Our immune system is designed to fight against and destroy foreign entities like bacteria and viruses which prevents us from getting sick.
Multiple factors like stress, age, body composition, or our lifestyle can affect the performance of our immune system and any deviation from the normal pattern can affect our immunity. Let’s look at 7 factors that affect our chances of getting sick:
1. Innate and Adaptive Immunity
The innate immune system is the first defense mechanism that gets activated immediately when a pathogen enters the body. Its main aim is to limit the spread of bacteria or viruses in the body. Physical and chemical barriers such as skin, the lining of the gastric and respiratory tracts, eyelashes, bile, stomach acid as well as tears are all part of innate immunity. Our body also produces fighter cells or White Blood Cells (WBCs) to patrol and defend the human body.
Have you ever noticed that you do not develop a disease again or the recovery time gets shorter if you have already had it before? The reason being, that your body has developed a memory response from the previous infection and can fight against the particular pathogen if it enters again. This adaptive immune response is due to the B-cells (bone marrow or bursa-derived cells) and T-cells (thymus cells) in the body.
When we’re stressed, the body produces the stress hormone called cortisol, which decreases the body’s ability to fight against infections making you more susceptible. Too much stress can also lead to binge-eating on unhealthy snacks or consumption of alcohol which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and weaken your immunity.
Our immune system’s capacity declines as we get older, especially above the age of 70 years, due to a decrease in the functioning of T-cells. This happens as a result of the degeneration of the thymus gland in the body which is the main site for T-cell production.
4. Body Composition
Too much or too little body fat can lead to suppression of the immune system. Excess weight gain can put you at the risk of developing co-morbid conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases. This can lead to a decrease in the body’s ability to fight against infections due to a weak immune response.
5. Lifestyle Factors
A healthy diet and lifestyle results in better immune function. Eating a balanced diet on a regular basis provides proper nourishment to the body and also prevents any vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may hinder the immune response. Some sort of regular physical activity also supports the immune system by increasing the number of fighter cells in the body. One must try to obtain adequate amounts of rest every day in order to minimize the stress levels which can in turn affect our immunity.
6. Gut Flora
It is surprising to note that 70% of our immune system is dependent on our gut microbiome. Healthy gut bacteria prevent the crowding of harmful bacteria in the intestine, produce lactic acid to stop their growth and work integrally with our immune system. Including fermented foods like curd, buttermilk, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, etc. in your diet will help support the growth of good gut bacteria.
Medications for autoimmune disorders like cancer, HIV (human immunodeficiency viruses), or disorders with chronic inflammation like asthma, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc., can also limit the immune response and weaken the body’s ability to fight against infections.