The human immune system is basically a group of cells dedicated to the protection of human body from harmful microbes (pathogens) and infections. Needless to say, a healthy immune system is extremely crucial for survival and for dealing with infectious agents. The skin, which protects and covers body organs, is the first line of defence against disease causing microbes. Made up of a tough layer of cells, the skin forms an impermeable barrier to prevent entry of infection causing germs and free radicals. This impermeable barrier is called epithelium. Lining the epithelium of internal organs are the mucosal surfaces, which secrete thick mucus to protect the epithelial cells from damage. Special anti-microbial substances are also secreted by skin which kill / inhibit growth of microbes.
Lest the microorganisms succeed in entering soft tissues by penetrating these physical barriers in case of a wound, abrasion, cut or infection, the second line of defence- innate immunity - comes into play. This involves recognition of pathogens by specialized proteins known as cytokines and subsequent destruction with the help of cells known as neutrophils. The innate immune response is quick in action and has the ability to control infection and prevent diseases.
In conditions of poor nutritional status, stress, lack of sleep and continual exposure to virulent pathogens, the innate immunity fails and the third line of defence- adaptive or acquired immunity is required. The white blood cells called lymphocytes are responsible for a highly specialized immune response against various pathogens. Structurally, lymphocytes are of two types: large and small. Large cells are comprised of natural killer cells whereas small cells include T-cells and B-cells. These three lines of defence work together to provide immunity against diseases and ensure general well-being.
Nutrition and immune response to infection are closely linked. Nutritional status of an individual influences their immune function and the subsequent response to a pathogen. On the other hand, an infection whether acute or chronic has a harmful influence on the individual’s nutritional status. In case of nutrient deficiency or toxicity, the first body tissues to get affected are immunity building tissues1.
Adequate nutrition helps ensure that immune cells keep producing infection fighting substances.2 Micronutrients are linked to the formation of anti-bodies and development of the immune system3 . Poor nutrition leads to underweight, weakened immune function and vulnerability to infections in children, mainly because of compromised skin surface integrity and inflammation3.
Micronutrients such as Iron, Folic acid, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Vitamin C are the micronutrients known to play an important role in supporting immunity. There is an average daily level of intake given for each nutrient which is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of an individual. This level is known as Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Horlicks contains 100 % RDA of Folate, Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Selenium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6. It has 50 % RDA of Copper and 15 % RDA of Zinc1.
The human body is exposed to a variety of microbes and infections on a daily basis. A strong immune system is absolutely vital to protect the body from disease causing agents. A healthy immune system is dependent on a variety of factors. First and foremost is right nutrition.
The immune system needs a continuous supply of micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, Selenium, and Copper, among others, for immune cell regeneration1. Poor micronutrient status of the body is linked to a weak immune system in children. Having micronutrient rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, dairy products, pulses and whole grains helps develop healthy immunity.
The level of physical activity also has an effect on immunity. Being physically active has been shown to have a positive effect on immune system through a reduction in inflammatory substances and an increase in non-inflammatory substances2. So it is important to indulge in some kind of physical activity to boost the immune system.
Apart from this, adequate sleep, good personal hygiene, less mental stress and a positive state of mind also play an important role in ensuring a healthy immune system.
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