Building the Immunity of an Alligator

I get it. You’re wondering what the hell am I talking about. Alligators and humans are completely different species. It is a known fact that alligators have better immune systems than humans. While we may never fully get the potential that an alligator has, there are ways of building our immune system up so we can strive to get to that point.

Now the backstory about alligators and their immunity.

alligator head

Ever wonder why an alligator has survived for as long as they have, while other species have been killed off due to different viruses and illnesses? Well this is why: Alligators have a ferocious immune system that can take down a vast range of viruses, bacteria and other infectious microbes, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The reptiles are extraordinarily sensitive to pesticides, fertilizers and other pollutants, making them a useful early-warning system of possible hazards to people. The alligator’s immune system is an adaptation to its environment and behavior. Alligators engage in brutal territorial fights in swamps that teem with bacteria and other microbes. After the thrashing stops and the wounded combatants separate, those with the strongest capacity to resist infection tend to survive and can therefore produce offspring.

Now as humans, how can we naturally build our immune system to help fight off infections, viruses, and other illnesses? Here are 8 ways to help build your immune system:

 

  1. Don’t smoke.
  2. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  3. Exercise regularly.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
  5. If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  6. Get adequate sleep.
  7. Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
  8. Try to minimize stress.

The more of these that you are able to do the stronger your immune system can be. Now granted if you have a chronic condition that affects your immune system that does weigh against you, but practicing these for anyone chronic condition or not is a way to get towards becoming healthier.

Now will things like herbs and supplements help boost my immune system? 

assorted jars on blue shelf cabinets

Walk into a store, and you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to “support immunity” or otherwise boost the health of your immune system. Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease. Demonstrating whether an herb — or any substance, for that matter — can enhance immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter. Scientists don’t know, for example, whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.

What about stress? Does stress help or hurt immune function?

pexels-photo-3985177

Modern medicine has come to appreciate the closely linked relationship of mind and body. A wide variety of maladies, including stomach upset, hives, and even heart disease, are linked to the effects of emotional stress. Despite the challenges, scientists are actively studying the relationship between stress and immune function.

For one thing, stress is difficult to define. What may appear to be a stressful situation for one person is not for another. When people are exposed to situations they regard as stressful, it is difficult for them to measure how much stress they feel, and difficult for the scientist to know if a person’s subjective impression of the amount of stress is accurate. The scientist can only measure things that may reflect stress, such as the number of times the heart beats each minute, but such measures also may reflect other factors.

Most scientists studying the relationship of stress and immune function, however, do not study a sudden, short-lived stressor; rather, they try to study more constant and frequent stressors known as chronic stress, such as that caused by relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, or sustained challenges to perform well at one’s work. Some scientists are investigating whether ongoing stress takes a toll on the immune system.

But it is hard to perform what scientists call “controlled experiments” in human beings. In a controlled experiment, the scientist can change one and only one factor, such as the amount of a particular chemical, and then measure the effect of that change on some other measurable phenomenon, such as the amount of antibodies produced by a particular type of immune system cell when it is exposed to the chemical. In a living animal, and especially in a human being, that kind of control is just not possible, since there are so many other things happening to the animal or person at the time that measurements are being taken.

Despite these inevitable difficulties in measuring the relationship of stress to immunity, scientists are making progress.

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