With everything that has happened in the last few years, many of us have been thinking about our immune systems more than ever before. After spending the majority of our time at home for so long, many of us are finally preparing to get back to our normal work and school routines—just in time for the cooler weather and abundance of germs that come with the fall and winter months. Needless to say, if there has ever been a time to wonder about your immune system, it is now.
So, that begs the question—how strong is your immune system? If you aren’t sure, you’re not alone. It can be difficult to tell how well-equipped your body’s natural defenses are until it’s too late. But, difficult doesn’t mean impossible. There are a few other areas of your health you can look at that will give you a good idea of how your immune system is functioning. Before we dive into that, let’s do a quick review of what exactly your immune system is and how it works.
The Basics of The Immune System
Your immune system is the armed security of your body. It is working 24/7 to identify and appropriately handle any ‘bad guys’ who are trying to wreak havoc on your body. In other words, your immune system is what protects you from being harmed by harmful pathogens that find their way into your body.
Unlike other systems within your body, your immune system isn’t localized or contained to one specific area. Rather, it is comprised of a multitude of organs, cells, and tissues all throughout your body that all work together to keep you as healthy as possible. While this system is vast and complex, understanding the basics of how it functions is an important part of helping you identify if it needs a little extra support. So, here’s what you need to know…
Pathogens like bacteria can make their way into your body in a number of different ways. They can enter through your respiratory system by being in the air you breathe, through your digestive system by being on or in the foods and drinks you consume, or through your skin by taking advantage of weaknesses such as cuts and scrapes.
Once these harmful intruders are inside your body, your immune system gets to work. It activates the tools it has available such as mucus, anti-bacterial fluids like tears and sweat, and specialized cells to neutralize the threat as quickly as possible. In addition to these defenses, your immune system also has the amazing ability to learn from each exposure to a pathogen and create tools like antibodies so it is better prepared in case you are exposed to that same intruder again.
Gauging the Strength of Your Immune System
The way your immune system is functioning can impact how the rest of your body feels. After all, you’re exposed to a variety of pathogens every day which means your immune system is constantly at work. Depending on how healthy this system is, it can affect the rest of your body in a variety of ways. With that in mind, here are three questions you can ask yourself to help determine how strong your immune system is.
1. How do I feel during the day?
Do you find yourself feeling extremely stressed or exhausted most of the day? If so, your immune system may not be functioning as well as it could be. This is because stress and lack of rest are both factors that can have a large impact on your body’s natural defenses.
Stress, especially prolonged or chronic stress, causes your body to release a hormone known as cortisol, which is what initiates your fight or flight response. In such situations, important resources like blood and oxygen rush to organs like your heart and lungs, and while this may be helpful in some circumstances, having it occur frequently means those resources are less available to systems like your immune system, which can ultimately suppress your immune function.
Meanwhile, your immune system relies on the rejuvenation that occurs when you allow your body to rest. This is especially true when it comes to sleep. While you’re sleeping, your body is doing more than just allowing your brain and muscles time to rest, it is also hard at work creating proteins like cytokines, which are vital when it comes to making sure your body’s immune cells are able to properly do their jobs.
If you find that you often feel relaxed, well-rested, and full of energy throughout the day, then that is a sign that your daily habits such as your sleep schedule, diet, exercise routine, and coping mechanisms are all helping to not only boost your overall health but also support your immune system.
2. How is my digestive health?
Whether you realize it or not, your digestive system and immune system are closely connected. In fact, nearly 70% of your body’s immune cells are located in your gut! Needless to say, this close connection means that the health of one can directly impact the other.
If you want to figure out how your immune system is doing, taking a look at your digestive health is a good place to start. When your gut is unhealthy, there are often signs such as bloating, excessive gas, sugar cravings, and irregular bowel movements. If you are noticing any of these signs, then chances are both your gut and your immune system need a little extra care.
On the flip side, if you rarely experience gut discomfort, your bowel movements are regular, and you aren’t prone to cravings, that’s a great sign that your digestive system is in good shape, which means your immune system is likely also doing well.
3. How often do I feel under the weather?
Even with the healthiest of immune systems, all of us will occasionally experience bouts of feeling under the weather, and that’s a good thing because it means your immune system is working for you. With that being said, if you find yourself feeling extra run down frequently or for long periods of time, then that can be a sign your immune system needs a little extra support.
Strengthen Your Immune System
As the colder months are fast approaching, now is the time to make sure your immune system is ready for the challenge. How? By finding small, simple ways to make supporting your immune system a part of your daily routine. From getting plenty of sleep to taking an immune-support supplement, these daily habits will go a long way in boosting the strength of your immune system this winter and beyond, which is why we consider it part of living the #NewEarthLife.
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