Can you fight disease by improving your immune system? Medical experts say yes. The immune system is responsible for defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. Sometimes however, germs succeed in invading and you become sick. Can you reverse this failure of your immune system to repel the germs?
There are no magic remedies that will ensure that you don’t get sick. Protecting yourself against disease isn’t a Springbok mobile casino gamble. There are, however, lifestyle changes that you can undertake, herbal supplements and vitamins that you can take and dietary changes that you can make to produce a better immune response.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the most important step that you can take to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Your goal is to protect your body from environmental assaults so that you can naturally fight off any germs that come your way. Some of the most important strategies to reach this goal include
- Exercise – you should exercise at least once a day. Exercise can involve simple stretches, walking up and down the stairs or taking a walk. Try yoga, pilates or another type of social exercise activity if you enjoy exercising in a group. The more you challenge your body, the more you’ll condition your body and, in turn, strengthen your muscles — including muscles that you need for breathing. Research has shown that exercising strengthens your immune system by helping to increase your energy level, reducing your risk of disease, keeping your brain and memory healthy, helping to relax and enhancing sleep quality. Plus, research shows that when you exercise, you feel happier.
- Don’t smoke — The nicotine and other poisonous chemicals in tobacco cause heart problems and lung diseases which makes it more difficult for blood to move around your body. Smoking also causes mood swings. It’s simply better to not smoke.
- Drink moderately – excessive alcohol consumption may impair the function of immune cells in the upper respiratory system and lungs which can then lead to increased risk of disease.
- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are full of essential vitamins, fiber, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals. When you pack your diet with fruits and vegetables you reduce your risk of developing many diseases and strengthen your immune system.
- Get enough sleep – people who don’t get enough sleep get sick more often than those who get an adequate amount of sleep. Not getting enough sleep causes the body’s immune system to function poorly and renders you more susceptible to becoming ill.
The connection between nutrition and immunity is recognized throughout the medical community. Nutritionists have been telling us for years that we should be eating foods high in vitamins, zinc and beta-carotene to maintain optimal health. Especially highly recommended are
- Mushrooms – mushrooms are high in B vitamins like niacin and riboflavin and in selenium. Mushrooms are also high in polysaccharides which are specifically helpful in boosting your immune system. You can eat mushrooms raw in a salad or sauté, grill or roast the mushrooms. Any way that you prepare mushrooms, the immune-boosting properties will come out.
- Watermelon – watermelon may seem like a nutritional light-weight but in fact, it’s an immune-boosting fruit that’s full of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, B6 and glutathione. These nutrients are vital for proper immune function.
- Wheat germ – the germ is the most nutrient rich part of the wheat grain. The germ, which is found in the innermost part of the grain, is rich in B vitamins, vitamin E and zinc. The immune-boosting properties of wheat germ are present regardless of whether you eat it raw or add it to baked goods such as cake or bread.
- Yogurt – low-fat yogurt, including the popular Greek yogurt, is full of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin D. These vitamins are necessary for proper immune function. You should look for yogurt that is rich in probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidus. These probiotics boost immune function which may then reduce both the length and severity of cold viruses. The gut flora found in low-fat yogurts is needed for proper digestion, good immune function and detoxification.
- Spinach – spinach is known as a “superfood” due to its high vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, folate and iron content. All of these nutrients provide the body with necessary nutrients for DNA repair and cell division. They also boost immune function. It’s suggested that you cook spinach lightly or eat it raw to preserve the nutrients.
- Green tea – green tea has antitoxidants called flavonoids and polyphenols which boost immune function. Green tea also increases good HDL cholesterol while it decreases LDL bad cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Broccoli – broccoli is packed full of vitamin B1 and is high in magnesium, zinc, beta-carotene, potassium and iron. Combined, these vitamins and minerals keep the immune system running well. Broccoli also has plenty of glutathione which is an antioxidant.
There is no supplement that is recommended to combat a specific infection or virus. But many supplements can help you boost your immune system so that if you do become sick, your body will be better able to fight off the infection. Some of these supplements include
- Echinacea – many people take Echinacea to improve immune health. Echinacea has been shown to have antiviral effects against some respiratory viruses.
- Vitamin D – the best thing about vitamin D is that, if you get enough sun, you’ll get enough vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels are associated with increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections while supplementing with vitamin D may protect against respiratory tract infections.
- Zinc – zinc has been shown to boost immune system function. Adding zinc supplements to the diet is believed to protect against respiratory tract infections such as the common cold. Supplementing with zinc may also be beneficial to people who have already become sick. Zinc supplements may reduce the duration of some viruses including the common cold.
- Vitamin C can protect against infection due to its important role in immune health. This vitamin enhances the ability of immune cells to protect against infection. Vitamin C is also necessary for cellular death (clearing out old cells and replacing them with new ones) which helps keep your immune system healthy. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which protects against damage induced by oxidative stress.
- Black elderberry – black elderberry has shown to have potent antibacterial and antiviral activity against bacterial pathogens which are responsible for strains of influenza and upper respiratory tract infections. Research has also shown that black elderberry enhances immune system response and may help shorten the duration and severity of viral infections and colds. Elderberry supplements may interact negatively with other medications so a doctor should be consulted before taking an elderberry supplement if the patient is taking other medications.