The immune system is a network that helps us avoid illness or sometimes it can become the underlying reason we get sick. In simplest terms, the immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend us against disease. Our immune system blocks foreign proteins from getting into our body. If a few intruders happen to sneak by our biological sentry, that’s OK. With a powerful “search and destroy” task force, our body deploys a host of additional immune cell forces that are designed to hunt down the unwanted intruders and ultimately work to destroy them. In the past one year, thousands of our followers on our e-health consultation platform and print articles have been posing the questions related to possible solutions to boosting human immunity against diseases that have found an opportunity to syndromically infect us. Hence, it is in this view that we now discuss those solutions in this article.
The immune system is important. Very much like our own personal army, it guards our body against attacks from invaders (like bacteria, fungi, and viruses), defending against infections and several kinds of cancer. And it’s smart, too, often “remembering” certain infections so it’s ready for them the next time they try to attack. But just like any other body system, our immune system can deteriorate if we don’t treat it well.
This is based on the fact that, the human body has an innate ability to manufacture antibodies (proteins) that work as part of the immune system to destroy abnormal or foreign cells. Not only do these antibodies help fend off common illnesses like the flu or a cold, but they also play a role in protecting us against catastrophic diseases like cancer or heart disease.
Additionally, we also have a second protective response known as the “cell-mediated immune system.” This involves immune system cells rather than antibodies. The immune system cells are “helper” or “killer” cells, and they help our body create memory of past defenses against disease.
When the body identifies a pathogen (invader) again, it immediately calls upon the memory of the previous infection and sets out to destroy the invader before the disease develops. This physiological mechanism is what lies behind vaccines or immunizations for illnesses such as measles, chicken pox, or hepatitis. When we get a flu shot or measles vaccine, we’re getting a deliberate but harmless amount of the pathogen so that our immune cells can react, learn, and remember how to produce antibodies to fight the pathogen.
Therefore, let’s keep our immune system functioning at its peak performance, so we can stay healthy, too, by following the following recommendations;
1. Eat Right
In theory, this one is pretty simple: Eat just enough of the right foods when you feel hungry. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple to put into practice. We’re tempted by unhealthy options everywhere we turn, we eat for emotional reasons, or we don’t even know what the “right” foods are. For those of us who struggle in this area, this may take some work.
Avoid eating too much, which can lead to weight gain and harm the immune system. Research performed by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has shown that obesity prevents the immune system from functioning properly, increasing its vulnerability to infection. In the study, obese mice were found to be 50 percent less capable of killing the flu virus, compared to lean mice. The researchers believe that the same holds true in humans. To find out how many calories you need to maintain or lose weight, refer to your customized Nutrition Tracker.
Just as important as how much we’re eating, is what foods we’re eating. Some nutrients and foods that have been found to enhance the immune system include:
• Vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus fruit and broccoli
• Vitamin E-rich foods, like nuts and whole grains
• Zinc-rich foods, like beans, turkey, crab, oysters, and beef
• Bioflavanoids, which are found in fruits and vegetables
• Selenium-rich foods, like chicken, whole grains, tuna, eggs, sunflower seeds, and brown rice
• Carotenoid-rich foods, like carrots and yams
• Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, salmon, tuna, mackerel, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil.
The break down below elaborates the nutritive value of garlic, seaweed, Vit. D, Echinacea, Vit. C, yoghurt and Zinc etc. in boosting the body’s immune system;
Garlic; Get more garlic. Garlic offers several antioxidants that battle immune system invaders. Among garlic’s targets are H. pylori, the bacteria associated with some ulcers and stomach cancer. It has the powerful compound allicin, vitamins A, C, E and minerals selenium, sulfur and zinc (all vital to immune function). It also protects against infections, colds and flu, and has anti-bacterial, -fungal and -viral properties. Just add crushed cloves to pastas, sauces, salad dressings and dips.
Elderberry; An old folk remedy, extract from these dark berries appears to block flu viruses in test tube studies. But scientists caution that further study is needed. The fruit itself is rich in antioxidants and may also have the ability to fight inflammation.
Button Mushrooms; Don’t dismiss the lowly mushroom as nutrient poor: It has the mineral selenium and antioxidants. Low levels of selenium have been linked to increased risk of developing more severe flu. And the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, found in these mushrooms, play a role in a healthy immune system. Animal studies have also shown mushrooms to have , antibacterial, and anti-tumor effects.
Acai Berry; Hawked as a “super food” along with produce like blueberries, the little acai berry’s dark color signals that it is high in antioxidants called anthocyanins. While the acai is not scientifically linked to specific disease- or illness-fighting ability, antioxidants may help our body fight aging and disease. Acai berries can be found most often in juice or smoothie form, or dried and mixed with granola.
Oysters; Aphrodisiac? Immune boosters? Maybe both, thanks to the mineral zinc that’s found in oysters. Low zinc levels have been associated with male infertility. And zinc appears to have some antiviral effect, although researchers can’t explain why. However, they do know it is important to several immune system tasks including healing wounds.
Watermelon; Hydrating and refreshing, ripe watermelon also has plenty of a powerful antioxidant, glutathione. Known to help strengthen the immune system so it can fight infection, glutathione is found in the red pulpy flesh near the rind.
Bitter melon, or Goya, is commonly used for beneficial health reasons (you may also hear it referred to as Bitter Gourd, Karela, or Balsam Pear). The melon has an extremely bitter taste, but it is a helpful food. It looks like a cucumber but with ugly gourd-like bumps all over it. It thrives in hot and humid climates, so they are commonly found in Asian countries and South America. It is very low in calories but contain high amounts of nutrients.
It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana. One negative about the bitter melon is that its bitter taste detracts a lot of people from consuming it, even with all of the beneficial nutrients it has to offer.
Cucumbers on the other hand are very tasty vegetables with trace minerals and vitamins needed to build our immunity. They are delicious in salads or can just be eaten raw as a refreshing yet nutritious snack. Plus they are very easy to grow. But, most people probably don’t have a clue that cucumbers contains Potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin B and that they are a good source of Phosphorus and Manganese, Magnesium, Pantothenic Acid and Vitamin A. They are also very low on Sodium, Cholesterol and Saturated Fat.
Cabbage; This is a source of immune-strengthening glutamine. And cabbage is easy and inexpensive to find during the winter months when it’s in season. Try adding cabbages of any variety (white, red, Chinese) to soups and stews to sneak in extra antioxidants and boost your meal’s nutritional value.
Almonds; A handful of almonds may shore up your immune system from the effects of stress. A recommended 1/4 cup serving carries nearly 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E, which helps boost the immune system. And they have riboflavin and niacin, B vitamins that may help you bounce back from the effects of stress.
Grapefruit; Grapefruit is packed with flavonoids — natural chemical compounds that have been found to increase immune system activation. They have a good amount of vitamin C too. Dislike grapefruits? Try oranges or tangerines.
Wheat Germ; Wheat germ is the part of a wheat seed that feeds a baby wheat plant, so it is full of nutrients. It has zinc, antioxidants, and B vitamins among other vital vitamins and minerals. Wheat germ also offers a good mix of fiber, protein, and some good fat. Substitute wheat germ for part of the regular flour called for in baked goods and other recipes.
Spinach; Known as a “super food,” spinach is nutrient-rich. It has folate, which helps your body produce new cells and repair DNA. And it boasts fiber, antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and more. Eat spinach raw or lightly cooked to get the most benefit.
Tea; Green or black? Both are loaded with disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants seek out cell-damaging free radicals and destroy them. Caffeinated and decaf work equally well.
Sweet Potato; Like carrots, sweet potatoes have the antioxidant beta-carotene, which mops up damaging free radicals. Sweet potatoes also boast vitamin A, which is linked to slowing the aging process and may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Broccoli; Easy to find at the grocery store and incorporate into meals, broccoli is an immune-boosting basic. One study reported a chemical in broccoli helped stimulate the immune systems of mice. Plus, it’s full of nutrients that protect your body from damage. It has vitamins A, vitamin C, and glutathione. Add some low-fat cheese to round out a side dish with immune-enhancing B vitamins and vitamin D.
Seaweed; Slip in a superfood. Seaweed is not only extremely nutritious; it boosts the immune system and reduces the risk of illness and infection. Seaweed is a good source of zinc and antioxidants that are important for immune health. Add strips of kelp, nori, or akrame to soups, salads and stir-fries.
Vitamin D; Get some sun. Vitamin D protects us against illness and a range of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Sunlight is the easiest and healthiest way to get sufficient vitamin D, so aim for 10 to 15 minutes a day (without sunscreen), on the face, arms and hands.
Echinacea; Take Echinacea regularly . It has phenolic compounds which increase the activity and number of immune cells such as macrophages and T-cells, making them more efficient in attacking bacteria and viruses such as colds and flu. Take Echinacea in tablets, as fluid extracts or in tea (three cups a day is ideal).
Vitamin C; Vitamin C is one of the best immune-boosting nutrients for treating and preventing all illnesses and chronic diseases. As a powerful antioxidant, it protects cells from free-radical damage, and has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-allergenic activity. Eat more citrus, parsley, berries, red capsicum and kiwifruit.
Low-Fat Yogurt; Eat some yoghurt. This highly nutritious fermented food has the ability to improve digestion and boost our immune health. The live bacteria (acidophilus and bifidus) promote the health and growth of friendly bowel bacteria. Look for the “live and active cultures or bacteria” seal on the yoghurt you buy. A daily cup may reduce your chances of getting a cold. Look for labels listing “live and active cultures.” Some researchers believe they may stimulate your immune system to fight disease. Also look for vitamin D. Recent studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of cold and flu.
Zinc; Think zinc. It’s needed for the production of white blood cells which protect against colds and infections. Zinc has antioxidant activity, helping to fight free- radical damage, and is found in meats, dairy and wholegrains , but it’s lost in processing. If supplementing with tablets, take about 45 milligrams a day.
Of course, you can find these nutrients in pill form, but food is always the best and most usable source of vitamins and minerals. Supplements can be shady, since no regulating body ensures that they contain what they claim to, or that they’ll be absorbed as well as nutrients you get from food.
Some immune system all-stars that have recently garnered a lot of attention in the scientific community are vegetables from the brassica family, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. According to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and published online in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, a chemical produced when these vegetables are eaten can stop the growth of cancer cells and boost the production of certain components of the immune system.
2. Exercise Regularly
According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS), data from numerous studies show that regular exercise reduces the number of sick days. In three separate studies cited in the June 2001 issue of the PCPFS’ Research Digest, women who engaged in 35-45 minutes of brisk walking, five days a week, for 12-15 weeks experienced a reduced number of sick days compared to the control (sedentary) group. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to provide these benefits—in fact moderate exercise may even achieve a better result. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that upper respiratory infections were more common among athletes during heavy training. Whatever you do, listen to your body. If you’re under the weather already, take it easy until you feel better.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Deep sleep stimulates and energizes the immune system, while sleep deprivation has the opposite effect. According to authors of a sleep study published in 2001 in the journal Seminars in Clinical Neuropsychiatry, significant detrimental effects on immune functioning can be seen after a few days of total sleep deprivation or even several days of just partial sleep deprivation. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult needs between 7 and 8 hours a night, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours. To make sure you are getting enough quality sleep, avoid caffeinated drinks (and other stimulants), decongestants, tobacco and alcohol. Alcohol can assist falling into a light sleep, but it interferes with (Rapid Eye Movement) REM and the deeper stages of sleep, which are restorative.
4. Manage Stress
Between fender benders, work deadlines, marital problems and hectic schedules, keeping stress out of your life is impossible. But how you choose to react to stress can greatly impact your overall health. Sweeping problems under the rug as opposed to solving them can turn short-term stress into chronic stress, which can cause health problems. According to the National Institutes of Health, hormones (like cortisol) that hang around during chronic stress can put us at risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and a variety of other illnesses. These stress hormones can work in two ways, either switching off disease-fighting white blood cells or triggering a hyperactive immune system, which increases your risk of developing auto-immune diseases. So find ways to de-stress a few times per week, whether you exercise, practice yoga, meditate, or take a relaxing bath.
5. Quit Smoking
In an older but still relevant study published in the 1983 edition of the Medical Journal of Australia, immune system markers in 35 smokers were analyzed before they quit smoking and then again three months after they had quit. Compared with a control group who continued to smoke, the ex-smokers had significant, positive changes in many measurements of their immune systems. Smoking and using tobacco products contributes to a host of health problems, and this is one more you can add to your list for reasons to quit.
6. Consume Alcohol in Moderation
Chronic alcohol abuse is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as the use of alcoholic beverages despite negative consequences. Besides the social and economic consequences of chronic alcohol abuse, a 1998 article in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research states that alcohol abuse can also cause or lead to immunodeficiency, making you more susceptible to bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases. But the moderate use of alcohol (one drink daily for women, and two for men) has not been associated with negative effects on the immune system. In fact, according to a 2007 article in the British Journal of Nutrition, there is an increasing body of evidence linking health benefits linked with moderate consumption of polyphenol-rich alcoholic beverages, like wine or beer. The article states that, while heavy alcohol use can suppress the immune response, “moderate alcohol consumption seems to have a beneficial impact on the immune system compared to alcohol abuse or abstinence.” So for the time being, the advice remains: everything in moderation if you can’t abstain.
In summary, the immune system protects the body against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies and attacks a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, while distinguishing them from the body’s own healthy tissue. Therefore, in the war against diseases, let’s give respect to our immunity because all the discussed solutions may be helpful to us no matter the status of health.
Jones H. Munang’andu
Professional Scientific Medical Writer
Contact; mobile 0966565670
Email; [email protected]
This article has 0 comment, leave your comment.