Monday, October 19, 2009

Give yourself an Immune Boost!

It is officially Flu season, and although most of us will be unaffected by the H1N1 virus, some of us may still catch Seasonal Influenza. Now is the time to support our fighting immune cells working over time during the colder months. There are natural ways to help shorten the course of a viral infection or bacterial infection in our bodies. *NOTE: No advice herein should replace the advice of a physician; every body is different and any symptoms should be assessed by a medical doctor.

"There is no substitute for Clinical Judgement." -Dr Anne Schuchat CDC Director of National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

Think of your immune system as an extremely intricate, intelligent, and efficient defense system. Let's helps strengthen it and give our bodies a fighting chance!

  • Moderate Exercise: Besides boosting the production of macrophages, exercise also helps release hormones and endorphins which increase circulation and reduce cortisol and other free radicals caused by stress. Regular, consistent exercise contributes to proper immune function. But be careful, over-working your body can have the opposite effect and slightly lower our immunity.
  • Fluids: The immune response involves millions of cells, tissues, and organs communicating and working together to fight off invading Antigens. Drinking plenty of water and fluids guarantees that these cells can function properly--We need hydration at the cellular level! Dehydration is also a very serious complication that can cause rapid decline especially in children and the elderly already suffering from the flu or bacterial infection. Stay Hydrated!
  • Nutrition: Eating well and getting our nutrients from our food is key! Nutrients from food are easily assimilated by our bodies; but taking a vitamin supplement if you have a busy lifestyle is also recommended. Here is a list of foods/nutrients that help boost immunity:

-Vitamin C: Think outside the Orange this season, and also
reach for the tropical fruits like guava, mango and papaya, berries, as well as
leafy greens. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and immune-boosting vitamin,
but we have to ingest a continuous supply throughout the day as it is water
soluble and excretes through the urine.

-Carotenoids: Another group of
infection-fighting antioxidants is alpha, beta, and gamma carotene which our
bodies convert into Vitamin A/retinol. These are fat soluble provitamins and care must
be taken to avoid an overdose. Carrots, spinach, bell peppers, apricots, sweet
potatoes and other yummy veggies contain carotenoids.

-Vitamin E: A fat-soluble antioxidant in the "Top-Three,"
Vitamin E, or tocopherol, also helps boost our immune cells
and is just as important as Vitamin C! Vitamin E is stored in our bodies, so if
you eat enough Vitamin E through your diet, a supplement may not be necessary.
Find Vitamin E in spinach, leafy greens, asparagus, olives, seeds, nuts, and

-Garlic: My favorite way to add flavor and fighting power to
a dish! Think of it as muscles for your immune cells. Garlic is a heart-friendly
natural antibiotic and antioxidant. Whether you roast it, sauté it, or eat it raw,
Garlic is a must during cold season!

-Bioflavonoids: Phytonutrients help protect
our immune cells from environmental agents, pollutants, and debris like a
protective shield. Phytonutrients can be found in a wide variety
of fruits and vegetables. Make sure to eat a wide range of colors for the most
nutrients throughout the day.

-Selenium: Selenium is essential to good health and proper
immune function! Selenium binds to proteins to make selenoproteins, powerful antioxidant enzymes.
Plant foods are the number once source of selenium: Brazil nuts, mushrooms,
asparagus, spinach and many other fruits and veggies contain selenium.

-Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A daily dose of flax oil could help
boost your phagocytes (white blood cells that eat up invaders). Adding flax meal
to baked goods or morning oatmeal can help supply the Omega 3's our bodies need.

-Zinc: Getting plenty of Zinc also helps production of
helper T cells! Beans are rich in Zinc, as well as many Fall veggies like
gourds, pumpkin/pumpkin seeds, and squash.

Many wholesome foods are naturally rich in all of these nutrients! Although
there are dangers associated with overdosing on some minerals and fat-soluble
vitamins, remember that it is VERY difficult if not impossible to overdose on
vitamins you eat in your food! If you're otherwise healthy and eat well, you may
not need a multi-vitamin at all!

  • Preventative Measures: Routine hand-washing is especially important in children, who may come in direct contact with harmful bacteria or viruses. Thorough washing with warm soapy water will help reduce risk of transferring those microbes to their mouths, eyes, or noses. Covering a cough or sneeze is also very important to stop the spreading of germs to those we love.
  • Alternative "Cures": Now is not the time to fall for Internet Scams regarding our health. Please be careful what you read and go directly to authoritative sources on these serious issues. The FDA has been investigating serious fraudulent sites claiming to have "natural" or "alternative" cures. I would personally never trust fly-by-night websites selling some new product!

Although it is not scientifically proven that lifestyle changes can significantly improve your very complex immune system, I believe the mind and body are extremely powerful! The whole body organism requires balance and harmony along with nutrients and exercise to function optimally. Decreasing stress, eating well, exercising and practicing preventative measures will definitely improve your odds of fighting off an infection this season.

Stay Healthy! Stay informed! And Eat a Rainbow of Colors Each Day!

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