Bettering Your Immune System

Treat your immune system well!

According to the National Institutes of Health:

“The overall function of the immune system is to prevent or limit infection. An example of this principle is found in immune-compromised people, including those with genetic immune disorders, immune-debilitating infections like HIV, and even pregnant women, who are susceptible to a range of microbes that typically do not cause infection in healthy individuals.”

“The immune system can distinguish between normal, healthy cells and unhealthy cells by recognizing a variety of ‘danger’ cues called danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Cells may be unhealthy because of infection or because of cellular damage caused by non-infectious agents like sunburn or cancer. Infectious microbes such as viruses and bacteria release another set of signals recognized by the immune system called pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).”

“When the immune system first recognizes these signals, it responds to address the problem. If an immune response cannot be activated when there is sufficient need, problems arise, like infection. On the other hand, when an immune response is activated without a real threat or is not turned off once the danger passes, different problems arise, such as allergic reactions and autoimmune disease.”

“The immune system is complex and pervasive. There are numerous cell types that either circulate throughout the body or reside in a particular tissue. Each cell type plays a unique role, with different ways of recognizing problems, communicating with other cells, and performing their functions. By understanding all the details behind this network, researchers may optimize immune responses to confront specific issues, ranging from infections to cancer.”

The Mayo Clinic notes the following:

“Primary immunodeficiency disorders — also called primary immune disorders or primary immunodeficiency — weaken the immune system, allowing infections and other health problems to occur more easily. Many people with primary immunodeficiency are born missing some of the body’s immune defenses or with the immune system not working properly, which leaves them more susceptible to germs that can cause infections. Some forms of primary immunodeficiency are so mild they can go unnoticed for years. Other types are severe enough that they’re discovered soon after an affected baby is born. Treatments can boost the immune system in many types of primary immunodeficiency disorders. Research is ongoing, leading to improved treatments and enhanced quality of life for people with the condition.”

Symptoms

“One of the most common signs of primary immunodeficiency is having infections that are more frequent, longer lasting, or harder to treat than are the infections of someone with a normal immune system. You may also get infections that a person with a healthy immune system likely wouldn’t get (opportunistic infections). Signs and symptoms differ depending on the type of primary immunodeficiency disorder, and they vary from person to person.”

“Signs and symptoms of primary immunodeficiency can include: Frequent and recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis or skin infections. Inflammation and infection of internal organs. Blood disorders, such as low platelet counts or anemia. Digestive problems, such as cramping, loss of appetite, nausea ,and diarrhea. Delayed growth and development. Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes.”

Prevention

“Because primary immune disorders are caused by genetic defects, there’s no way to prevent them. But when you or your child has a weakened immune system, you can take steps to prevent infections:

        • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with mild soap after using the toilet and before eating.
        • Take care of your teeth. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
        • Eat right. A healthy, balanced diet can help prevent infections.
        • Be physically active. Staying fit is important to your overall health. Ask your doctor what activities are appropriate for you.
        • Get enough sleep. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time daily, and get the same number of hours of sleep every night.
        • Manage stress. Some studies suggest that stress can hamper your immune system. Keep stress in check with massage, meditation, yoga, biofeedback or hobbies. Find what works for you.
        • Avoid exposure. Stay away from people with colds or other infections and avoid crowds.
        • Ask your doctor about vaccinations. Find out which ones you should have.”

Other Immunity System Resources from the New York Times

To access the immunity system resources below, either click the image OR click the link of an individual resource.

Bettering Your Immune System
ILLUSTRATION BY SUPER FREAK

 

Author: Living Well with Cancer

I am a long-time business school professor, who is a Pancreatic Cancer survivor. I had Whipple surgery on February 12, 2015. In this blog, I want to help others live well with cancer. A positive attitude, caring family, strong medical team, and supportive colleagues are key. And support from other cancer survivors can be life affirming.

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