Do you catch colds easily? Are you suffering from a chronic disease that never seems to heal? Or Are you always attacked with recurrent infections that never seem to go away? The answer to those questions is that you may have a weak immune system or a low immune function.
The immune system is a highly complex and important system to our well-being. A strong and balanced immune system is required for good health and maintenance. Without this system in our body we would be compromised health wise for there would be no protection against the dangerous microbes that cause infections and diseases in our bodies.
The mechanism of the immune system
In his definition, “The immune system has two levels of immunity: the external and internal mechanism.”
While the external mechanism represents the first line of defense which includes the outer layers of the body which are the skin and mucous membranes, the internal mechanism is the second line of defense that consists of the white blood cells.
He explains that the external mechanism was created with a flora that comprises with good bacteria meant to fight different pathogens (agents that cause disease). However, when the external mechanism fails that is to say when pathogens manage to breach the outer barriers forexample through a wound on the skin, that is when the internal mechanism comes in.
As disclosed by the Merck Manual: Biology of the Immune System, the white blood cells are the vital cells responsible in the internal mechanism and their job is to surround the pathogen, take it in and neutralize it.
The two types of white blood cells which are fundamental to the internal immune response are the T cells and B cells. These are produced in the bone marrow, and mature into several subtypes. Whenever an antigen or foreign material enters the body, it triggers a response from these two cells.
While antigens are taken as part of microbes, they can be symbolic in other settings. For example, if a person received a blood transfusion that did not match his blood type, it could trigger reactions from the T and B cells.
In order to function diligently, B cells have to mature and separate into plasma cells that produce a protein called an antibody that is targeted to a particular antigen. However, they must rely on T cells to provide a signal that they should begin the process of maturation. When a properly informed B cell recognizes the antigen it is coded to respond to, it divides and produces many plasma cells. The plasma cells then secrete large numbers of antibodies, which fight specific antigens circulating in the blood.
However, whenever a person engages in a lifestyle or creates an environment that does not support the immune system, it technically weakens or its immune function lowers.
Low immune function
Since the immune system was meant to fight against infections and diseases, a low immune function refers to an underactive and poor performing immune system.
Causes of a low immune function
As revealed by Dr. Kayiza, Nutrient deficiency is the most frequent cause of a weakened immune system. He says, “Any single nutrient deficiency in the body can intensely impair the immune system.”
However, he adds that the health of the immune system can also be greatly impacted by a person’s emotional state, level of stress, lifestyle, late diagnosis and treatment of infections. Experts also reveal that HIV and cancer are other common cause of immune deficiency in the bodies.
Signs of a low immune function
There are many signs and symptoms that can indicate a low immunity but the fundamental three include frequent colds (chills), chronic and recurrent infections and also lack of fever.
According to Dr. Kayiza, there are illnesses that always appear whenever the immune system weakens. Frequent colds (chills) are one of them. “If it happens that you catch colds frequently, are sensitive to cold and have frequent sore throat, this means that your immune system is likely to be compromised.”
Chronic and recurrent infections
In addition, he notes that another clear sign of a low immunity is when a person suffers from chronic diseases and recurrent infections. He says if a person is treated for an infection and it turns persistent then this means that his/her immunity is low.
According to Dr. Michael Murray, author of Natural Approaches to Health, under such circumstances of recurrent infections, there is a repetitive cycle that makes it difficult to overcome the tendency toward infection.
He states that a weakened immune system leads to infection then that infection causes damage to the immune system, which further weakens the body’s resistance. “Enhancing the immune system can provide the answer to breaking the cycle,” he says.
Another key sign of low immune system is its inability to create fever when the body has been invaded by pathogens. A good immune system according to experts has power to kill viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. That power comes from heat, called fever.
As disclosed by Dr. Kayiza, infection occurs when a pathogen invades body cells and reproduces. An infection will usually lead to an immune response. If the response is quick and effective, the infection will be eliminated or contained so quickly. However, if it is not eliminated, he says this infection will normally turn into disease.
He notes that disease can occur when immunity is low or impaired, that is when the ability of pathogens to damage the host cells is high, and their number in the body is great.
Among the symptoms of an infectious disease according to Dr. Kayiza is Fever. Fever is a common response to infection however he warns that not every infection can cause fever. Fever as he explains is the fighting mode for the immune system. A higher body temperature can heighten the immune response and provide a hostile environment for pathogens.
Unfortunately, he says that many people do not understand fever benefits and fear it instead of working with it. The best way to fight viruses and bacteria is not to suppress the fever, but to allow the immune system to work.
Steps to strengthen the immune system
According to Experts, a healthy lifestyle and following general good health guidelines is the first line of defense a person can choose to strengthen his/her immune system. Every body system including the immune system, functions betters when they are protected from environmental assaults and strengthened by the health living strategies such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and moderately, avoiding smoking, sleeping adequately, drinking in moderation, taking medical screening tests and making preventive measures against infections such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
As revealed by Dr. Kayiza, the quickest means to low immunity is malnutrition. Therefore, a good nutrition consisting mainly of a balance diet especially vitamins which are immune boosters can go a long way to strengthening one’s immune system.
As for babies, he adds that breastfeeding is the quickest way to strengthening the immune system.
Regular exercise regime
In addition, he notes that regular exercises just like a healthy diet can improve on one’s immune system. They not only improve cardiovascular (heart) health, but they also lower blood pressure, help control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases.
Given the fact that immune system consists of white blood cells, Dr. Murray states that exercise contribute even more directly by promoting good blood circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
However, since too much of anything is bad, Dr. Kayiza advises that exercises should be performed moderately. This is because too much of it may wear out the body and instead impairs the immune system.
Since stress is another factor that causes a low immune function, experts urge people under stress to get strategic guideline towards managing their stress. Many researchers report that stressful situations can reduce various aspects of the cellular immune response.
However, as stated by Dr. Murray, to do away with stress one must have a positive attitude and be in a light mood. He says, “Our mood and attitude have a tremendous bearing on the function of our immune system. The bottom line is that when we are happy and optimistic, our immune system functions much better. Conversely, when we are depressed, our immune system tends to be depressed. Negative emotions suppress immune function while positive emotions enhance immune function.”
Tests and screening
Another strategic way to boosting a person’s immune system according to Dr. Kayiza is by having an early diagnosis and treatment of infections or go for medical tests and screening. He says, “If you diagnose and treat infections in time, this protects your immune system from weakening just because you would have prevented these infections from turning into diseases which normally damage the immune system.”
And lastly he says immunization of diseases can go a long way to boost the immunity and also prevent certain diseases such as Hepatitis B and cervical cancer which would have been fatal to the body’s immune system.
In conclusion, while the above can strengthen the immune system, it should be noted that the immune system functions lowers as the body ages. Researchers believe that the aging process somehow leads to a reduction of immune response capability, which in turn contributes to more infections, more inflammatory diseases, and more cancer. However, if a person follows the above steps, at least he/she can be able to age healthily though it not a guarantee.