As the winter hits a high, so does the cold and flu season. Research has found that the flu affects about 10% of the population annually and in the US adults get a cold 2-4 times per year, whereas children are infected with colds 6-8 times per year. Why do kids have a higher susceptibility? Their immune systems aren’t as developed and have not yet come into contact with as many pathogens as an adult’s immune system.
So, what is your immune system anyway? Why are some people’s seemingly stronger than others?
Your immune system is your body’s network of organs, cells and tissues that fight viruses, bacteria and fungi to keep your body healthy and functioning optimally. It is composed of your blood cells, mucous membranes found in your eyes, nose and mouth and your lymphatic system, which shuttles lymph throughout your body to fight infections. A majority of your immune system lies in your digestive system, which is why gut health is so important to maintain wellness. Needless to say, dietary and lifestyle choices as well as environmental factors can all build up or tear down your immune system.
Your immune system can be compromised when your sleep, diet or emotions are imbalanced, which leads to disease, fatigue and poor recovery from outside stressors. Other factors involved in varying immunity are age (elderly or children means less developed), substance use, exercise habits and chronic disease. The good news is that there are simple are ways to increase your immune system function.
Stay tuned for the next blog about five choices you can make daily to boost your immune system and prevent a sick day this cold and flu season.
In the mean time, take a look at this Harvard Medical School article about the effects of lifestyle on the immune system.
See you next week!