What is your immune system?Your immune system is your body’s first line of defence against foreign invaders and microbes, otherwise known as pathogens (germs, viruses and bacteria).
It’s a complex system made up of a network of cells, tissues and organs that join forces to fight off all the microbes we come into contact with on a daily basis, through the skin and the mucous membranes.
The immune system is always hard at work, adapting to various would-be invaders, remembering old pathogens its already dealt with and neutralising and removing new ones virtually around the clock. But every now and then a germ sneaks in and, voila, you get sick. There are multiple reasons this can happen: a pathogen can be particularly aggressive, or you’ve come into contact with one you haven’t encountered before.
Also, we tend to be more susceptible in winter, for reasons ranging from the fact that cold viruses may survive longer and spread faster in lower temperatures to a seasonal reduction in vitamin D levels, which play a vital role in immune health.
How you can support a healthy immune systemDeveloping healthy lifestyle habits is the best strategy for strengthening your immune system. Top tips include:
How diet affects your immune systemDiet is one of the most important ways to maintain a healthy immune system and natural foods deliver the enhancing, protective properties you need.
When you’re trying to stay healthy, it’s ideal to cut back on foods that can lead to inflammation, such as processed meats, trans and saturated fats, refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, pasta, flour and rice), processed meats and snacks, and sugary foods and drinks.
Instead, you want to feed your body with foods full of nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins.
Immune-boosting foodsTo get the biggest immunity bang for your buck, choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season.
Seasonally grown broccoli, for instance – an autumn/winter food – contains almost twice the vitamin C values as off-season varieties. Here are some other seasonal foods known for their immune-boosting properties.