Our immune systems are constantly bombarded with pollutants, allergens and toxins in our environment, food and water. Add to that the stressful lives most people live and you have a very tired immune system. There are over 50,000 chemicals in use to day that find their way into water systems, agricultural and manufacturing food production. In addition, the standard American Diet has become so refined that it no longer supplies us with the needed nutrients to help our immune systems stay strong.
“This decreased nutritional quality of our dietary intake has resulted in weakened immune systems” noted Neil Orenstein, Ph. D., nutritional Biochemist and author of the Immune System (Keats).
So the answer is not a simple one. There are however, a few things that we can do to boost our immune systems to stay healthy. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Remember too, that changing old habits into healthier ones can’t happen overnight, so be patient.
l. Introducing more natural foods to your diet by increasing fruit and vegetable servings and adding whole grains and whole grains breads and pastas to your diet. Reduce “stress” foods – coffee, sugar, sweets, alcohol, hydrogenated fats, fast food, junk food and highly refined and processed food.
2. Reduce Stress– Take up a sport, yoga, tai chi, karate, bicycling, hiking, meditation, swimming, anything that stretches the body and distracts the mind is relaxing.
3. Exercise – Excess weight and lack of exercise can put unnecessary stress on the body and the immune system.
4. Herbal supplements – herbs were ancient medicines and can help to boost the immune system.
5. Vitamin and Mineral Anti-oxidants – Sometimes we can’t always eat balanced and get all our fruits and vegetables in so vitamins and minerals can help to boost your nutrient supply.
IMMUNITY BUILDING BLOCKS
The immune systems vital job is to protect our bodies against infection from viruses, fungi, bacteria parasites and pollutants. A well balanced diet that contains a variety of important nutrients like vitamins and minerals can help keep our immunity strong. However, some people suffer from an inability to properly absorb the nutrients they do consume. Consult a physician if you suspect a digestion problem. Key nutrients, whose deficiencies may weaken the immune system, include vit. A, the B complex and C and essential fatty acids (EFAs) and trace minerals.
Vitamin A is an essential component of mucous membranes that line the digestive, respiratory and urogenital tracts. These areas are one of the first lines of defense our bodies have against environmental toxins and harmful viruses and bacterial. It is essential for cellular immunity including T-cells and white blood cells.
Food sources: meats, eggs, dairy, fish liver oils, dark green leafy and yellow vegetables: kale, collard greens, dandelion, broccoli, parsley, watercress, spinach, yellow squash, carrots, winter squash, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C is one of the antioxidants, and is essential for the body’s production of interferon, a substance with profound antiviral effects. A deficiency of vit. C often shows up in decreased activity of immune system phagocytes, reduced cellular protection and slow wound healing.
Food Sources: Most fresh fruit and vegetables but most abundant in citrus fruits, berries, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, peppers and cabbage.
B Complex is crucial for a healthy immune system because of their role in antibody protection, normal cellular function and stress tolerance. Especially B6, B12 and pantothenic acid.
Food Sources: whole grains (like brown rice, barley, millet, oats, etc.), enriched whole grain breads and pastas, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, meat and milk.
TRACE MINERALS such as zinc, copper, iron, manganese and selenium all of which you will find in with other quality essential minerals in our Health and Beauty isle. Zinc- is essential for the production of T and B cells which are immune fighters and antibody production.
Copper- is important in the production of white blood cells and antibody production and superoxide dismutase, an important antioxidant, free-radical killer which is also dependent on zinc.
Iron- essential for bringing oxygen to the cells and for the immune system. When cells are starved of oxygen, it results in a decrease of immune fighting cells.
Manganese -also plays a role in immune antibodies because of its antioxidant properties.
Selenium and Vit. E work together to increase the body’s immune response by helping the white blood cells to devour bacteria and viruses.
Of course, we could not forget to mention the “stinking rose: (garlic) as it has been touted for centuries as a cure for what ever ails you. Modern research has proven this to be true. Garlic contains several antioxidant vitamins and minerals and may in fact, help to keep the immune system strong. Gilles Fillion, M.D., of the Pasteur Institute of France, explained that garlic extract regulates serotonin receptor levels,. which are often suppressed by stress, fatigue and depression.
Echinacea– The best known and oldest herb (used for over 300 years). It was the most prescribed medicine before antibiotics. Researchers have published many studies on echinacea’s ability to regulate the immune system by stimulating the white blood cells and interferon production. Hundreds of laboratory experiments have been carried out exploring the herb’s immune enhancing effects and it has been a valued part of European mainstream medicine for over 60 years.
Goldenseal – is one of the most useful herbs available to us, and it has powerful tonic qualities for the mouscous membranes of the body. It contains a compound called berberine, which is a potent natural antibiotic. “Goldenseal is a great help in all digestive problems such as gastritis and colitis and a great benefit for upper respiratory tract infections”, explains David Hoffmann author of The Herbal Handbook (Healing Arts Press).
St. John’s Wort – For centuries this plant has been used to heal wounds, burns, urinary infections and alleviate nervous disorders. Modern medicine confirms its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and sedative activity.
Ginseng – When it comes to herbs that nurture our immunity, ginseng is one of the best. Siberian ginseng has shown tonic and immune enhancing properties in several studies. It is an herbal adaptogen (helps the body adapt to nonspecific stress).
I suggest you follow the recommendations from the manufacturer regarding dosage or check with your health care practitioner or nutritionist.