Understanding how the immune system works is key to helping you protect your body, especially given the current climate where COVID-19 remains a major health threat. Find out how this complex, interconnected system operates in the body and how you can boost your immune system by taking a look at Bloom and Momentum Health4Me’s guide about immune system basics.
What is the immune system?
The immune system is made up of organs, cells and proteins, which work together, spread throughout the body, to protect you against invading pathogens, like viruses, bacteria and fungi. The cells of the immune system are made in different organs of the body, some of which include:
- Bone marrow
- Lymph nodes
- Lymph vessels
What does the immune system do?
The immune system defends the body against disease. The interconnected network of organs, cells and proteins, work together, to protect the body from developing an illness by attacking disease-causing microorganisms. The immune system consists of two parts: innate immunity and acquired immunity. Innate immunity is that which you are born with and contain physical barriers in the human body, like the skin, cornea or the mucous membranes that line your respiratory tract. Acquired, or adaptive immunity produces antibodies that protect the body from specific foreign invaders. Once your immune system has been exposed to a new germ, it will recognise the invader and defend against it.
Common autoimmune diseases and conditions
Sometimes, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body, which it perceives to be foreign. It is thought that certain people are more susceptible to autoimmune disease due to family history or genetic predisposition. Some diseases and conditions include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis. The immune system attacks the joints, which cause pain in those areas and stiffness.
- Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition where skin cells form painful, inflamed patches of scaly plaque on the body.
- Multiple sclerosis. This disease damages the central nervous system, which results in difficulty with movement, walking and balance.
- Lupus. This is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in parts of the body, like the joints, brain, heart or kidneys.
Excellent ways to boost your immune system
Now that you’re well versed in immune system basics, it’s time to take a look at boosting your immune system. The best way to do so is by taking care of yourself and making sure you have affordable, comprehensive health insurance. Ensure you get enough quality sleep, avoid infection by washing your hands regularly, minimise unhealthy habits such as smoking, manage stress levels, maintain a regular exercise programme and pay attention to your diet. There are a number of immune-bosting foods that will help strengthen your immune system. Some of these include:
1. Shellfish. Crab, crayfish and mussels are packed with zinc, which is known to boost one’s immune system. Just make sure you don’t exceed the daily recommended allowance of 11mg for men or 8mg for women as too much zinc can actually inhibit the functioning of the immune system.
2. Poultry. Chicken broth is a great way to lower inflammation. Lean poultry, like chicken or turkey, contains vitamin B-6, which is needed for healthy red blood cells.
3. Papaya. Not only does this fruit contain generous amounts of vitamin C, but it also contains a digestive enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties. Papayas contain potassium, magnesium and folate, which all contribute to good immune health.
4. Turmeric. This favourite curry spice flavouring has been used for centuries to treat inflammation, like arthritis. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is believed to boost the immune system.
5. Avocados. Get a helping of vitamin E from avocados, which is necessary to regulate the functioning of the immune system. You can also get vitamin E from sunflower seeds and leafy green vegetables.
6. Spinach. This leafy green contains beta carotene, vitamin C and antioxidants, which are all needed to help increase the effectiveness of the immune system in fighting disease.
7. Yoghurt. This dairy product contains healthy, live cultures, which help stimulate and regulate the immune system. Opt for plain and unsweetened yoghurt rather than the flavoured variety.
8. Green tea. This contains an antioxidant known as flavonoids, which enhance the functioning of the immune system. In addition, green and black teas also contain plenty of amino acids.
9. Garlic. This pungent vegetable bulb is used to assist the functioning of the immune system because of allicin, which are strong sulphur properties that fight infections in the body.
10. Peppers. Red bell peppers contain a high level of vitamin C as well as beta carotene. These vitamins can boost your immune system and promote healthy skin.
11. Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are all high in vitamin C, which are great for immune health.
Immune health trends
There are a number of immune system trends that are emerging in 2022. According to Forbes, we can expect to see more of the following trends during the course of this year:
- Wellness shots. Concentrated juices with ingredients like apple cider vinegar, turmeric and ginger are gaining popularity for their immune-boosting properties.
- Probiotics. These beneficial microorganisms are found in fermented food, like yoghurt. They are instrumental in creating and maintaining “good” gut health. This helps boost the immune system and fights infection.
Immune system and COVID-19 pandemic
Immunisations and vaccines train the immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease. Immunity is the protection your body then develops against a pathogen. In the case of the coronavirus, which is a novel virus, many people have fallen ill and those with a compromised immune system are particularly susceptible. Bloom and Momentum Health4Me encourage you to get vaccinated at one of the facilities closest to you. This will assist you in building immunity against COVID.
Health insurance or medical aid: what’s best?
If you are trying to make a decision about cover and are wondering about the difference between medical insurance vs medical aid, Bloom can assist. Health insurance is an affordable alternative to a medical aid scheme. A health insurance plan will cover a list of preselected benefits with a monetary value attached to each of these. A medical aid scheme charges a monthly premium for a set of standardised minimum medical aid benefits. Health insurance settles the claim with the member, who is then responsible for paying their respective service providers. Medical aid, however, tends to settle the bill directly with the medical service provider.
Affordable health insurance cover
Bloom is committed to healthy living, which means boosting your immune system against disease. A chronic condition or a serious illness will require specialised medical care and services. Make sure you and your family are covered and get affordable comprehensive health insurance. Our team of trained consultants can guide you when it comes to choosing a medical insurance plan, or even understanding the difference between medical aid and health insurance. Contact our offices for free health insurance quotes.
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