The immune system is our body’s ultimate defense mechanism against foreign pathogenic microbes. It is an incredibly important component of our body that is often taken for granted. If it wasn’t for a normal, functioning immune system, we would never recover from the common cold and that would have been the end of us. When we do get sick, it is because an infectant has overpowered our immune system through certain defense mechanisms of its own. For instance, a lot of microbes produce certain proteins that prevent them from hydrolytic degradation even after being engulfed by white blood cells.
Significance of a working immune system
We have examples of diseases like HIV AIDS that suppresses our immune system, leaving the victim totally vulnerable to die from common infections that a normal immune system might have fought off otherwise. Similarly, severe combined immune deficiency syndrome or bubble boy disease is a genetic disorder where the body produces faulty immune cells. The patient therefore, has to live in a sterile environment or a “bubble”. Children born with this disease don’t normally live long since they are extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases.
Can blood infusion improve immune function?
There are extensive ongoing researches being done on the effect of external factors such as exercise, age, stress and diet on the immune system. The immune system is not a single entity and functions through a harmony of the different types of white blood cells, namely macrophages, neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, basophils and eosinophils. The optimum ratio of all these cells with respect to their quantity for a healthy immune system has not yet been concluded and remains a subject of scrutiny in immunology. Therefore, boosting the immune system by pumping blood directly into our systemic circulation does not do much good since we don’t know what kind of cells the immune system can improve from and in what quantity are they required for maximum function.
Immune system boosting foods
- Probiotics: Consuming more probiotics is a step in the right direction if you want to improve your immune system. Probiotics are good bacteria that aid in the digestion of food and detoxify our intestines. They also balance out the immune system in our body. Kimchi, sourkrauts and other fermented vegetables and dairy products are great examples of probiotics.
- Vitamins: Vitamins serve as cofactors for enzymes used in the immune system. Vitamin C is a great supplement for your immune system and is not synthesized in our body which makes its inclusion in our diet more important. Vitamin C has been linked to lesser risk of getting an infectious disease. All citric fruits are good sources of vitamin C. Additionally, vitamin B6 also plays an important biochemical role in our immune system. Vitamin B6 can be found in chicken, green vegetables, chick peas, salmon and tuna. Lastly, vitamin E is known for its powerful antioxidant activity which can augment the immune action of the body against infectious agents.
Echinacea: Echinacea or coneflower has been one of the most exciting natural foods to boost the immune system. It has gone through scientific studies exploring its effects on the immune system and proved to be effective. According to a study from 2012 in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Echinacea is an effective immunostimulant and shows powerful effects against recurrent infections. Human trials have also inferred the potent activity of Echinacea against acute upper respiratory infections.