There is a lot of talk about the immune system and keeping it healthy to help fight off colds and viruses. But what is our immune system, and how does it function to make this happen? The Immune system is made up of specialized cells, tissues, lymphatic organs and chemical messengers that work together to help you fight off perceived foreign invaders. Foreign invaders are best described as germs, bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. The foreign invaders' job is to break into the immune system and take over to survive. The role of the immune system is to seek them out and destroy them before they settle in.
Your immune system is impressive and can recognize if a particular virus has tried to attack before. It can search through its database of information and produce the necessary antibodies against the virus. If the invader or virus is new to your body, it can take up to fourteen days for your body to seek out the invader and create a new antibody to help get rid of it. Your immune system is so amazingly complex it can remember and recognize millions of different enemies and produce the secretions, chemical messages and cells required to vend off the attack.
Your immune system stockpiles several different cells (lymphocytes, plasma cells, phagocytes, killer cells, T cells, etc.), which have different functions. Some are trained to attack, others to eliminate, and others to rebuild. Your skin provides one of the first barriers to invading microbes, but invaders can also enter through the digestive and respiratory systems. With each step along the way, your protective immune system tries to prevent the invader.
However, things do not always go according to plan. Viruses and bacteria can move past all the roadblocks your body has created and infect your system, which is especially true if you have a weakened immune system. Your immune response is influenced by your inherited genes (good or bad); it is also sparked by immunization. Your immune system can become weakened due to chronic inflammation, malnutrition, autoimmune disorders, cancer, medical treatments and medications. Blood disorders, bowel disorders, and poor digestive health and chronic stress can also contribute to a weakened immune response.
If our immune systems are so unique, why do you still catch colds and why are some viruses non-responsive to your body's fighter cells?
- Cold and flu viruses do not stay the same. They mutant and change their genetic sequence, so your body does not recognize them from a previous attack.
- In some cases, a virus is so aggressive that it takes your body longer than the fourteen days to create antibodies to fight the virus, and by then, the virus has taken hold and created other health conditions.
The Top Supplements for Immune Health
The best defence against colds, flu and viruses is prevention. Protecting your immune system during the cold and flu season can often make the difference in not catching the cold or virus and lessening their severity when you do get them.
Vitamin C and Vitamin D are well researched and documented supplements to support the immune system. They can play an active role in reducing the severity and likelihood of colds and viruses. Vitamin C can support the lung's sensitive capillaries, protecting them from bacterial diseases and reducing fluid accumulation. Vitamin C works by neutralizing viral toxins and stops the formation of new viral units. A Vitamin C deficiency has also been shown to increase the risk and severity of influenza infections.
Lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked to decreased immune function, more frequent infections and increased risk for respiratory disorders. Vitamin D treatment has been found to reduce viral respiratory tract infections, especially in people with vitamin D deficiency.
Natural Factors Bio C Gel is an excellent choice for Vitamin C because it contains a high-absorption, pH-neutral calcium ascorbate that is easy on the stomach and is enhanced with citrus bioflavonoids. Vitamin C also comes in chewable forms and powder forms to accommodate all forms of supplementation.
Quercetin is often found in combination with Vitamin C, such as Natural Factors C Extra + Quercetin, because Quercetin is also involved in regulating the immune system's response to outside stressors and pollutants.
Vitamin C is also found in combination with L-Lysine in supplements such as Dr. Giffords's Medi C. In combination, Vitamin C and L-Lysine help to build collagen and strengthen the coronary cells and prevent arteriolosclerosis. But they also work together as a superior immune formula. L- Lysine helps boost the immune system by adjusting the body's chemistry, so it is less hospitable to foreign organisms
The herb Echinacea helps with the immune response and may increase the number of white blood cells, which help fight infection. The increased action of your immune system may lower your risk of developing colds and shorten their duration. Supplements such as Natural Factors Anti- Cold Echinamide contain the only Echinacea extract clinically proven to increase the immune response. Supplements such as Natural Factors Anti- Viral not only contain Echinamide (Echinacea) it also has Astragalus and Reishi Mushroom, both of which are potent immune modulators.
Other notable mentions that provide a more immediate immune response to reduce the symptoms and severity of a virus are Oregano Oil and Elderberry. Oregano Oil provides potent antibacterial activity. It may even stop bacteria from reproducing and is suggested for bacterial infections found in the mouth, lungs, vagina, urinary tract, intestinal tract, and other bacterial types. Elderberry produces an anti-inflammatory response and may help with pathogens that have affected the upper respiratory system, reducing their effect and symptoms. Elderberry may also reduce the rate of entry of a virus into a cell, and upon infection, reduce the viral transmission to other cells.
Practice good gut health. Over 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, so it would be reasonable to assume that keeping your gut full of healthy microbiomes is a good defence. The intestinal immune system also contains more antibody-producing cells than the rest of the body. And research has shown that taking specially formulated probiotic supplements that contain multi-strain bacterial cultures may help boost your body's immune response.
Check for possible drug interactions with the supplements mentioned in this article. The increased immune response may have a negative effect on people with some autoimmune disorders. They may also interact with medications used to suppress the immune system or negatively increase medications' effectiveness. Taking Oregano oil supplements in high dosages for extended periods may decrease the efficiency of nutrients and mineral absorption from food. The phytic acid (a compound in the plant) could limit iron and zinc absorption in children and infants. Please check with your health care provider to discuss any concerns or interactions.