
The spleen is vital to your immune defense. It produces white blood cells, kills bacteria, and enhances the immune system overall. White blood cells are your body’s main defense in the battle against infection. White blood cells with names such as neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells, are all part of the vast army of disease assaulters.
When the Enemy Strikes
When something enters your body that is viewed by the immune system as harmful, your body goes into a state of heightened alert. When your immune system is healthy and all systems are go, these foreign invaders, or antigens, are typically met by a barrage of antibodies, which are produced by white blood cells. These antibodies latch on to antigens and set into action all the events that lead to the invader’s eventual demise.
If things in your immune system are not working properly, you become less able to fight off those foreign invaders. Eventually they set up shop in your body and you get sick. An impaired immune system can make you more susceptible to colds and other merely frustrating illnesses, but it can also make you more at risk for developing cancer.
Science is proving that getting enough of the right nutrients can help you build your immune system. Scientific studies are discovering that avoiding something as simple as a cold or something as life threatening as cancer may all be affected by what you stock in your kitchen. In the next section, learn some of the home remedies that will help you fend off sickness.
Home Remedy Treatments for Low Immunity
Because proper nutrition is an integral part of a healthy immune system, the kitchen is the perfect place to find natural home remedies to bolster your disease-fighting abilities.
Home Remedies from the Cupboard
1) Almonds. Eat a handful of almonds for your daily dose of vitamin E. An immune-strengthening antioxidant, studies have found that vitamin E deficiency causes major problems in the integrity of the immune system.
2) Crab. A zinc deficiency can zap your immune system. Zinc acts as a catalyst in the immune system’s killer response to foreign bodies, and it protects the body from damage from invading cells. It also is a necessary ingredient for white blood cell function. Nosh on 3 ounces fresh or canned crab and you’ve got one-third of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this immune-enhancing nutrient.
3) Navy beans. Everybody needs a little folic acid (it’s the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States). And not getting enough of this vital nutrient can actually shrink vital immune system fighters like your thymus and lymph nodes. To make sure you’re getting your fill of folic acid, try popping open a can of navy beans with dinner. One cup gets you half of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of folic acid.
Home Remedies from the Fruit Basket
4) Guava. Go a little tropical with this tasty fruit and get more than twice your daily vitamin C needs. Vitamin C acts as an immune enhancer by helping white blood cells perform at their peak and quickening the response time of the immune system.
Home Remedies from the Refrigerator
5) Chicken. Selenium is a trace mineral that is vital to the development and movement of white blood cells in the body. A 3-ounce piece of chicken will give you almost half your daily needs.
6) Pork. Not getting enough vitamin B6 can keep your immune system from functioning at its best. Eating 3 ounces of lean roast pork will provide you with one-third of most adults’ daily requirements for this immune-helping vitamin.
7) Wine. Have a glass of red wine and you may help your body take out a few potentially harmful foreign bodies. Certain components in wine seem to be helpful in killing infectious bacteria, such as salmonella. But be careful. Drinking too much alcohol can cause your immune system to become depressed, leaving you more open to infection. A glass a day should do the trick.
8) Yogurt. Yogurt seems to have a marked effect on the immune system. It strengthens white blood cells and helps the immune system produce antibodies. One study found that people who ate 6 ounces of yogurt a day avoided colds, hay fever, and diarrhea. Another study found that yogurt could be an ally in the body’s war against cancer.
Home Remedies from the Supplement Shelf
9) Echinacea. Research has shown echinacea to boost the body’s immune response. It is particularly effective at fighting viral infections, such as the cold and flu, helping your body heal faster. Take 1 or 2 capsules or tablets up to three times a day. You can also buy dried echinacea and brew it into a tea. Simmer 1 to 2 teaspoons in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes; drink up to 3 cups a day.
Home Remedies from the Vegetable Bin
10) Carrots. Carotenes, like the beta-carotene found in carrots and other red, yellow, orange, and dark-green leafy vegetables, are the protectors of the immune system, specifically the thymus gland. Carotenes strengthen white blood cell production, and numerous studies have shown that eating foods rich in beta-carotene helps the body fight off infection more easily.
11) Garlic. Garlic is well-known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It’s even been thought to help prevent cancer. Researchers think these benefits stem from garlic’s amazing effect on the immune system. One study found that people who ate more garlic had more of the natural killer white blood cells than those who didn’t eat garlic.
12) Kale. A cup of kale will give you your daily requirement of vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that helps your body fight cancer cells and is essential in the formation of white blood cells. Vitamin A also increases the ability of antibodies to respond to invaders.
13) Shiitake mushrooms. Throw a few shiitake mushrooms in your stir-fry and you may prevent your yearly cold. Scientists have discovered that specific components of shiitake mushrooms boost your immune system and act as antiviral agents.
More Do’s and Don’ts
- Skip the sugar. Sugar may keep your white blood cells from being their strongest. Keep the sweet stuff to a minimum if your immune system isn’t working like it should.
- Forgo fat. Polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils such as corn, safflower, and sunflower oil seem to be a deterrent to an efficiently running immune system.
- Lose a few pounds. Being overweight has a major effect on your immune system. One study found that the white blood cells in overweight people weren’t as able to fight off infection as those of their healthy-weight peers.
- Try to relax. If stress causes you to lose your cool, you could be impairing your immune system. Chronic stress can even shrink your thymus gland, creating major problems in your body’s ability to fight off infection. This is probably why you get a horrible cold after you finish a big project at work.
- Add some activity. Exercise is a proven immune system booster. Don’t overdo it, though. Too much can wear you down and create immune system problems.
With these home remedies, you’ve got all the tools you need to keep your immune system in peak health.