Can you boost your immune system? Being immune to dangerous organisms and pathogens is part of our body’s normal programming. No matter what your age or level of health, it is possible to strengthen your immune system and help it work better, stronger and more efficiently through the use of nutrition.
We come into contact with harmful pathogens such as bacteria and virus every day. These can range from a cold or flu virus as we come into contact with various people throughout the day or carcinogens (substances which may lead to cancer) from medications, work or home environment and pollution. While fighting all of this on a daily basis, our bodies continuously create metabolic waste as a byproduct of daily bodily functions. Lucky for us, our bodies are built with many components in place for immunity, regeneration and self-healing:
Your body is equipped with an immune system that is divided into two classes; the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. They are both equally important and each serves an important function in how healthy we are, how strong our immune reaction is and how quickly we recover.
The innate immune system is there, always ready to take action against the every day pathogens. It is your first line of defense and attempts to keep harmful germs from entering your bloodstream. It includes skin cells, mucous membranes and stomach acids. This is important to keep in mind as we discuss how we can boost our immune systems.
If, for some reason, your innate immune system fails, then our
secondary, or adaptive immune system kicks in. This part of our
immune system includes specialized cells that are normally “silent”
or inactive, but come to life to adapt to harmful pathogens in order
to neutralize or eliminate them. This means your body creates
antibodies to harmful substances, as needed. Your thymus, spleen,
bone marrow and lymphatic system are all included in this aspect of
your immune system.
Inflammation is an important part of our immune systems. As many harmful bacteria thrive at normal body temperature, your body temperature rises as it attempts to these invaders. When you are wounded, your body sends an abundance of white blood cells to the injured area to fight infection as your body heals the wound. These are actions your body takes to naturally keep you healthy.
When the internal systems work overtime, and stay inflamed, we are more susceptible to degenerative disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancers. Internal inflammation is a condition that we become more susceptible to as we get older, however does show up in those who are young to middle age adults, as well.
Age is a factor in how strong (or not) your immune system is. As we age, our immune systems become slower to react. Even a fall or injury will take longer to heal as we get older. It is believed a life time of stress, radiation, pollution, chemical exposure and exposure to disease all contribute to the deterioration of the immune system. According to the National Institutes of Health, some ways we can help our bodies is through healthy nutrition, exercise and taking care of our other lifestyle choices such as smoking or alcohol intake.
Stress is a factor in how our immune systems react. A perceived threat creates many physical changes in our bodies. When the internal alarm goes off, a combination of hormonal and nerve signals prompts our adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol among other hormones). These increase heart rate, increase sugar in the bloodstream to increase energy, and enhances the body's ability to repair tissues. Cortisol alters immune response and suppresses the digestive system to allow energies to be used in other, seemingly more vital areas during this time.
As we live a fast paced lifestyle full of stresses from work to family to money concerns, our stress response is over worked. In this case, our immune systems are over active, leading to health problems, including prolonged internal inflammation. As we learn more about the immune system, we learn that we can be very much in control of how to help our bodies work in a healthier, more balanced state.
While the medical community continues to research how the immune system works, there are healthy choices that you can make to enhance your immune function. Lifestyle choices are the most accepted way to boost the immune system, as well as providing a better quality of life. Here are some of the easiest and most accepted ways to help your body protect you.
Diet is an important way to help your body stay healthy. It is accepted that sugar suppresses the white blood cells that protect us. Drinking a sugary drink can suppress your immune system for hours afterward you finish it. Instead, drink fresh, spring water and add citrus juice that is loaded with vitamin C and shown to increase protector cell activities.
By eating a wholesome, organic diet you help your body create new cells that eat up toxic cells and waste. When given the right building blocks (nutritious foods), these new cells can be strong enough to attack any virus, bacteria, carcinogens and other pathogens because we are exposed to them on a daily basis. By leaving out foods that suppress our immunity, you create a healthy environment to naturally boost your immune system.
Avoid processed meats such as many lunch meats and others that have an abundance of sodium and other additives used in processing such as BHA, BHT, sodium nitrite, and msg. A high intake of these types of foods is shown to not only increase the chance of getting cancers, but also increase the risk of internal inflammation. Instead, opt for lean, fresh meats (organic, if possible) to add to your salads, wraps and sandwiches. These are healthier, cleaner and taste better – and you know what you are eating when you prepare them yourself.
Eat more fresh produce including vegetables, fruits and herbs are known to have an impact on health. Diets that include an abundance of fresh produce provides more nutrients, including antioxidants, to keep you strong. Eating your produce raw or slightly steamed provides even more of these life saving nutrients and can keep enzymes more intact. This assists our natural metabolic and digestive enzymes, creating more energy, better digestion and vigorous health.
Super Nutrition super charges your body to better take care of itself. Your body uses nutrients to make new white immune cells each day, which are needed to kill bacteria and other pathogens. Nutrients are needed to keep the liver and other organs strong that help protect your body from many metabolic as well as external toxins. Strengthen and support this process with herbs and super powered foods such as; seaweeds, dark green leafy veggies, berries, oranges, and even herbs such as curcumin, garlic and ginger.
Garlic has an infection fighting capability and is one of the most highly regarded herbs to boost the immune system. Evidence suggests taking garlic supplements can help you fight the flu or get over it quicker. Other evidence shows it strengthens the immune system, allowing your body to fight diseases such as cancer. (1) Improved immune activity was shown in studies, after taking an aged garlic extract.
Echinacea is a popular herb to help boost your immune system and can be found in tea form, tablet and tincture. It is an age old remedy dating back at least 400 years, being used in cures of the Native Americans. While not much research is known in America, German has demonstrated the immune enhancing benefits of this herb. (2) In a double-blind, placebo controlled study, those who took echinacea experienced less frequent and less severe viral infections. The trick to using this herb is to use it in the same way you would an antibiotic; no longer than a few days to a couple of weeks at at time, and then stop. This is to prevent an over active immune system, allergies and over stimulation.
Supplements that boost your immune system are helpful as they help your body create more white blood cells. These supplements can be found in health food stores and markets. Some include oleander extract, which shows it to be effective at raisting white blood cell count in the seriously compromised immune system of AIDs patients, astralagus root which raises production of interferon, a natural virus fighting compound, and the minerals zinc and selenium which enhance the actions of our white blood cells. (3) Be sure to look for a high quality herb from a reputable company (and large, chain store brand names are not included).
Other herbs that stimulate and boost your immune system include Siberian ginseng, Asian ginseng, and green tea. All are known to generally support the immune system and can be used for prevention as well as recovery.
Mushrooms are the new power players in health as research uncovers more about just how beneficial they are to boost your immune system. Some mushrooms destroy cancer cells, some kill viruses and others facilitate nerve regeneration. While some think it strange as these are a fungus, fungus has been shown in the past to be beneficial for human health such as in penicillin and tetracycline. Some of the more researched mushrooms are shiitake, with antiviral properties, reishi mushroom, shown to be effective at treating lung cancer and lukemia, (4) and the Turkey Tale mushroom, which is also a cancer killer. Other mushrooms are anti aging, anti bacterial and even enhance strength and endurance. These can be found in supplement form in your local health food market.
Exercise is widely known to enhance and stimulate our immune systems. Like any other lifestyle factor, it contributes to good health, in general, which leads to a healthy immune system. It promotes circulation of your bloodstream to carry oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, while also stimulating circulation of the lymphatic system, carrying waste, bacteria and pathogens out of your body.
Drink water to keep your system flushed of toxins and waste. Drinking fresh, spring water helps your body remove waste as it is either created internally, detoxified by your liver or neutralized by killer cells. Our bodies are made mainly of water, and replenishing it is an often, overlooked, yet simple immune boosting strategy.
Body Cleansing - Believe it or not, another way to help your body stay healthy is to keep internal toxins at a minimum. Your organs are already working hard every day to fight pathogens and you can help it do this job with a diet and herbs to support your body's cleansing process. Recall that age is a factor in how strong we are and how susceptible we are to disease. This is due to many factors with a lifetime of exposure to chemicals, pollutions, stress and other toxins being a culprit. This is where helping our bodies naturally, and more efficiently cleanse may help to boost your immune system.
A whole body cleanse may help your immunity by supporting your body's natural systems and organs that cleanse and detoxify. How is this done? By eating plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, drinking fresh vegetable juice, plenty of spring water and keeping animal proteins to a minimum. Instead, eat more organic nuts, seeds, sprouts, and protein packed grains such as quinoa and buckwheat. (Sounds a lot like the immune boosting heathy diet tip!) As you work to keep these organs in strong working order by helping your body's remove waste, and eat to allow the body to continuously remove toxins, you naturally help boost your immune system.
Avoid foods that lower your immunity because they take more nutrients to process than they give you. These include fast foods, highly processed foods, processed meats, and foods that are high in sugar and white flour.