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Signs Of A Weak Immune System And How You Can Strengthen It

Signs Of A Weak Immune System And How You Can Strengthen It

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Signs Of A Weak Immune System And How You
Can Strengthen It

By: Your JNH Lifestylist

Everyone wants to be healthy all the time. While this would be ideal, it is almost impossible since we are constantly exposed to different germs, e.g. viruses and bacteria. Thankfully, we have developed many defense mechanisms that keep us from getting sick, but every once in a while these mechanisms fail, or the germs are too strong, leading to us becoming ill in the process. For some people, it seems like these defenses do not work as they should, with these people getting sick all too frequently. This could be a sign of a weak immune system, which can affect your everyday life, as well as your productivity. If you feel like this is you, know that there are several ways you can boost your immune system, which we'll go over right now!


The Immune System

The immune system is one of the most important parts of our bodies. It protects us from germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi), harmful substances and even unwanted cell changes (cancer). It is hard to specifically locate the immune system in the body since it spans many organs, cells and proteins [1]. One of the most important organs in our immune system is bone marrow; it contains stem cells that can develop into any form of cells in the immune system, making them highly versatile. Other organs of the immune system include the lymphatic system, the thymus and the spleen [2]. The immune system can be divided into two categories: innate and adaptive.

Innate Immune System

This subsystem is the first line of defense your body has against germs and tissue damage. It has two main functions: to prevent germs from entering the body and to attack them if they do. Several barriers stop bacteria and viruses from getting into the body, with the biggest one being our skin. Not only does it work as a physical barrier, but it also produces some antibacterial chemicals that help us stay healthy. The also body has other defense mechanisms like saliva, gastric acid and other secretions that have antibacterial properties.

When germs manage to enter the body, the immune system initiates an immediate, non-specific response. This is possible because specific cells are constantly going through your entire body working as patrols to recognize foreign substances. When a bacteria or virus is recognized by one of these cells, a robust response starts, with the participation of white blood cells, natural killer cells, and a set of proteins found in your blood called complement. The result of this response is generally the destruction of bacteria, or infected cells. This type of immunity is not always enough to stop an infection and requires a more sophisticated type of response. Also, it does not create immunological memory, which is the ability our bodies have to recognize germs that have previously infected us and destroy them with ease [3].

Adaptive Immune System

The adaptive immune system response is not as immediate as the innate's, but is more robust and confers immunological memory. Therefore, when pathogens that have previously infected you in the past elicit a response for the adaptive immune system, your body will remember and quickly destroy them. A specific type of white blood cells called lymphocytes is responsible for the adaptive response. There are two subsets of lymphocytes, called B cells and T cells, and each type works in specific classes of adaptive immune responses.

B cells are known for producing antibodies. These are molecules that help circulate in your bloodstream and bind to pathogens, marking them so that other cells of the immune system can eliminate them. This process is what occurs when we get vaccinated. When injected with a vaccination, we are exposed to a part of a germ that said vaccination is for, our body recognizes it and starts to create antibodies. Later on in life when we are exposed to that specific germ in the real world, we will already have the 'tools' necessary to deal with it. When it comes to the topics of T-cells, these are involved with cell-mediated responses, like destroying cells infected by viruses [4].  

Just because the adaptive response is a more complicated process does not mean that innate immunity is not important. These two subsystems (innate & adaptive) of the immune system work in synergy to neutralize any threats to your health. The adaptive response would not occur if it were not for innate immunity, especially since cells of this subsystem are the ones that present the pathogen to the lymphocytes.

When Things Go Wrong

child sitting in a field of dandelions holding a tissue to her nose

The immune system is a complex array of cells, molecules and chemical reactions that need to work in perfect synchrony. However, this is not always the case, certain processes in the immune system can, at times, can go wrong. Two examples that can cause things to go awry are allergies and autoimmune disorders. Allergies are abnormal adaptive immune responses towards non-infectious substances that pose no harm. These substances include grass, pollen, certain foods like peanuts and fish, and even medicine. About 25% of the population suffers from allergies, with most allergic reactions being innocuous, but in some cases, threatening a person's life [5].

Sometimes, the immune system does not attack pathogens, or non-infectious diseases, but rather, attacks your own body. This is a problem known as autoimmunity and is a result of your immune system failing to recognize bodily tissues are your own. Since these tissues are detected as foreign invaders, immune responses are elicited against them, which has clinical implications. Some autoimmune disorders include type 1 diabetes, chronic thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. These are hard to treat and significantly affect a person's quality of life [6].

In some cases, the immune system stops working properly, leaving the body completing exposed with a defective defense system. After all, the immune system is what keeps us from becoming infected by all the germs that coexist with us in the environment. A weak immune system makes one more prone to infections and even certain types of cancer.

Causes Of A Weak Immune System

There are different severity levels of a weak immune system, which is important to specify when explaining the different causes that lead to a weak immune system in the first place. On one side of the spectrum are severe immune deficiencies, which can put a person's life at risk. These include some congenital disorders, as well as some situations/conditions like severe burns, chemotherapy, diabetes, malnutrition, AIDS and some types of cancer [7].

More mild cases of immune deficiencies can be the result of many different factors. Our immune systems are closely related to our emotions and mood. High levels of stress and other mental problems such as depression and anxiety are associated with a suppression of all types of immune responses. This makes you more prone to becoming sick since your immune system is not working at full capacity [8].

The immune system is dependent on your overall health, so anything that negatively affects you will also hinder your immune system's ability to keep germs at bay. Nutrition is an extremely important factor for immunity, which proven further by how impaired the immune system of malnourished children is [9]. The same applies when to comes to overeating, with studies showing that obesity reduces the number and affects the functioning, of white blood cells, which are vital in immune responses [10]. Other factors that impair the immune system are a sedentary lifestyles [11], smoking [12] and excessive drinking [13].

The process of natural aging can also diminish the effectiveness of your immune responses. There are many reasons for this, with the thymus shrinking as you grow older being the primary one. This organ is where T-cells mature to carry out adaptive immune responses. Also, as you get older, the number of cells that destroy pathogens decreases, with fewer antibodies being produced [14].

Symptoms Of A Weak Immune System

woman holding her head in pain

The most frequent symptom of a weak immune system is persistent colds. People with these mild immune deficiencies are highly susceptible to all germs, especially to the viruses that cause the common cold. On average, an adult may have a cold 1 to 3 times a year, but if you feel like you catch a cold every month, your immune system may be compromised. You should pay attention to other infections too, like UTI's and gastrointestinal problems since an increase in the frequency of these conditions could also signal an impaired immunity.

Another sign of immune system dysfunction is swollen lymph nodes. These structures are a form of checkpoints in the body where white blood cells gather and destroy any germs that may pass through. When your immune responses are not that effective, lymph nodes can become swollen for a long time since germs are not being killed quickly enough.

Wound healing is a process that is carried out mainly by the cells of the immune system. It is another great way to assess how efficiently this system is working. If you have a wound that takes a long time to heal, you may want to consider boosting your immune system [15].

Ways To Boost Your Immune System

Now that you have a basic understanding on why your immune system could become impaired, you can look for ways to strengthen it. Consider assessing your lifestyle to see if you have any unhealthy habits hindering your immune system. For dieting, you should be eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, and reducing your intake of unhealthy fats and sugar (fast-food, soda, chips, etc.) Proper nutrition along with regular exercise can help improve your overall health and immunity. These two aspects are especially important for older people whose immune responses become more impaired as time goes by. Starting a healthy lifestyle at an early age can help delay the onset of this your immune system's impairment. Smoking is another habit you should throw aside due to the detrimental aspects it has on every level of health, including immunity. The same can be said of excessive drinking alcohol.

Given the relationship between stress and immunity, it is of utmost importance to find healthy ways of mitigating stress levels. Some excellent methods include meditation or yoga, which can also help those suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Therapy is another viable option since speaking your problems into existence tends to minimize negative thoughts. And last, but not least, is an obvious one: get quality sleep. The good news is that excellent sleep usually goes hand-in-hand with those who practice the methods just mentioned before. Uninterrupted sleep hugely benefits your immune system, leaving your body completely recovered and restored.

For those who are well aware of their weakened immune system, it is recommended to take the necessary steps in avoiding contracting any form of infection. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face to prevent respiratory infections like the common cold. Also ensure that your vaccines are up to date and that you do not forget to get a flu shot each year [16].

An Infrared Sauna Can Help

Infrared saunas have been associated with improved immune function, both in autoimmune disorders and in weakened immune systems [17]. As the name implies, infrared saunas serve as a way to increase your body temperature (whole-body hyperthermia) as well as provides infrared therapy. Each of these aspects has implications in the improvement of immune function.

Whole-body hyperthermia was studied in 2015 when researchers compared the white blood cell profiles of patients before and after a sauna session. They reported an increase in the number of all types of white blood cells, including lymphocytes [18]. Sauna bathing has also been associated with reduced incidents in the common cold, which if you remember, would be a sign of a weak immune system if the latter were occurring [19].

A study performed in 2018 showed that exposure to infrared waves can slow down the involution of the thymus. This is the organ that shrinks as we age and is one of the reasons why our immune functions decrease over time. By slowing down this involution, infrared therapy ensures that our immune system stays in the best shape possible for a longer period of time [20].

Infrared saunas are a great solution to a multitude of health issues, including those looking to boost their immune system. What's even better is that you can enjoy their benefits from the comfort of your home since JNH Lifestyles offers in-home infrared saunas at an economical price tag. Regular infrared sessions, along healthy lifestyle habits (such as the ones discussed in this article) can strengthen your immune system and better prepare your body for inevitable infections.

The Immune System: The More You Know! 1. Protects us from bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, harmful substances and unwanted cell changes (cancer) 2. Divided into two categories: innate and adaptive, Innate: First line of defense, Adaptive: Uses immunological to fight off infections 3. Persistent colds, swollen lymph nodes and slowing of wound healing are signs of a weak immune system 4. Infrared therapy can improve immune function, both for autoimmune disorders and weakened immune systems

Resources:

[1] "How does the immune system work?" Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 24 November 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/.

[2] "Overview of the Immune System." Niaid.nih.gov, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/immune-system-overview.

[3] Hato Takashi, Dagher Pierre. (2015). How the Innate Immune System Senses Trouble and Causes Trouble." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 7 August 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4527020/.

[4] "The Adaptive Immune System." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21070/.

[5] Galli Stephen, Tsai Mindy, Piliponsky Adrian. (2008). "The development of allergic inflammation." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 24 July 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573758/.

[6] Wang L, Wang FS, Gershwin ME. (2015). "Human autoimmune diseases: a comprehensive update." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, October 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26212387.

[7] Spriggs Brenda. (2016). "Immunodeficiency Disorders." Healthline.com, Healthline, 30 August 2016, https://www.healthline.com/health/immunodeficiency-disorders#types.

[8] Segerstrom Suzanne, Miller Gregory. (2004). "Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 2004,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/.

[9] Heilskov Maren, Kolte Lilian, Briend André, Friis Henrik, Christensen Vibeke. (2014). "The Immune System in Children with Malnutrition - A Systematic Review." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 25 August 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4143239/.

[10] Myles Ian. (2014). "Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 17 June 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3244676/.

[11] Allison Matthew, Jensky Nicole, Marshall Simon, Bertoni Alain, Cushman Mary. (2012). "Sedentary Behavior and Adiposity-Associated Inflammation The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, January 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3244676/.

[12] Sussan Thomas, Gajghate Sachin, Thimmulappa Rajesh, Ma Jingfang, Kim Junh-Hyun, Sudini Kuladeep, et al. (2015). "Exposure to Electronic Cigarettes Impairs Pulmonary Anti-Bacterial and Anti-Viral Defenses in a Mouse Model." Journals.plos.org, Plos One, 4 February 2015, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0116861.

[13] Dallas Mary. (2015) "9 Surprising Ways You're Weakening Your Immune System." Everydayhealth.com, Everyday Health, 10 June 2015, https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/9-surprising-ways-youre-weakening-your-immune-system/.

[14] Cicetti Fred. (2013). "Aging Lowers Your Immunity." Livescience.com, Live Science, 30 May 2013, https://www.livescience.com/35908-aging-lowers-your-immunity.html.

[15] Nunez Kirsten, Polish Jay. (2020). "5 Signs You Might Have A Weak Immune System." Bustle.com, Bustle, 31 March 2020, https://www.bustle.com/articles/180993-5-signs-you-might-have-a-weak-immune-system.

[16] (2014). "How to boost your immune system." Health.harvard.edu, Harvard Health Publishing, September 2014, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system.

[17] Hussain Joy, Cohen Marc. (2018). "Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 24 April 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5941775/.

[18] Pilch Wanda, Pokora Ilona, Szygula Zbigniew, Palka Tomasz, Pilch Pawel, Cison Tomasz, et al. (2013). "Effect of a Single Finnish Sauna Session on White Blood Cell Profile and Cortisol Levels in Athletes and Non-Athletes." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 18 December 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3916915/.

[19] Ernst E, Pecho E, Wirz P, Saradeth T. (1990). "Regular sauna bathing and the incidene of common colds." Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 1990, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2248758.

[20] Odinokov Denis, Hamblin Michael. (2018). "Aging of lymphoid organs: Can photobiomodulation reverse age-associated thymic involution via stimulation of extrapineal melatonin synthesis and bone marrow stem cells?" Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnological Information, 12 February 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5995606/.


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