What is immunity?
Immunity is defined as the ability of an organism to resist a particular infection. This may be achieved by the action of specific antibodies or white blood cells in the blood.
Low immunity/Weak immunity
Low immune function refers to an underactive immune system. The prime function of the immune system is to protect the body against infection. To achieve resistance to disease and reduce susceptibility to colds, flus, and cancer, one must have an active immune system. An active immune system can be built by good lifestyle, stress management, exercise, diet, and the appropriate use of nutritional supplements and some herbal medicines.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, it is a sign that you are low in immunity:
Do you catch colds easily?
Do you get more than two colds a year?
Are you suffering from chronic infection?
Do you get cold sores or have genital herpes frequently?
Are your lymph glands sore and swollen at times?
Did you had or have cancer ever?
Causes of low immune function
A weak immune system leads to infection. Infection in turn damages the immune system. It weakens body’s resistance and may cause immune deficiency. Immunity of every person varies. The factors that impact a person’s immune system are his/her emotional state, level of stress, lifestyle, dietary habits and nutritional status. It has been seen that nutrient deficiency is the most frequent cause of a depressed immune system. Even a single nutrient deficiency like that of zinc may impair the immune functions.
How to boost the immune system
• Take a healthy diet that is rich in whole, natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts.
• The diet should be low in fats and refined sugars.
• It should contain adequate, but not excessive, amounts of protein.
• Drink enough quantity of water per day.
• Take a high potency multivitamin-mineral supplement as per your doctor’s advice.
• Engaging in a regular exercise program of at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 5-to-10 minutes of passive stretching daily can be beneficial.
• Performing daily deep breathing and relaxation exercises may help.
• Take time each day to play and enjoy family and friends.
• Try to get at least 6-to-8 hours of sleep daily.
An important component to boost immune function are the carotenes. Carotenes protect the thymus gland from damage. The thymus gland is a major gland of the immune system & it is responsible for the production of T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell and releases several hormones, such as thymosin, thymopoeitin, and serum thymic factor. All these hormones regulate many immune functions. Low levels of these hormones in the blood lead to depressed immunity and an increased susceptibility to infection. Thymus is extremely susceptible to free radical and oxidative damage caused by stress, drugs, radiation, infection, and chronic illness and its ability to control the immune system is reduced when the thymus gland becomes damaged. Carotene-rich foods and drinks help boost immunity. Colored vegetables, such as dark greens; yellow and orange squash, carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes, papaya; and red peppers and tomatoes are rich in carotene. These foods can be, as such, important for proper immune function. The cabbage family vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collards, kale, and greens from mustard, radish and turnip), flavonoid rich berries, garlic and Jerusalem artichoke are some other good immunity boosting foods. Yogurt and probiotic supplements may also help boost immune function. Some bacteria in yogurt are reported to increase the proportions of immune system cells like helper, and activated T lymphocytes and natural killer cells and increase the immune cells’ ability to destroy invaders as well as the tumor cell.2 Turmeric and ginger are traditionally used spices that are considered good for boosting immunity as recommended by Ayurveda. Nutritional deficiencies may also lead to impaired immune function. Vitamin C, Vitamin D vitamin E, and vitamin A help boost immune functions. Deficiencies, B6, B12 and folic acid may also affect immune response. Minerals such as zinc, iron, and selenium are very important.
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- -3 Nutrients. 2013 Dec; 5(12): 4836–4848. Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid Imbalance Modifies NK Cytotoxicity, Lymphocytes B and Lymphoprolipheration in Aged Rats. Teresa Partearroyo, Natalia Úbeda, Ana Montero, María Achón, and Gregorio Varela-Moreiras*
- Bhavaprakash Nighantu. Haritkyadi varga. Chaukhambha Bharati academy, Varanasi.
- Charak Samhita of Agnivesha. Vidhyotini Hindi Vyakhya- Sastry K & Chaturvedi G – Editors. Chaukhambha Bharati Academy, Varanasi 221001. Reprint 2011.