When your immune system goes on the fritz, you’re susceptible to three things: infections, autoimmune disease, and cancer (not to mention just being cranky because nobody likes being sick!).
To understand why, and learn how to protect yourself, let me show you how immune cells work. Once you get the lay of the land, my advice for keeping your immune system in tip-top shape will make more sense, and you’ll be well on your way to living 100 happy, healthy years.
Immune System 101
Every day, your body is under assault from germs and other bad guys, whether they come from the mucus spray of your child’s sneeze, the coughing co-worker in the cubicle next to you, or even the pathogens you could be encountering simply by crossing the street. Fortunately, the body contains various types of immune cells to protect you. Some of these cells recognize the invaders, others send out warnings throughout your body about the invasion, another type gobbles them right up, and still others act as reinforcements. Together, they really do function much like an army, each type with its different jobs.
The immune system is more complicated than you may think. There are two major elements: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. And no surprise here: Your immune system, on the whole, evolves as you get older.
Innate immunity functions like the castle walls, and even a moat, to keep germs from entering the body. Your skin, your cough reflex, the mucous membranes in your nose, even the stomach acid in your digestive system all act as blockades to stop the viral, bacterial, or other types of invaders.
Adaptive Immune system is a lot more involved because it’s made up of many different organs. When you get swollen glands on your neck because you have strep throat, those glands are part of your lymphatic system, which plays a big role in your immunity. Lymph is essentially made up of a mixture of infection-fighting white blood cells and a white or clear liquid that originates in your small intestine.
The Anti-Aging Essentials and Your Immune System
#1. Movement. Moving your body boosts your immune system by increasing your circulation. Exercise gets your heart and blood pumping so that your white blood cells and other immune cells can get where they need to go.
#2. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Overweight people tend to suffer from more infections and illnesses, and while studies haven’t identified the exact reason why, they have shown that overweight or obese people’s immune cells don’t respond adequately to invaders of all types.
#3. Stay Hydrated. This maintains the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs, which makes it harder for viruses or bacteria to latch on and make you sick.
#4. Quit Smoking. Did you know smokers take more sick days from work than nonsmokers? They’re more likely to get colds, the flu, and other illnesses because their immune systems are putting in overtime to clear out all the toxins coming in from the smoke. Unfortunately, the same is true in terms of their increased risk for all types of cancer, coronary artery disease, emphysema, bronchitis—the list is a mile long. But as soon as you quit, your immunity starts to improve right away.