“The notion the immune system is something we can easily influence is cast into doubt when you realise how complicated it really is. There are hundreds of different types of cells in the immune system doing a variety of jobs whether it’s identifying invaders, carrying messages, devouring known bacteria or learning how to fight new enemies.”
BBC 2 ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’ Series
Likewise, arthritis is multi-faceted, with hundreds of different types, all of which work differently and none of which are fully understood. Trying to definitively connect the two ideas is all but impossible.
One thing though is clear: people who already live with arthritis are particularly vulnerable to the symptoms of infections that the immune system is supposed to protect against. They are already fighting one particularly nasty illness – the last thing they need is to deal with another.
In the case of inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, there is evidence sufferers are actually less well equipped to fight infections. This is because the immune system is erroneously attacking its own body, rather than being focused on defending against external threats. Further, it is possible that common medicines taken by people living with arthritis, so called immune suppressants, further reduce the body’s defensive capabilities.
As a result, it’s super important for people with arthritis – particularly the elderly, as immunity levels decline with age – to maintain the strongest immune system possible. For most, this is simply a matter of getting enough healthy food, sleep and exercise. But for the most vulnerable, a little extra effort can be worthwhile.
Let’s break this down into things you should STOP, START and CONSIDER.
- Smoking cigarettes, because they increase infection transmission levels and the activity of diseases once infected
- Drinking alcohol in excess, as it weakens the immune system and heightens the risk of infection
- Eating lots of leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, oily fish and unsalted nuts, as they contain high levels of immune boosting nutrients, along with lots of water
- Exercising regularly, in a low impact way if necessary, because it improves your circulation and reduces stress, which in turn both help the immune system
- Improving your quality of sleep, by avoiding caffeine after lunch, turning off your phone/tablet a few hours before bed and trying to retire at a similar time each night to create a routine
- Washing your hands carefully and frequently, especially when you’ve been outside the home
- Taking supplements, to boost levels of immunity supporting nutrients, such as vitamin A, C, D, E, Copper, Selenium and Zinc (ensuring sufficient dosages to make it worthwhile)
- Adding garlic, ginger and chilli to your meals, as there is evidence linking them to stronger immune systems (although the science isn’t as conclusive as for specific vitamins)
- Speaking to your doctor about your level of medication, as it might be beneficial to reduce if this is possible
- Having a flu shot, if you’ve not already
ActiFlex All-in-One Supplement
ActiFlex delivers immune support, through Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Copper, Selenium and Zinc, plus 10 other potent ingredients. This unique formula was created by a long term arthritis sufferer and health coach, to help others like her. Made in England, vegetarian friendly, non GMO.