Nobody knows exactly how your immune system works. It is a complicated network which involves antibodies, proteins, chemicals and white blood cells. A strong immune system means these are all working in harmony and help you to fight illness, viruses, bacteria and all other sorts of nasties that are waiting to attack. Researchers do not yet fully understand how food, exercise and rest affect the system but interesting facts are coming to light. There is now enough evidence to show that a healthy lifestyle will certainly help our immune system to stay ahead.
Let us examine what can compromise or weaken this delicately balanced system and which immunity boosters you should choose.
1. Negative thinking strikes again
There is lots of research now to show that negative thinking and a gloomy outlook can only drag you down, physically and mentally. Researchers at the Loma Linda University Medicine School have shown that humor, laughter and looking forward to pleasant events are possible ways of strengthening the immune system.
‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.’ –Proverbs 17:22.
2. Sleep deprivation
According to the CDC, there are close on 70 million Americans who suffer from disturbed sleep and/or poor quality sleep. When you sleep well, your body releases cytokines which not only help you get to sleep but also are protagonists when you have to fight infection.
3. Eating the wrong breakfast
If you eat breakfast with lots of fat and carbohydrates, you may well find that your body is trying to cope in digesting all this. The immune system is prevented from doing more essential tasks, such as warding off germs and viruses.
4. Too much stress
Stress is another way to damage the immune system. There are innumerable studies which show that stress can make you much more vulnerable to all sorts of infections and disease, including cancer.
If you are feeling like Greta Garbo and prefer to remain alone, think again. A study carried out at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University found clear evidence that lonely people are more prone to inflammation, infections and earlier death.
6. Too much sugar
Of course, you need sugar but it can get out of hand. Researchers have found that the neutrophils, which are an important component in white blood cells, are actually compromised when you take too much sugar. The neutrophils are essential when fighting microbes.
7. Too many antibiotics
I know loads of patients and doctors who are using antibiotics like candy! The cytokines we mentioned above are also reduced in quantity when we start taking antibiotics for the slightest infection. The result is that the immune system is damaged and compromises your ability to fight bacteria in the future.
8. You never exercise
Just look at the statistics. People who never take a walk are twice as liable to take sick leave than those who do! Everything in moderation, of course, as overexertion can often result in you getting a cold afterwards, as many marathon runners have found.
9. You are exposed to too many toxins
In North Carolina, there is a pesticides dump in Aberdeen. Researchers have found that residents in the area are twice as likely to get shingles than non-residents. Studies show that when you are exposed to all these toxins, the immune system is definitely compromised.
10. You are not drinking enough water
Water is essential in getting rid of various toxins. You need between 2 to 3 liters of water every day. Your immune system tends to go into overdrive if it has to neutralize all those poisons that are accumulating.
‘Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.’- W.H. Auden
12 Immunity Boosters You Should Eat
We have looked at the lifestyle errors which can erode the immune system. Now look at the 12 immunity boosters you should be including regularly in your diet.
1. Eat these to help your liver
The liver has a tough job in getting rid of all those toxins. Eat broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other cruciferous veggies to help the liver function better. Your immunity will be boosted.
2. Eat ginger
Ayurvedic medicine is the oldest medicine tradition in the world (5,000 years old). According to this tradition, ginger can help to clean the lymphatic system and help the immune system as it does so. I have found that it also relieves arthritis.
3. Get more vitamin C
Most fruits contain Vitamin C but guess which one contains 5 times more than an orange? Black currants get the prize.
4. Eat some nuts and seeds
Pumpkin seeds happen to be my favorite. They have lots of magnesium, manganese and also have zinc. Experts say that they may help to keep your immune system in top form.
5. Eat more yogurt
One Swedish study of about 3 months followed factory workers who were given some probiotic yogurt containing the Lactobacillus reuteri. These workers were taking much less sick leave (33% less) than their counterparts who were on a placebo. These friendly type of bacteria in the yogurt help to keep intestines healthy and can also boost your immune system.
6. Eat more garlic
Don’t worry about bad breath because you can take specially coated garlic capsules which will dissolve in the intestines rather than in your stomach. This will prevent any embarrassment at close quarters. Benefits of garlic are numerous and can range from managing prostate disorders to treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It is at the top of the list for building up your immune system.
7. Try some chicken broth
This is much more than your grandmother’s traditional recipe. Chicken broth has a lot going for it.
Once you start cooking chicken, the cysteine amino acid is released which is really useful for treating bronchitis and flu like symptoms. Adding in garlic and onions can also increase its immune building properties.
8. Drink more tea
Did you know that interferon in tea can help fight viruses? You will have to drink about 5 cups of black tea to get the full benefit. But, as regards immune building, there is another substance in tea which is L-theanine and you do not have to drink 5 cups!
9. Get more vitamin A
Guess how many square feet your total skin area covers? 16 square feet! Why should we bother about our skin? The answer is that it is the first line of defence when it comes to fighting certain bacteria. The best way to keep skin in top condition is to make sure that you eat plenty of vegetables containing beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes are the best source for helping you to convert the beta-carotene into an invaluable supply of Vitamin A. Carrots, squash and pumpkin are other vegetables which can be useful for this purpose.
10. Eat more mushrooms
Most people think that mushrooms dissolve into brown liquid and have little nutritional value. How wrong they are! Opt for the reishi and shiitake types of mushrooms which can help the white blood cells to be more effective. Just by adding a handful to pasta, pizza, eggs or even a sandwich can really help boost your immune system.
11. Eat more honey
Honey has lots of antioxidants which can help boost your immunity. Babies who younger than one year are not to be given honey as their immune systems are not sufficiently developed to prevent the honey spores causing botulism.
12. Stock up on spices
Adding in rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and other spices to soups, pasta and salads can add great flavour and spice things up a bit. These are also easy and inexpensive ways of giving your immune system a boost.
Just by following these tips, you can improve your health all round. Your immune system will thank you for it!
Featured photo credit: My favourite TED talk/Steve Jurveston via flickr.com