June 15, 2023
The immune system is a remarkable defense mechanism that protects our body from harmful pathogens and diseases. It comprises a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to identify and eliminate potential threats to our health. The immune system consists of two main types of cells: innate and adaptive. The innate cells are the first line of defense, consisting of physical barriers such as skin, mucus, and white blood cells. The adaptive cells, including T-cells and B-cells, are more specialized and work together to identify and target abnormal cells in the body. This dynamic interplay between innate and adaptive cells is crucial in maintaining a strong immune system that can effectively fight against harmful pathogens and diseases.
The immune system of a person diagnosed with cancer is weakened due to disease, treatment or both. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery damage cancer cells and some healthy cells, including those parts of the immune system. This damage can lead to a decrease in immune cells and their ability to function properly. Leaving the body more vulnerable to infections and other health issues. Taking steps to support and strengthen the immune system during cancer treatment is crucial.
5 Ways to Strengthen Immune System during cancer treatment are as follows:
Just like the engine, our body needs fuel to function properly. A balanced healthy diet is crucial in maintaining a strong immune system during cancer treatments. Specific nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals are essential for healthy immunity. For example, protein is needed to build and repair tissues, including those of the immune system. Vitamins like A, C, and E have antioxidant properties that help protect cells from damage, while minerals like zinc and selenium also support immune function.
Every patient's nutritional needs are unique, especially when undergoing cancer treatment. Talking to an oncologist at a cancer treatment center or a registered dietitian who can provide personalized recommendations based on the patient's specific needs and treatment plan is recommended. They may suggest incorporating immunity boosting foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats into one’s daily diet.
Regular exercise is not only good for physical and mental health, but it is also great to help boost the immune system during cancer treatment. Exercise has been shown to stimulate the production of immune cells, improving their ability to detect and fight off infections and diseases.
While everyone's exercise needs may differ, at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for at least three to five days. This includes activities like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or yoga. It's important to consult a cancer treatment center physician before starting any exercise routine, especially if the patient is experiencing any treatment-related side effects or has any physical limitations. For example, chemotherapy can cause fatigue and weakness, while radiation therapy can cause skin irritation and pain.
In addition to regular exercise, simple lifestyle changes like taking short walks, standing up and walking about frequently, and stretching throughout the day can also help improve circulation and boost immune function.
Most of the time, people think that if they eat right and exercise regularly, they can maintain overall health, even if their sleep pattern is disturbed. Getting adequate and quality sleep is crucial. Sleep helps the body repair and regenerate tissues, including the immune system. According to a study, sleep deprivation can suppress immune function, increase infection risk, and develop various disorders.
During sleep, the body produces cytokines, which are proteins that help fight off infection, inflammation, and stress. Sleep deprivation can decrease cytokine production, compromising the immune system's ability to respond to infections.
Patients undergoing cancer treatment may experience disrupted sleep patterns due to treatment-related side effects such as pain, anxiety, or medication side effects. To enhance the sleep quality, consider adopting the following practices:
If there is still a sleep disturbance, connect with the healthcare provider to help improve sleep and know ways to strengthen the immune system.
Chronic disease does cause stress and isn't good for the person battling cancer. Prolonged stress suppresses immune function and increases inflammation, making it harder for the body to fight infections and diseases. That's why finding effective ways to manage stress during cancer treatment is important.
Prioritize self-care and relaxation by including techniques and activities like:
Talking to a mental health professional, support group, or counselor can also provide additional tools and support to help manage stress and improve emotional well-being during cancer treatment. Managing stress and supporting and strengthening immune function can help improve your overall health and well-being.
Two important changes to consider are quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption. Smoking is a risk factor for many health problems, including respiratory infections and autoimmune diseases. Quitting smoking can help improve lung function, reduce inflammation, and improve overall immune function. Additionally, exposure to secondhand smoke can harm the immune system, so avoiding areas where people smoke is also important.
Alcohol consumption also has negative effects. Excessive alcohol consumption can impair immune function by reducing the number and function of immune cells. Limiting alcohol consumption to moderate levels (up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men) can help support immune function.
In addition to these lifestyle changes, maintaining good hygiene practices, such as washing hands frequently, avoiding large crowds, or meeting sick individuals, can help reduce the spread of infections and promote overall health. Getting vaccinated and staying up to date on recommended vaccines can also help protect against infectious diseases.
A strong immune system is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. And it is especially crucial during cancer treatment. One can support immunity and improve quality of life by implementing simple lifestyle changes.
Additionally, taking precautions to protect against infection and environmental hazards, such as air pollution or chemicals, can compromise the immune system and reduce the risk of complications during cancer treatment. It is always wise to speak to the ACTC physicians – a cancer treatment center to discuss the best strategies for strengthening the immune system and protecting health during treatment. Remember, even small changes can make a big difference.