How does your immune system function?
Your immune system protects you against harmful bacteria and viruses that could threaten your health.
The immune system is composed of many molecules, cells and organs. They all work together to neutralize pathogens like COVID-19, which is caused by coronavirus.
Your immune system can recognize a pathogen and activate defense mechanisms to protect you when it comes in contact with it for the first time.
The innate immunity system is a part of your immune system that provides rapid responses to all pathogens. The cells that make up the innate immune response surround an invader and either swallow it or release molecules that attack and kill it.
If the innate immune system is unable to eliminate the pathogen, the adaptive immune system takes over. It takes a bit longer because it adjusts to each invader with antibodies.
Within a matter of days, special cells must be able to create antibodies that are specific to a pathogen.
While antibodies decrease in number over time, the original design is still there. If there is a subsequent infection, copies of the same design can be manufactured in large quantities.
This means your body is able to fight the same pathogen again if it comes into contact.
The immune system and gut health
Although you may not believe your gut is important in fighting respiratory illness, it plays an essential role in strengthening your immune system.
There are trillions of bacteria living in your gut. These bacteria are in a symbiotic relationship to their “host”, which is you.
They thrive in a healthy environment with plenty of nutrients. In turn, you support your metabolism and help build the immune system.
Your gut’s balance can have a profound impact on everything, from digestion to depression.
Researchers at ZOE discovered 15 microbes that are associated with good health. These microbes have been shown to be associated with inflammation, which is a type immune response.
The immune system is inextricably linked to the gut microbiome. This means that if there are things that cause the body to lose healthy bacteria (such a poor diet or antibiotics or chemotherapy), it can result in decreased or inappropriate immune responses.
The immune system, on the other hand is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.
Consider the last time you experienced a stomach bug. In that instance, your immune system was unable or unwilling to combat a pathogen such as norovirus.
The immune system is complex. You can’t focus on just one part of your body to boost, like leg strength by doing squats. This requires attention to all parts of the body, including your gut. Good habits are a great way to support your immune system.
You can only boost your immunity against COVID-19 by introducing it to the invaders. This can be done by getting vaccinated.
Although there are many vaccines, they all work in a slightly different way and aim to strengthen the immune system against COVID-19 without the patient needing to contract the disease first.
Some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms like body aches or chills after being vaccinated. This is because their immune system works hard to combat the threat.
Vaccines are essential to immunity, as they don’t pose a threat. They contain a virus-innocuous part that is designed to stimulate strong immunity.
The first dose exposes the body to the virus, so that it can recognize it in the future. The second dose strengthens the specific immune response.
Numerous other studies, including the ZOE COVID Symptom study, have shown that two or more doses COVID-19 vaccine can reduce your chance of contracting the virus and your chances of becoming seriously ill if it does.
The largest study of its kind in the world also showed that long COVID can be prevented by vaccination .
Lifestyle changes to improve your immune system
Although there is no miracle cure for immune system problems, there are lifestyle and other changes that can be made to improve your immunity.
Diet, and Gut Health
We know from experience that diet has an impact on your gut health. This is also linked to immunity.
A ZOE study that included almost 600,000 participants found that severe COVID-19 required hospital treatment was 40% less likely if people ate healthy, plant-rich, and gut-friendly fermented food, as opposed to a poor diet.
A healthy diet includes:
- Whole grains
- Oily Fish or Nuts and Seeds
- Many gut-friendly fermentationed foods
A 2021 study involving over 2,800 people from six countries found that those who eat a plant-based (or pescatarian) diet were less likely than people who eat no meat, fish or any other animal.
However, diet alone doesn’t guarantee a strong immune system capable of fighting off COVID-19 or other diseases.
High quality diets can also mean that people are more active, get better sleep, and live in areas with easy access to preventative healthcare.
To learn more about ZOE and how it can help you eat healthy foods, take our quiz.
Obese people are more likely to get infected than those with a normal weight.
Even if someone is otherwise healthy and young, the likelihood of severe COVID-19 is greater for people who are obese.
An large review of 54 studies showed that obese people had a 45% greater risk of developing COVID-19, and were also more likely to die of the disease.
Researchers suggested that obesity may increase COVID-19 severity by triggering an overactive immune response.
ZOE’s COVID Symptom Study data also revealed that people who are overweight or obese were more likely experience severe COVID symptoms. Similar U.K. studies Similar results have been found in other U.K. studies.
It can be difficult to lose weight. A doctor or nutritionist may be able to help.
ZOE can help you understand your metabolic control. ZOE offers an at-home test kit that analyzes your blood sugar, blood fat and gut microbiome. Your personalized ZOE program will help you find the best foods for you body by using the most recent science.
Your immune system is dependent on your sleep. Research shows that poor sleep habits can affect the immune system’s ability to function properly and are linked with worse health outcomes and inflammation.
Evidence also shows that vaccines can be less effective if you don’t sleep enough.
It can be difficult to get enough sleep in today’s hectic world. It is crucial to prioritize your sleep time for your immune system, and overall health.
You can also make lifestyle changes that could impact your immune system’s health.
- Get enough exercise
- Reduce stress by taking frequent breaks and managing your workload.
- quitting smoking
- Avoid alcohol