You wake up with a headache, irritated throat, maybe a low-grade fever and cough. A cold virus (antigen) has successfully invaded your body and made you ill. The immune system quickly identifies it and develops antibodies that attack the specific virus that is causing your symptoms.
This does not provide a stronger immune system that prevents infection from other invading bacteria or viruses. There are more than 200 cold viruses out there each requiring a different set of antibodies.
What You Are Protected From After Being Sick
You are only protected against the specific antigen causing your current symptoms. Chemicals, viruses, bacteria or pollen are all antigens.
There are four types of antibodies:
- Those made as soon as an antigen is identified are IgM and are short-lived. These immediately go to the location of the infection and trigger the body to produce new antibodies (IgG).
- These new antibodies (IgG) stick around in the blood continuing to fight the infection.
- Other antibodies (IgA) are in saliva, sweat, and tears identifying and grabbing antigens before they start an infection.
- The fourth type (IgE) deal with allergens and ramp up the immune system often causing itching or a runny nose
Does Your Immune System Get Stronger Every Time You Get Sick?
When your body is invaded by an antigen and produces antibodies your immune system is not stronger in general, it only provides a weapon in the arsenal to fight a specific invader. The more often you get sick the more antibodies your immune system develops. These antibodies only work against the specific organism you contracted. There are, however, hundreds of different cold viruses and your body will need to develop a different set of antibodies for each one.
Major components of the immune system are white blood cells, antibodies, the lymphatic system, spleen, bone marrow, and the complement system. Once the immune system defeats an antigen it keeps a record and if you are exposed again it will defeat that particular antigen because it remembers the germ.
Is Getting a Cold Good For Your Immune System?
Frequent colds are actually a sign of a weak immune system. It is fairly common for adults to suffer from colds two to three times a year. With a healthy immune system, a cold should pass within 7-10 days. While you can treat cold symptoms nothing is really effective to “cure” a cold. Antibiotics are not effective in treating colds and excessive use of antibiotics can render them ineffective when you really need them.
There is evidence that children who are exposed frequently in early childhood to viruses may develop immune systems that are less likely to succumb to colds later in life. This is because once the body is exposed to a virus and overcomes it the next time that virus shows up the body already has antibodies for it.
Can Your Immune System Stop a Cold?
A cold virus is an antigen to which the body’s immune system develops an antibody. Once you have contracted a cold and are having symptoms it is not possible to stop the process. With a healthy immune system, the body will fight the virus. You can treat the symptoms.
Chicken soup is known to be an effective treatment of cold (and flu) symptoms. It replenishes the body with much-needed fluids. It contains vegetables providing essential vitamins. Chicken broth contains zinc which contributes to a healthy immune system.
Fever is part of the body’s response to an antigen and is a tool in the body’s arsenal in fighting a virus. Because of this, unless the fever exceeds 100 F do not treat it.
How Does The Immune System Cause a Fever?
When bacteria or a virus attacks the body the immune system produces pyrogens telling the brain the body is cool. The brain then directs the body to increase the temperature. This stimulates chemical reactions in the body to produce antibodies to fight the disease, to stimulate the activity of white blood cells which are infection fighters, and inhibit the invading antigen’s growth.
The fever is a weapon in the body’s arsenal of fighting viruses. When you have a fever, unless there are other health risks, do not treat a fever unless it exceeds 100 F.
What Factors Weaken Your Immune System?
Factors impacting your immune system sometimes are within your control. Others may not be.
- Some pre-existing conditions cause a compromised or weakened immune system. Among those are diabetes, leukemia and multiple myeloma.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis cause the body to attack its own healthy cells leading to a weakened immune system.
- There are underlying causes such as malnutrition or inadequate rest or sleep.
- Medications including steroids and chemotherapy compromise the immune system.
- Tobacco use and stress are factors that weaken the immune system.
- Food choices include too much fat and sugar, and too little fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Inactivity contributes to obesity and can lead to heart problems and immune suppression.
Is There a Way For Me to Improve My Immune System?
While there are some things we cannot change, there is much we can do to ramp up our immune system. If you have a goal of improving your immune system you will need to adopt a proactive lifestyle. It will be necessary to reverse or eliminate many of the behaviors contributing to a weakened immune system.
Regarding pre-existing conditions, some can be reversed through lifestyle behaviors. Some can not. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be controlled through weight loss and increased activity.
Your doctor should be your source for many of the lifestyle changes you need to institute.
- Ask your doctor if diet changes can reduce the impact of an autoimmune condition. Food allergens can often be a factor.
- Discuss healthy solutions for how you can deal with insomnia or sleep deprivation.
- Talk about medications you are taking and if there are better options with fewer side effects for you.
- There are resources that will help you eliminate the use of tobacco if you desire to do so.
- It is a common consensus that consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat proteins such as fish, chicken and nuts boost the immune system.
- Socialization, though challenging during this pandemic, does contribute to emotional health which impacts physical health. It also keeps the mind active.
Supplements Can Help
Having a cold does not provide general immune system health. What successfully fighting a cold will do is promote the body to produce antibodies to fight that specific virus. Those antibodies will hang around in the body ready to attack that specific virus should it show up again. There are supplements that are believed to promote a healthy immune system. Always check with your doctor when considering adding a supplement to your regimen. Having a healthy immune system allows you to live the best possible life.
Spermidine is a supplement that promotes cell repair and renewal. It promotes autophagy, the natural regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells to regenerate newer, healthier cells. Spermidine included with other healthy lifestyle choices can help promote a healthy immune system.