We all know that for a healthy body we need a strong immune system. But only a few know how our immune system actually works. Let us first try to understand what immunity is.
Immunity is a very complex biological system that differentiates between ourselves and foreign substances in our body and acts accordingly to reject foreign substances with the help of the body’s defence system. Our body immune system recognises bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens and tries to get rid of them to keep us healthy.
There are three types of immunity:
- Innate immunity: innate immunity is present from birth. It provides general protection.
- Adaptive immunity: it is also known as active immunity. It develops throughout our life. We develop active immunity when we are exposed to diseases or when we are vaccinated against diseases.
- Passive immunity: it is artificially acquired from other sources and only acts for a short period of time such as maternal antibodies are protective for newborn babies.
Why do women have better immunity than men?
Women are different in many aspects from men like structural, biological, psychological, and hormonal levels. Respond to various pathogens are also differ in men and women. It is also stated that women have a lower incidence of cancer than men, and, women also better survive from a serious illness.
Recent studies have shown that women have a better immune system against infections than men. This is due to the genetic structural difference. This genetic structure is known as microRNAs. This microRNA is located on the female X chromosome. The prime role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the immune function includes an innate and adaptive immune response, development and differentiation of immune cells to pathogens, and prevention of developing autoimmunity. Thus these microRNAs give women an immunity advantage over men.
According to the latest studies, a correlation between microRNAs and immune response opens a vast opportunity to understand the strong immune responses in females. In association with the X chromosome, a hormonal difference also plays a role in the immune response.
Females have better innate and adaptive immune responses to disease-causing pathogens than males. Females also produce better protective antibodies following vaccination against flu, yellow fever, dengue, and viral infections.
Despite stronger interferon production, and greater T-cell activation in women, there is also a setback of increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis etc.
How to build a strong immune system in females
Females have a boon of a greater immune system to fight against disease-causing pathogens. But there is some setback also. Females are more prone to autoimmune diseases, and prone to infections that directly attack the immune system like HIV infection. Progression of AIDS is faster in women because of the higher activation of T cells. That’s why females have to work on building a strong immune system. Following are some methods that can help to build strong immunity:
- A well-balanced diet is a key role in improving immunity. We have to include fresh vegetables, leafy vegetables, variety of fruits in our diet to make our body strong. We have to include proteins and complex carbohydrates in our diets such as quinoa, brown rice, eggs, meat, and fish. Intake of a balanced diet improves our body’s defence system.
- Excluding processed food and too sugary food products from the diet can have a positive effect on our health.
- Probiotic-rich foods boost our immunity. Probiotic-rich food like yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir, soya bean, green tea, and tofu can gradually improve our defence mechanism against infections.
- Avoid consumption of alcohol to degrade our health. Instead of drinking alcohol based drinks, we have to prefer green tea, cranberry juice, carrot juice, bone broth to build up immunity.
- Some spices are good for our health. Spices like ginger, cinnamon, and thyme are good for immunity. They not only improve taste in our food, but also have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
- We have to keep ourselves hydrated. Water keeps our lungs moist and free from mucus. It also removes toxins from our bodies. Drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water is a must for proper hydration.
- Quit smoking as soon as possible. Any kind of smoking either active or passive, make us prone to many diseases and impair our immune health.
- We have to stay active. Exercising regularly improves our immune system against various diseases.
- Proper sleep of 7 to 8 hours is a must to rejuvenate our body mechanism to fight against various diseases.
- With the recommendation of your doctor taking additional supplements also improves our body defence system. These additional supplements like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, biotin provides extra supportive hand for better immunity.
Dr. Sapna Raina | Senior Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Centre, Bommasandra, Bangalore