On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms.
But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and make your immune system stronger? What if you improve your diet? Take certain vitamins or herbal preparations? Make other lifestyle changes in the hope of producing a near-perfect immune response?
The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so can be complex. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is not one magic action or food that will ensure perfect health, it is a holisitic effort of a combination of various actions that will make your body more able to ward off sickness and disease.
This is probably the most important ways to boost immune system on this list. In particular it triggers and arms the body's T cells, the cells in the body that seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses.
Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defences and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system – T cells – will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body.If you get your vitamin D levels tested, you generally want to be between 40-70 ng/ml. You might be surprised to know that most people have low vitamin D levels (especially in the winter), and you might be surprised to find that you could be dangerously low. Some people I know who thought they were reasonably healthy actually had levels below 20 ng/ml, which is a range that could severely limit your immune system and hormone balance (and explains the frequent colds and hormone problems that they were having).
Keep in mind that it's best to get your vitamin D naturally from the sun. The sun is the absolute best source of vitamin D, and leads to a powerful strengthening of your immune system when your body can naturally produce Vitamin D from moderate sun exposure. When the UVB rays (not UVA rays) from mid-day sun hit your skin, it reacts with oils in your skin to produce vitamin D that is slowly adbsorbed by your body. Note that sunscreens block the ability of your body to produce vitamin D.
I know not everybody can take a tropical vacation every winter, but if you can, it's best to try to take it right smack dab in the middle of the winter (when your vitamin D levels have dropped to their lowest)... getting even a few days of good sun closer to the equator in the middle of winter can really help increase your vitamin D and strengthen your immune system.
Remember that this does not mean getting burned in the sun... it means getting a moderate amount of sun on large portions of your body (not just your face) for approx 15-40 minutes per day without sunscreen on (since sunscreen blocks the UV rays that directly stimulate the vitamin D increase in your body).
The best food sources of natural Vitamin D are from animal origin, sunflower seeds, and some mushrooms (some portobella mushrooms and maitake mushroom are fairly good sources of vitamin D, although the type of vitamin D in mushrooms might not be the best utilized source). However, keep in mind that it's tough to get enough vitamin D in the winter from food sources alone. Supplementation is recommended if you you do not get enough sun.
Garlic is one of the most potent of all superfoods. Not only does high dose garlic go back thousands of years for treatment of sickness, but recent studies back up the legendary claims for garlic boosting your immune system.
Roman soldiers used to gobble down chunks of garlic before battle. They believed the pungent plant infused them with courage and heroic strength. While chomping on raw garlic cloves won’t give you superhuman powers, it may help your immune system defeat bacterial, viral and even fungal infections.
Garlic contains allicin, ajoene and thiosulfinates -- three powerful compounds that help the body prevent and fight infections. The compounds are so strong that consuming raw garlic juice is nearly as effective as Neosporin is for disinfecting minor wounds. When applied to the skin, garlic beats topical creams like Tinactin and other antifungal agents in fighting athlete’s foot. Evidence has been documented suggesting that people who consume large quantities of garlic on the onset of a cold will reduce the amount of time it takes them to heal.
If I feel a possible cold or sickness coming on, add raw garlic to your food.
Kombucha, Green, Chamomile, Yerba Mate, Rooibos, Tulsi
Kombucha tea is a fermented tea (naturally effervescent) that contains billions of friendly gut organisms (probiotics) that help to strengthen your immune system by bolstering your levels of good organisms in your gut.
Remember that 70% of your immune system lies in your gut flora and the health of the friendly organisms in there to protect you against pathogens and sickness.
You can also get beneficial probiotics from fermented foods such as sauerkraut (non-canned), yogurt, kimchi, and other fermented foods. There are also plenty of probiotic supplements you can take.
There is evidence that green tea and chamomile tea can help aid in strengthening the immune system.
Even if the effect is small, you can't go wrong because both are loaded with powerful antioxidants unique to each tea.
Yerba mate, rooibos and tulsi are also teas that boost the immune system.
As you age, there is a noticeable drop in your immune function, especially by your 70’s & 80’s. You actually produce as many immune cells as you always have, they just don’t work as well anymore. The simple reason for this is that your immune system is also the victim of free radical damage. Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells against the harmful effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. They deactivate the free radicals in the body
The family of antioxidants has expanded greatly and includes not only the well-known vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and selenium but also includes substances such as grape skin, grape seed, lutein, turmeric, tocopherols, alpha lipoic acid, phytochemicals and many others. Because there are so many compounds that can be classified as antioxidants, it gets somewhat confusing evaluating them and knowing which ones have scientific merit to their use.
I like Megafood Antioxidant blend because it is made with 100% whole foods.
We now know cruciferous vegetables are unsurpassed in boosting the immune system by enabling DNA repair in our cells and their amazing antioxidant benefits. This has led many scientists to believe that many of the diseases of aging can be prevented if we include generous amounts of cruciferous vegetables in our diet.
But the good news doesn’t stop there. New scientific evidence indicates that sulforaphane, a phytonutrient in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may actually rejuvenate the immune system allowing it to block many common diseases of aging, such as heart disease, degenerative joint disease and diabetes. The secret lies in the ability of the sulphoraphane to turn on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes with the power to combat free radicals by suppressing their production.
The sulforaphane in broccoli and other members of the cabbage family also produce enzymes that detoxify carcinogenic substances. Log on tomorrow for a simple, delicious broccoli recipe.
Mushrooms are a treasure trove of bioactive compounds, but most of mushrooms immunomodulating activities have been attributed to polysaccharides (long-chain, simple sugars) and glycoproteins (polysaccharides naturally associated with proteins). These compounds activate a variety of immune responses.
The following mushrooms have demonstrated the most evidence for immune defense: Shiitake, Reishi, Maitake, Turkey Tail, and Cordyceps.
When you feel a sickness coming on, a super-high intensity workout is not a good idea, as hard training forces the body to do a lot of recovery, this at a time when your body needs all of it's efforts on trying to fight off the oncoming sickness.
Personally, I like to get outside for some fresh air and go for a hike or go snowshoeing or sledding in the winter. These aren't very strenuous for me, so they won't cause my body to be forced to do a lot of recovery but just getting out in the fresh air and getting the circulation going I feel is good to help the body fight off the sickness.
AVOID ALL PROCESSED FOODS AND SWEETENED DRINKS
If you're serious about your health and getting lean for life, this should be an everyday rule for you anyway (except maybe for cheat meals)...
However, when you might have a sickness coming on, this is no time to bombard your body with processed foods, inflammatory omega-6 oils (soybean oil, corn oil, etc), fried foods, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugars, and chemical additives.
All of these force your body to do extra work to deal with all of this junk and the internal inflammation that they cause in your body.
Instead, (especially when you might be getting sick) you need to give your body only wholesome unprocessed foods that are only 1 ingredient and that we were meant to digest most efficiently...fruits, berries, veggies, nuts, seeds etc.
CUT DOWN ON GLUTEN
A study brought home two powerful points about gluten:1. The devastating effect is can have upon the body’s immune system. e.g. development of cancer and autoimmune disease. 2. The powerful effect it can have in restoring the immune system when it is removed from a sensitive individual’s diet.
TAKE A MULTI VITAMIN
Taking a daily multivitamin is a quick and easy way to give your immune system a little boost. Multivitamins contain a daily dosage of nearly every vitamin and mineral the body relies on to function healthfully. Taking one daily pill is much easier than trying to make sure you have enough vitamin B, folic acid, zinc, and everything in between incorporated into your daily diet.
M iddle-aged adults who take a daily multivitamin with trace minerals may improve immune function, according to a new study in Nutrition Research. While taking a similar multinutrient formula has been shown to boost immunity in individuals 65 years and older, this trial demonstrates that daily use of such a formula produces comparable effects in adults between 50 and 65 years old. In addition to improving immune function, the supplement also corrected nutritional deficiencies in the participants, which are common to people in this age group.
The multivitamins I recommend are whole food ones, such as Megafood and Innate Response. These do a fabulous job at warding off sickness
EXPOSURE TO SOME GERMS
One of the least considered ways to boost immunity is to return to the old ways of letting your immune system experience foreign bodies and learn how to fight them off. We live in a day and age when hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays have become part of our daily vocabularies and vaccinations exist for illnesses that are minor and short-lived in healthy individuals. For people who do not have seriously compromised immune systems, there is no great danger in exposing yourself to the average germ. Some still consider the best way to avoid the chicken pox as being able to get it once and be done with it. The immune system needs some exposure to the world around us to learn what it needs to learn to function properly.
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