The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection and is essential for our survival. It is designed to defend us from bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites that invade the body. In the case of a virus, a healthy immune system works by detecting and eliminating it before it can make itself “at home” and reproduce. A suppressed immune system, on the other hand, is unable to protect the body as well and therefore the body gets sick easily.
Our bodies’ cells are constantly bombarded by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that the body produces as it breaks down food and as a reaction to environmental and other lifestyle activities. Free radicals are known to damage our cells and contribute to a variety of diseases as we age including arthritis, gout, heart disease and cancer. The immune system can equally be subjected to free radical damage that could affect the immune cells themselves suppressing their functionality.
Antioxidants are compounds that neutralise free radicals. A healthy immune system needs to maintain a balance between free radicals and antioxidants. If this becomes imbalanced in favour of free radicals our body’s resistance to disease becomes threatened.
Therefore eating lots of antioxidant-rich foods, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep is of extreme benefit to our overall well-being. If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation and minimise your exposure to stress as this will help limit free radical damage. These simple changes to our lifestyles can help to keep our immune system strong and reduce the risk of viruses and other invaders taking hold in our body.