It’s the time of year when coughs and colds spread at rapid speed. Whether it’s your children bringing home their germs from the playground or that colleague who keeps coughing near your desk, there’s always an illness doing the rounds.
Couple this seasonal scene with the fact that, for many of us, the past few years have reduced our exposure to germs, potentially compromising our immune systems, and the fact that Covid-19 is still circulating in the population and many of us are wondering what we can do to give ourselves a health boost.
So, is it possible to build our immune systems? And if so, how?
What is the immune system and are there home blood test options to check your immunity to various diseases?
The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. It keeps a record of every germ it has ever defeated so it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again.
The immune system is made up of many parts, including:
- bone marrow
- lymphatic system
- white blood cells
What can happen if the immune system is compromised?
When the immune system isn’t functioning as it should, it can often become either over or under active, resulting in several health issues.
An overactive immune system can lead to:
allergic diseases - where the immune system overreacts to an allergen. Allergic diseases are very common, including reactions to foods, medications or stinging insects, anaphylaxis, hay fever, sinus disease, asthma, hives, dermatitis, and eczema.
- autoimmune diseases - where the immune system adversely reacts against normal components of the body. Autoimmune diseases range from common to rare and include multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Underactivity of the immune system, also called immunodeficiency, can:
- be inherited
- happen after medical treatment – such as medications like corticosteroids or chemotherapy
- be caused by another disease - such as HIV/AIDS or certain types of cancer.
An underactive immune system makes you vulnerable to infections and can be life threatening in severe cases.
Is it possible to improve the immune system?
You might think that the goal is to have a strong immune system, but that’s not necessarily the case. As we’ve mentioned, the immune system can become either over or under active, so the ideal state is one of balance.
Can this be achieved? While there are many factors that can be out of our control, there is a lot you can do to optimise your health, and in turn, give your immune system the best opportunity to function well.
Eat well. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is an important building block of good health. Getting the right vitamins and minerals through your food, as well as staying hydrated and keeping your weight in check all have an important impact on your immune system.
Sleep well. Sleep is when the body does it’s work to heal and restore, so it’s vitally important to get enough rest so that the components of your immune systems can also can the rest they need.
Give up smoking. There are no positive health effects associated with smoking, but plenty of negative reasons why you should kick the habit. Smoking can damage many of the systems involved in a health immune system, leading to illness and infection.
Steer clear of intolerances and allergies. Foods, drinks, and other substances, both natural and manmade, that cause an allergic response or trigger an intolerance can put the immune system under unnecessary stress. If you know what causes a reaction for you, try to limit your exposure.
Get a clear picture of your health risks. Conditions such as diabetes can interfere with your immune system, causing its ability to function to be compromised. Having a good idea of your broader health and risk factors gives you an advantage, helping you make the right lifestyle changes to avoid those risks.
Private immunity testing in the comfort of your own home
With GP waiting times increasing in many practices, Home Blood Tests is becoming a common alternative for many people looking to take control of their health and wellbeing.
At Blue Horizon we offer a comprehensive range of blood testing options for immunity to various diseases, as well as a larger profile of diagnostic checks to help you get a complete picture of your health.
Our immunity tests include diagnostic checks for antibodies against diseases, including:
- Rubella, measles, and mumps
- Hepatitis B, C
You might also be interested in checking your risk factors for these, and other diseases including diabetes, thyroid, liver, or kidney disease. Our comprehensive VIP test is a great place to start, offering a full picture of your health.
Quick and convenient home tests
This test is available as a finger prick or vacutainer sample collection option or saliva sample. You can also choose to visit a BMI Hospital or have a nurse home visit.
If you choose to collect the sample yourself, your home-to-laboratory kit contains everything you need to take a blood sample in the comfort of your own home, at a time to suit you, and sent it back to us for testing.
Clear, accurate results
The time it takes to receive your results will depend on the type of test you have chosen. When they are ready, your results will be sent directly to you, via email, within the time specified. If you would prefer to receive a paper copy of your results through the post, that can be arranged for you.
You can also choose the option of reported or unreported results. Reported results include information and comment from our GP which you may find helpful to discuss with your own consultant, or for your records.