Understanding the Immune System

Although it’s a term talked about often in wellness circles, how much do we really know about the immune system and its crucial role in keeping us healthy?

The immune system is a complex network of white blood cells that exist all over our bodies. These cells are known as immune cells and there is to act as a first line defence, fighting off viruses, bacteria and pathogens that we come into contact with and that have the potential to cause us harm and make us ill.

While there are many different types of immune cells that all do different things, two that researchers at the University of Manchester have been looking into more recently are Neutrophils and Lymphocytes, and more specifically the ratio or balance of these two in the body. While Lymphocytes decide what response is needed by the body when the threat is identified, Neutrophils are the cells that run to the rescue and provide the help that’s needed. While a healthy person ought to have a low NLR or a good balance between the two, an unhealthy, overworked and ill-equipped system will often show itself in a higher or imbalanced NLR.

To keep your immune system healthy and in balance, it's important to know the basic rules:

Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet is a good balance of great quality protein, unprocessed carbs and plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables. If you’re looking to keep your immune system healthy, aim to have a quality serving of protein in each meal as it’s vital for supporting its function.

Reduce your stress

It’s no secret that stress has a hugely detrimental effect on so many of our bodily functions, but its impact on the immune system is vast and direct. According to research by the American Psychological Association, stress is so damaging to the immune system because it, specifically the stress hormone corticosteroid, suppresses the production of Lymphocytes, preventing our bodies from responding efficiently to the stress threat. Try to keep your stress levels in check by incorporating whatever method works for it, be it meditation, walking, taking a bath or some yoga.

Exercise regularly

We all know how it important it is to keep moving, not least for our mood and sense of wellbeing, but sticking to a regular workout routine has a big impact on the immune system too, increasing blood flow, reducing stress and inflammation in the body and even fortifying antibodies to help us better fight infection.

Eat more fibre

Studies show that those with a high quota of fibre in their diet have a healthier microbiome and therefore are better poised to ward off disease. Cells in the colon need fibre in order to healthy, plus it also improves your digestion tract and promotes a healthy gut environment. The recommended daily intake for adults in the UK is 30g per day.   

Get more sleep

A lack of sleep is bad news for plenty of reasons but not least because irregular sleep patterns contribute to greater levels of stress, impaired heart health, poor productivity, memory and focus, and a compromised immune system. Prioritise your sleep and always aim for at least 7 hours a night alongside a regular bedtime and wakeup schedule.