- The best foods for boosting your immune system
- 10 Simple and Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System
- Here’s the Best Way to Boost Your Immune System
- Thank you!
- For A Stronger Immunity: Natural Ways To Boost The Immune System
- Low Immunity Sets the Stage for Sickness
- 1. Eat Probiotic Foods
- 2. Eat Enough Good Food
- 3. Get Enough Sleep
- 4. Eat More Soup
- 5. Get Plenty of Sunshine
- 6. Eat Mushrooms
- 7. Harness the Power of Plants
- 8. Drink Plenty of Water
- 9. Steam Some Oysters
- 10. Quit the Sugar
- Fighting an illness? 4 ways to boost your immune system
- Boosting Your Immune System
- How to boost your immune system naturally
- What is your immune system?
- What are the best ways to keep your immune system healthy?
- The best vitamins and minerals for your immune system
- What are the best foods to boost your immune system?
- Exercise to support your immune system
- Supporting your immune system whatever your age
- Top Ways to Boost Your Immune System
The best foods for boosting your immune system
A healthful, balanced diet plays a vital role in staying well. The following foods may help to boost the immune system:
Share on PinterestBlueberries have antioxidant properties that may boost the immune system.
Blueberries contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can help boost a person’s immune system. A 2016 study noted that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system.
Researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection, or common cold, than those who did not.
2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called theobromine, which may help to boost the immune system by protecting the body’s cells from free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that the body produces when it breaks down food or comes into contact with pollutants. Free radicals can damage the body’s cells and may contribute to disease.
Despite its potential benefits, dark chocolate is high in calories and saturated fat, so it is important to eat it in moderation.
Turmeric is a yellow spice that many people use in cooking. It is also present in some alternative medicines. Consuming turmeric may improve a person’s immune response. This is due to the qualities of curcumin, a compound in turmeric.
According to a 2017 review, curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
4. Oily fish
Salmon, tuna, pilchards, and other oily fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.
According to a 2014 report, long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
RA is a chronic autoimmune condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a healthy part of the body.
Broccoli is another source of vitamin C. It also contains potent antioxidants, such as sulforaphane. For these reasons, it is a good choice of vegetable to eat regularly to support immune system health.
6. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, a type of antioxidant that gives the skin of the potatoes its orange color.
Beta carotene is a source of vitamin A. It helps to make skin healthy and may even provide some protection against skin damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Spinach may boost the immune system, as it contains many essential nutrients and antioxidants, including:
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
Vitamins C and E can help support the immune system.
Research also indicates that flavonoids may help to prevent the common cold in otherwise healthy people.
People use ginger in a variety of dishes and desserts, as well as in teas.
According to a review, ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties and is likely to offer health benefits. However, more research is necessary to confirm whether or not it can effectively prevent illness.
Share on PinterestGarlic may help to prevent colds.
Garlic is a common home remedy for the prevention of colds and other illness.
One review looked at whether taking garlic supplements containing allicin reduced the risk of getting a cold.
The group of participants taking a placebo had more than double the number of colds between them than those taking the garlic supplements. However, the researchers concluded that more research is necessary to determine whether or not garlic can help to prevent colds.
10. Green tea
Green tea contains only a small amount of caffeine, so people can enjoy it as an alternative to black tea or coffee. Drinking it may also strengthen the immune system.
As with blueberries, green tea contains flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of a cold.
Kefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria that are beneficial for health.
Initial research suggests that drinking kefir may boost the immune system. According to a 2017 review, various studies have shown that regular consumption of kefir can help with:
- fighting bacteria
- reducing inflammation
- increasing antioxidant activity
The majority of the research that supports this was carried out on animals or in a laboratory. Researchers need to perform additional studies to understand how kefir may prevent disease in humans.
12. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds can make a tasty addition to salads or breakfast bowls. They are a rich source of vitamin E, an antioxidant.
In the same way as other antioxidants, vitamin E improves immune function. It does this by fighting off free radicals, which can damage cells.
Almonds are another excellent source of vitamin E. They also contain manganese, magnesium, and fiber.
A small handful or a quarter of a cup of almonds is a healthful snack that may benefit the immune system.
14. Oranges or kiwifruit (kiwis)
Oranges and kiwis are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is the vitamin that many people turn to when they feel a cold developing.
While scientists are still not sure exactly how it helps, vitamin C may reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve the function of the human immune system.
15. Red bell pepper
For people trying to avoid the sugar in fruit, red bell peppers are an excellent alternative source of vitamin C.
Stir-frying and roasting both preserve the nutrient content of red bell peppers better than steaming or boiling, according to a study on cooking methods.
10 Simple and Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System
According to the Centers for Disease Control, influenza viruses continue to wreak misery in 41 states. Got your flu shot? Good, do it again next year.
However, keep in mind that other viruses cause respiratory illness: parainfluenza viruses, adenoviruses, coronaviruses, rhinoviruses….not to mention bacteria such as Streptococcus.
Despite the fact that your world teams with infectious microorganisms, most of the time, you’re reasonable healthy, right? Thank your immune system, which defends you from disease-causing microbes. Now, step beyond gratitude to optimize the function of that system.
- Get enough sleep and manage stress. Sleep deprivation and stress overload increase the hormone cortisol, prolonged elevation of which suppresses immune function.
- Avoid tobacco smoke. It undermines basic immune defenses and raises the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia in everyone, and middle ear infections in kids.
- Drink less alcohol. Excessive consumption impairs the immune system and increases vulnerability to lung infections.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, which will provide your body with the nutrients your immune system needs. A study in older adults showed that boosting fruit and vegetable intake improved antibody response to the Pneumovax vaccine, which protects against Streptococcus pneumonia.
- Consider probiotics. Studies indicate supplements reduce the incidence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Fermented milk products have also been shown to reduce respiratory infections in adults and kids.
- Catch some rays. Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D. In the summer, a 10-15 minute exposure (minus sunscreen) is enough. However, above 42 degrees latitude (Boston) from November through February, sunlight is too feeble and few foods contain this vitamin. Low vitamin D levels correlate with a greater risk of respiratory infection. A 2010 study in kids showed that 1200 IU a day of supplemental vitamin D reduced the risk of influenza A. However, a 2012 study that involved supplementing adults with colon cancer with 1000 IU a day failed to demonstrate protection against upper respiratory infections.
- Go for the garlic. Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent and immune booster. Because heat deactivates a key active ingredient, add it to foods just before serving.
- Eat medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake (sometimes sold as “hen of the woods”). A recent study showed that a concentrated extract of shiitake enhanced immune function in women with breast cancer.
- Try immune-supportive herbs. If you get recurrent infections, consider taking immune-supportive herbs such as eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticocus), Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), or astragalus (A. membranaceus).
- Make an echinacea tincture. This is good to have on hand when respiratory viruses overwhelm your defenses.
Recipe adapted from 500 TIME-TESTED HOME REMEDIES AND THE SCIENCE BEHIND THEM.
To a pint jar add 1 cup ground root of Echinacea purpurearoot, a species shown to enhance immune function and moderately reduce cold symptom severity and duration. Add 1½ cup vodka and stir. If there isn’t 1 to 2 inches of vodka layered above the ground root, add more vodka. Shake daily.
After 4 weeks, strain through cheesecloth into a clean jar.
At the first sniffle, take ½ teaspoon of tincture diluted in water every two hours while awake. After two days, reduce the dosage to ½ teaspoon 3 times a day for the duration of the cold.
Here’s the Best Way to Boost Your Immune System
Some people seem to breeze through cold-and-flu season without so much as a sniffle. What’s their secret?
Regular exercise is a prime candidate. “If you look at all the lifestyle factors that decrease the number of days you suffer from common cold, being a physically active and fit person is the most important,” says David Nieman, a professor of public health and director of the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University.
Nieman has spent years examining the effect exercise has on human health and immune function. In one of his studies, he and his colleagues found that 30 minutes of brisk walking increased the circulation of natural killer cells, white blood cells and other immune system warriors.
When these immune cells encounter an illness-causing pathogen, they can kill it very effectively, he says. “But we found that, about three hours after exercise, these immune cells retreat back to the tissues they came from,” he says. In other words, the immune-boosting effects of exercise are fairly short-lived. This is why the “regular” part of regular exercise is crucial. “If you have a housekeeper come in and clean for 30 minutes every day, by end of the month, your house will look a lot better,” he says. “I think the same thing that happens with the immune system and pathogen clearance in the body.”
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Nieman says 30 to 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity aerobic exercise—think brisk walking, cycling or easy running—seem to be best when it comes to optimizing immune function. He says weightlifting may prove to be just as effective, but more study is needed. On the other hand, 75 minutes or more of intense exercise may be overdoing it, he says. “When you go that long at a high intensity, stress hormones go way up, and the immune system does not respond well to that.”
Also, while exercise can help prevent illness, it’s not so great at knocking out an existing cold or flu. “Some people think if they get sick, they can sweat it out with exercise,” he says. “But there’s no good data that exercise can be used as therapy.” In fact, research on animals suggests that hard exercise during a cold or flu can make things worse. “Rest is recommended,” he adds.
Apart from exercise, a good night’s sleep is another way to keep your immune system humming.
“We looked at identical twins where one was habitually sleeping an hour or more less than the other,” says Dr. Nathaniel Watson, a professor of neurology and sleep medicine at the University of Washington and first author of a 2017 study on sleep and immune function. “We found that in the shorter-sleeping twin, genetic pathways related to the immune system were suppressed.” He says his study’s findings are in line with other research that has shown sleep-deprived people exposed to viruses are more likely to get sick than well-rested folks.
Exactly how much sleep you need for your immune system to function at its best is tough to gauge. “There’s a lot of individual variability there, so it’s not one-size-fits-all,” Watson says. But getting seven or more hours of sleep a night seems to be a good target for most people. “That’s not seven hours in bed—it’s seven hours of sleep,” he adds.
Finally, a varied and healthy diet is essential. “What we eat fuels our body, and without proper fuel our immune systems don’t work as well,” says Dr. Jason Goldsmith, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Immunology. Goldsmith has studied the effect that diets have on the microbiome and immune health. He says most people in the U.S. don’t have to worry about malnutrition. But many people are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. “In particular, the B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and vitamin D are important for proper immune function,” he says.
While you could get some or all of these from a pill, he says eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is the better way to go. Along with providing you with the nutrients your body needs, these plant foods also contain soluble fiber, which supports the health of beneficial gut bacteria. These, in turn, seem to promote healthy immune system functioning, he says. (He adds that things are “more complicated” for people with existing medical problems. “We don’t have simple recommendations that can be applied to all patients,” he says, so talk with your doctor.)
The one big exception to this “eat your vitamins” rule is vitamin D, which isn’t easy to find in food. “Vitamin D in particular is important, as deficiency has been associated with both autoimmune diseases and poorer immune function,” Goldsmith says. Taking a vitamin D supplement could reduce your risk for common colds and infections by 10%, research has shown.
So move your body, get some sleep and eat your fruits and veggies. Do that, and friends will be asking you why you never seem to get sick.
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Your body’s immune system is more powerful than you probably imagine. How powerful, you ask? Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania recently took immune cells from three patients with leukemia, then genetically altered them into “serial killer” cells, designed to attack one tumor cell, then another and another. The study was small and the treatment experimental, but the results were groundbreaking—two patients went into complete remission, and the other had a dramatic antitumor response. The modified immune system cells multiplied at least 1,000 times in the body, wiped out cancer cells, and stimulated a population of “memory” cells that may protect against recurrences.
Could this treatment work for other types of cancer? Maybe. Much, much (much) more research is needed, but this study suggests that with the right kind of prodding, your immune system can fight ridiculously hard-to-battle toplady killersand keep you healthy. Granted, gene therapy is pretty serious prodding, but there are relatively simple steps you should take every day to strengthen your immune system, especially as we head into the sniffle season. Some of the best:
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1. Eat lean protein at every meal. No one food will magically fend off the flu, but certain nutrients take the lead in helping protect your body from billions of bacteria, viruses, and other germs—and protein is one of them. One of the reasons is that the antibodies that help fight disease are actually made of protein. Another reason: Many foods high in protein also contain other immune-boosting nutrients. Lean cuts of beef and pork, as well as protein from beans, soy, and seafood (particularly oysters and crab), contain zinc—a mineral that helps up the production of infection-fighting white blood cells; even mild zinc deficiencies can increase your susceptibility to infections. Nuts, like almonds and cashews, are also good sources of protein, as well as magnesium, both of which help support a healthy immune system.
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2. Shoot for 5 cups of fruits and veggies a day. Almost any kind is good, but if you’re going to pick and choose, opt for the ones rich in vitamins A, C, and E. Here’s why: Vitamin A (which you get from sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy greens) helps white blood cells fight off infections more effectively; it also helps regulate the immune system. Citrus fruits (like lemons, oranges, and grapefruit), as well as bell peppers, papayas, and broccoli, contain vitamin C, which improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods and helps the immune system protect against disease. And vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, and turnip greens, has been shown in scientific studies to combat flu and upper respiratory infections. If you eat a variety of greens (and oranges and yellows and reds) as part of a balanced diet, you’ll get all the good stuff you need to help fight disease. Taking a multivitamin or mineral supplement may help in some cases, but talk to your doctor—sometimes too-high doses of certain minerals can cause imbalances and actually suppress your immune response.
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3. Take a 10-minute walk a few times a day. Getting a total of 20 to 30 minutes of daily physical activity can bolster many defenses of the immune system. Exercise gets antibodies and white blood cells moving through the body faster, so they may detect illnesses sooner; plus, an increase in circulation may also trigger the release of hormones that “warn” immune cells of intruding pathogens. Keep your workouts moderate; high-intensity activity, such as a marathon running or intense gym training, could actually decrease the amount of white blood cells circulating through the body and up your risk of illness.
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4. Get your vitamin D levels checked. About 50 nmol/L is generally enough to maintain overall health; less than 30 nmol/L is too low for most people. New research suggests vitamin D could boost immune response, and too-low levels may be linked to an increase in seasonal colds and flu. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D, which we can get from the sun and very few foods. Talk to your doctor; you may need a supplement to boost your numbers.
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5. Reduce your stress levels. Do yoga, play with your dog, listen to music—find ways to chill out because research shows stressalters how well your immune system works. Preliminary research published in the journal Biological Psychiatryexamined two groups of people—caregivers of family members with cancer and individuals without that type of stress. The scientists found something goes awry in the caregivers’ white blood cells, leaving them less responsive to inflammation and raising their risk of illness.
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6. Cook with olive and canola oils. These contain healthy fats, which act as a lubricant for cells. This lubricant improves flexibility and communication between the cells, which promotes immune function. Just be careful that you’re not consuming too many omega-6 fats in the meantime: Research shows that people who consume disproportionately more 6s (found in the soybean oil used in most processed snack foods) than 3s are at higher risk for inflammation and immune system problems.
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7. Limit your drinks. One is okay for most people, two is fine for some, but drinking any more could suppress the immune system. New research out of Brown University showed excessive alcohol consumption is toxic to immune system cells called dendritic cells, which play a critical role in helping seek and destroy invading microbes. This could lead to serious, and even life-threatening, infections, not to mention increased vulnerability to the cold and flu virus.
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For A Stronger Immunity: Natural Ways To Boost The Immune System
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress suppresses the immune response of the body by releasing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol interferes with the T-cells(a specific white blood cell) to reproduce and receive signals from the body. Cortisol also reduces the antibody secretory IgA, which lines the gut and respiratory tract, which are our first line of defense against pathogens. To keep your stress in check, practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing in your regular routine.
Moderate Your Alcohol Intake
Numerous researches have shown that excess intake of alcohol can tamper with the immune system and its pathway in a complicated manner. However, moderate consumption of alcohol can be helpful to the overall health of the body.
Make Sure You Get Your A-B-C-D-Es
The saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” can actually be true as consumption of vitamins can boost your immune system. Vitamin A, B6, C, D and E can help increase the strength of the immune system. Vitamin C is the biggest booster of all and lack of it can cause several diseases including Scurvy. You can get Vitamin C from citrus fruits like Orange, Grapefruit, Spinach and Strawberries. You can take multivitamin supplements from your doctor, however, natural intake through food is the best way.
Colostrum is the referred to the first milk from nursing mammals. The advantage of being breastfed is the intake of protective antibodies you get from your mother. These antibodies help you fight through early years of your life. These antibodies are the reason that the breastfed children are healthier and have less risk of catching a cold or allergies. We can harness the antibodies of first milk even when we are adult. In powder form, obtained from cows, goats and other mammals, these antibodies can be mixed with water, juice and shakes.
Eat More Vegetables
Vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts are loaded with nutrients that are essential for our immune system. Consuming them on a daily basis boosts the immunity. For a healthy liver, cruciferous vegetables like Kale, Broccoli and Cabbage should be included in daily diet. Healthy liver ensures the body’s’ natural detoxification process.
Herbs & Supplements
Herbs like AHCC, Echinacea, Elderberry, Andrographis and Astragalus can help reduce the duration and severity of illness. On top of that, using vitamin and mineral supplements provide the necessary nutrients for a strong immune system.
Get Your Exercise On
Working out on a regular basis has been scientifically proven to boost the immune system. Regular exercise mobilises the T cells, a type of white blood cell which guards the body against infection. However, continuous rigorous workout weakens the immune system, leaving you prone to flu and viral infections.
Get Sufficient Sleep
Lack of sleep can cause the inflammatory immune response to activate, reducing the activity of T cells in the body. This can weaken your immune system and response to vaccines. Try to sleep for 7–8 hours and avoid having an all-nighter. If you happen to be travelling in different time zones on a regular basis, consume 2–3mg of Melatonin to reset the circadian rhythm.
Start Consuming Mushrooms
Mushroom are nature’s way of breaking down the organic matters to convert it into fertile soil. One of the healthiest food on the planet, mushrooms are rich in essential nutrients and minerals. Some of the mushrooms that are really good for immune systems are — A Turkey tail mushroom, Maitake and Shiitake Mushrooms, Tremella Mushrooms.
Stop The Habit Of Smoking
Stop the habit of smoking because not only does it increases the risk of cancer but it also impairs the immune system. Smoking is said to have a negative impact on both adaptive and innate immunity. It can also increase the chances of developing harmful pathogenic immune responses and smoking also reduces the effectiveness of your immune system’s defenses. However, if you still wish to continue, there are alternatives like the use of nicotine patches or electronic cigarettes which help to quit smoking and less harmful.
Step Out In The Sun
Stepping out in the natural light is one of the major contributors to the production of Vitamin D in our body. Vitamin D is essential for healthy functioning of the immune system as it helps the body to produce antibodies. Low level of Vitamin D in the body has been termed as one of the major reasons for respiratory problems. A brisk walk in the sunlight for 10–15 minutes will ensure that enough Vitamin D is produced in the body.
With these little efforts and tweaks in your daily routine, you can ensure a healthy immune system. A healthy body is not just about being healthy from the outside but also ensuring a stronger immunity and these 11 natural ways to boost your immune system can help you achieve the goal of a healthy body. These steps would reduce the toxins in the body and would provide the needed nutrients which are essential for your health. Keeping a check on the immune system is not only going to keep you safe from getting sick but it will also help you prevent diseases like cancer in the latter half of your life. Also, these natural ways can help you age gracefully.
Antibody, also called immunoglobulin, a protective protein produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance, called an antigen. Antibodies recognize and latch onto antigens in order to remove them from the body. A wide range of substances are regarded by the body as antigens, including disease-causing organisms and toxic materials such as insect venom.
The four-chain structure of an antibody, or immunoglobulin, moleculeThe basic unit is composed of two identical light (L) chains and two identical heavy (H) chains, which are held together by disulfide bonds to form a flexible Y shape. Each chain is composed of a variable (V) region and a constant (C) region.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.Read More on This Topic immune system: B-cell antigen receptors and antibodies The antigen receptors on B lymphocytes are identical to the binding sites of antibodies that these lymphocytes manufacture once stimulated,…
When an alien substance enters the body, the immune system is able to recognize it as foreign because molecules on the surface of the antigen differ from those found in the body. To eliminate the invader, the immune system calls on a number of mechanisms, including one of the most important—antibody production. Antibodies are produced by specialized white blood cells called B lymphocytes (or B cells). When an antigen binds to the B-cell surface, it stimulates the B cell to divide and mature into a group of identical cells called a clone. The mature B cells, called plasma cells, secrete millions of antibodies into the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
As antibodies circulate, they attack and neutralize antigens that are identical to the one that triggered the immune response. Antibodies attack antigens by binding to them. The binding of an antibody to a toxin, for example, can neutralize the poison simply by changing its chemical composition; such antibodies are called antitoxins. By attaching themselves to some invading microbes, other antibodies can render such microorganisms immobile or prevent them from penetrating body cells. In other cases the antibody-coated antigen is subject to a chemical chain reaction with complement, which is a series of proteins found in the blood. The complement reaction either can trigger the lysis (bursting) of the invading microbe or can attract microbe-killing scavenger cells that ingest, or phagocytose, the invader. Once begun, antibody production continues for several days until all antigen molecules are removed. Antibodies remain in circulation for several months, providing extended immunity against that particular antigen.
B cells and antibodies together provide one of the most important functions of immunity, which is to recognize an invading antigen and to produce a tremendous number of protective proteins that scour the body to remove all traces of that antigen. Collectively B cells recognize an almost limitless number of antigens; however, individually each B cell can bind to only one type of antigen. B cells distinguish antigens through proteins, called antigen receptors, found on their surfaces. An antigen receptor is basically an antibody protein that is not secreted but is anchored to the B-cell membrane. All antigen receptors found on a particular B cell are identical, but receptors located on other B cells differ. Although their general structure is similar, the variation lies in the area that interacts with the antigen—the antigen-binding, or antibody-combining, site. This structural variation among antigen-binding sites allows different B cells to recognize different antigens. The antigen receptor does not actually recognize the entire antigen; instead it binds to only a portion of the antigen’s surface, an area called the antigenic determinant or epitope. Binding between the receptor and epitope occurs only if their structures are complementary. If they are, epitope and receptor fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, an event that is necessary to activate B-cell production of antibodies.
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Each antibody molecule is essentially identical to the antigen receptor of the B cell that produced it. The basic structure of these proteins consists of two pairs of polypeptide chains (lengths of amino acids linked by peptide bonds) that form a flexible Y shape. The stem of the Y consists of one end of each of two identical heavy chains, while each arm is composed of the remaining portion of a heavy chain plus a smaller protein called the light chain. The two light chains also are identical. Within particular classes of antibodies the stem and the bottom of the arms are fairly similar and thus are called the constant region. The tips of the arms, however, are highly variable in sequence. It is these tips that bind antigen. Thus each antibody has two identical antigen-binding sites, one at the end of each arm, and the antigen-binding sites vary greatly among antibodies.
Variable (V) and constant (C) domains within the light (L) and heavy (H) chains of an antibody, or immunoglobulin, molecule. The folded shapes of the domains are maintained by disulfide bonds (―S―S―).Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Antibodies are grouped into five classes according to their constant region. Each class is designated by a letter attached to an abbreviation of the word immunoglobulin: IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD, and IgE. The classes of antibody differ not only in their constant region but also in activity. For example, IgG, the most common antibody, is present mostly in the blood and tissue fluids, while IgA is found in the mucous membranes lining the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.
Preformed antibodies, which are derived from the blood serum of previously infected people or animals, are often administered in an antiserum to another person in order to provide immediate, passive immunization against fast-acting toxins or microbes, such as those in snakebites or tetanus infections.
There’s a good chance you either don’t know or don’t care what an immunologist does. That’s totally understandable, because “medical immunology” is more of an academic study than a medical specialty. There’s very little any doctor can do to the immune system to “boost” it.
But as a physician in this field, I’ve looked at countless studies, worked with patients and found that there are a few natural things I think will help make over your immune system. Give them a try this winter.
First of all, let’s talk about what the immune system actually is in simple terms:
Your immune system is like a large, highly trained military. Their purpose is to defend your body from foreign insults from the world around you. Like the military, your immune system contains many different arms that work together with one goal — protecting you from unhealthy invaders that can cause damage to your body.
Your goal should be to support this military by providing it with proper nutrition, training, recovery and support. Knowing how it works, you can see why my steps below can help:
1. Sleep more than you ever have.
I am talking 10 hours. This is my number one secret — even when you already sick. Seriously, this season, before you go out and by products, pills, medications and so on — start with giving yourself 10 hours of sleep for three to five days. Repeat this once every month. Ten hours (or something significantly more than you’re used to) is great way to give your cells extra repair time and your immune system enough time to recharge. Studies clearly show that sleep deprivation weakens your immune system.
2. Shelter yourself.
If you’re starting to feel run down or sick from stress, crawl into your turtle shell and opt out of all stressful situations for a few days. This holds true for work, home, or physical stress. Your body is telling you that you need to take some time for yourself. The world will not fall apart, and you’ll be stronger and ready to take on more once you’re well. There’s both animal and human studies that show that stressful situations can lower the various arms of the immune system.
3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Eating a better diet not only helps your body recover faster- it helps build up your immune military so it’s more resilient and dynamic. Specifically, the things that make the most difference: eat more cruciferous vegetables, cut out the processed foods (although it’s still unclear at this point which additives might be the culprit). Last, but most important: cut the sugar.
4. Eat — don’t buy — your micronutrients.
There’s little evidence that popping a bunch of vitamins or supplements with micronutrients helps boost your immune system. I recommend eating micronutrients in whole food form, meaning a lot of vegetables and fruits, or a vegetable juice.
5. Nurture your microbiome.
Good bacteria can be the immune systems best friends and allies in helping protect you from invaders. They work symbiotically with your own immune system. So please refrain from antibiotics (good bacteria killers!) unless it’s absolutely necessary. Eat probiotic foods (but again, supplements have mixed results). Remember, probiotics aren’t only in live culture yogurt; they’re also in kimchee, kombucha tea and natural pickled veggies.
6. Take vitamin D.
This is the one supplement I actually do think has good evidence to help boost immunity. This is helpful in people who are deficient in vitamin D, which is most of us. Vitamin D3 at doses of 1000 IU to 5000 IU is what I take.
7. Consider herbal remedies with evidence supporting their use.
There is ongoing research on vitamin C, aloe vera, astragalus membranes, echinacea, ginseng, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Chinese herbal remedies and many other concoctions that claim to improve immune functioning. If any of these worked for you or your family, go for them, but be aware that although I wish it were as easy as purchasing a magical herb, this shouldn’t be your first line of treatment. This philosophy is supported by research, which has shown that it’s wise to remain skeptical of herbs.
8. Exercise less.
As a self-professed cardio junkie, I hate to admit this, but it’s true — when you exercise too much, especially hard or long cardio-based exercise, you actually weaken your immune system and you’re more susceptible to infections. Combine that with sleep loss and poor diet, and your immune system becomes impaired. The idea is that your body is repairing the inflammation in your muscles, joints, elsewhere instead of doing what it’s supposed to. That’s why taking a rest after intense exercise is necessary.
9. Know when to go to the doctor, and when to stay home.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but when you’re sick, it’s sometimes better for your immune system if you don’t visit the doctor. Why? When you go to the doctor, you often get antibiotics or prescription meds that may not even be necessary (and could be harmful) to your immune system in the long run.
Many people ask me, “Can you really just wait it out at home? How do you know when you wait it out when you feel fluish?” I made the decision really easy for you with this free infographic.
Supporting your immune system often means NOT taking things to hurt it (like antibiotics or unproven remedies) and doing natural things to support it.
Now it’s your turn. Have you tried anything that absolutely works or that you love to boost your immunity? I’d love to hear about it!
SFF may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Considering that communicable diseases like colds and flu are highly contagious and have no cure other than to run their course, your best bet is to prevent becoming ill in the first place.
But, even if you do get sick this season, the severity and longevity of illness is highly dependent on the strength of your immune system and your body’s ability to fight off the invading virus.
Low Immunity Sets the Stage for Sickness
Any illness, whether bacterial, fungal or viral, shows up in individuals who are “susceptible.” Making healthy lifestyle choices during cold and flu season (and all year round) will help build defenses in your body so you are not susceptible to illness.
Here are several very easy, all-natural steps you can take to strengthen your immune system and arm yourself against colds and flu today.
1. Eat Probiotic Foods
Did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? There are trillions of beneficial bacteria in your intestines that help you fight disease and absorb nutrients. Keeping this population healthy and strong is arguably your strongest defense against colds, flus and many other diseases.
Replenish your gut flora daily by incorporating wholesome fermented foods and drinks into your diet like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchee.
Fermenting your own vegetables is far more effective and affordable than buying probiotic supplements or other mass-marked products that only claim to boost your immunity. Not only will keeping your gut flora healthy help protect you from disease, but it can also give you better digestion.
And from real ginger beer to homemade pickles, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy probiotic foods at least once a day. (My favorite book about making probiotic foods here)
2. Eat Enough Good Food
Make sure the meals you eat every day include plenty of fresh vegetables and healthy fats, and enjoy healthy snacks if you need them, so your blood sugar stays relatively even throughout the day. It takes calories (energy) to form antibodies and dispatch them to the front lines when germs invade. When your calorie intake dwindles because you don’t eat enough or you skip meals, your body prioritizes other functions while your immune system is left to operate at a deficit.
But you don’t want to eat just anything! The nutrition that you get from whole fruits and vegetables is outstanding for preventing illness. Many vitamins, including vitamin C, are antioxidants that will protect cells—including those of your immune system—from damage by toxins in the environment.
Dark-colored produce (berries, kale, broccoli) tends to be higher in flavonoids, polyphenols and other antioxidants. Just make sure you eat a little saturated fat from butter or coconut oil with those veggies, so you can absorb all their nutrients.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Whatever amount of sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning, whether that’s 6 hours or 10—make sure you get it! Insufficient sleep depresses the immune system, opening the door to colds, upper-respiratory infections, and other nagging ills. Also consider your caffeine intake, and don’t let it keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
If you have a constricted airway that prevents you from sleeping deeply, Breathe-Right strips on your nose can be very helpful. If you have insomnia (which I often do), then a little warm cow’s milk (which provides tryptophan, a relaxing amino acid) or some magnesium drink can quickly and gently ensure you get a good night of rest. (My favorite book about curing insomnia here)
4. Eat More Soup
Your immune cells rely on an amino acid called glutamine to do their jobs. “Glutamine comes from protein foods, and if you’re not eating enough of those, your body will borrow from skeletal muscle, especially if you’re working out,” says Jose Antonio, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In one study, marathon runners who took glutamine instead of a placebo had less chance of experiencing an upper-respiratory infection after racing.
Broths and stocks made from grassfed beef or pasture-raised chicken are outstanding sources of natural glutamine, and adding a cup a day to your diet can really boost your immune health—just like Grandma always said.
But if you are an athlete, you may need to supplement with more. After exercising, try taking either an extra cup or two of broth, or 5 to 15 grams of L-Glutamine in pill or powder form to help with recovery. Your white blood cells (and your muscles) will thank you.
5. Get Plenty of Sunshine
The majority of adults and children in the U.S. are deficient in the sunshine vitamin, putting them at greater risk for all infections. A number of recent medical trials have demonstrated that individuals with the lowest levels of vitamin D had the highest rates of serious illness and infections.
A light-skinned person can get all the Vitamin D they need by exposing the face, arms, and hands to five minutes of sun at noon two to three times a week at a latitude of Boston, Massachusetts during spring, summer, or fall. Darker-skinned people may require 3–10 times as much exposure under the same sunlight conditions.
During winter, Vitamin D is stored for months, mainly in the liver and the fatty tissues, but good dietary sources include good old fashioned cod liver oil (my favorite, least processed brand here), grassfed beef liver, egg yolks from pasture-raised chickens, and fatty fish like wild-caught salmon (not farmed).
You can also take Vitamin D supplements, but studies show that without sufficient Magnesium in the body, Vitamin D supplementation is totally ineffective, and taking high doses can actually be quite harmful.
Just get some sun; it’s free and it works perfectly.
6. Eat Mushrooms
You can try shitake, maitake or other Asian mushrooms, but even the inexpensive and humble button mushroom is loaded with polysaccharides called beta glucans. Numerous medical studies have shown that beta glucans can positively modulate and strengthen the immune system and prevent infections. You’ll want to eat those mushrooms raw and unwashed to get the most out of them.
In addition to finding it in all types of delicious, fresh mushrooms, you can also buy Beta Glucans as a supplement to take during cold and flu season.
7. Harness the Power of Plants
Thieves’ oil is a legendary and ancient blend of the essential oils of clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary and eucalyptus. Thieves’ blend has been clinically tested and proven to be more than 99% effective against airborne bacteria (study conducted at Weber State University, 1997). It has been used to treat everything from candida and bacterial infections to toxic mold to colds and flu.
It can be used as a spray on countertops to kill germs or diffused in an oil diffuser to kill airborne bacteria. Some people mix a few drops of Thieves with olive or coconut oil and rub it into their chest, throat and bottoms of feet to treat a cold or boost immunity all winter long. Here’s how to make it at home.
Fire cider is a traditional folk remedy infused with powerful anti-microbial, decongestant, and circulatory herbs and spices.
The base ingredients are apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, and hot peppers, which are mighty by themselves, but there are plenty of other herbs that can be added for extra strength, depending on what’s available to you.
Fire cider needs to steep in a dark cupboard for a month to extract all the goodness from the ingredients. After it is done brewing, adding a tablespoon of this to your diet every day can help boost your immune system, stimulate digestion, and warm you up on cold days. Here’s the recipe to make it.
It goes without saying that you should wash your hands often during cold and flu season, especially if you are around anyone who is sick. But when you’re unable to wash your hands, a hand sanitizer is better than nothing at all.
Unfortunately, commercial hand sanitizers are filled with toxic chemicals like triclosan and phthalates that have been linked with cancer, neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption.
Instead, you can make your own natural version very easily, with a high-concentration of germ-killing tea tree oil and other antibacterial botanicals. Here is the recipe to make it.
8. Drink Plenty of Water
Even overnight, during what amounts to an 8-hour fast, your immune reserves are being drained. Hydration becomes even more important when you’re sick. Fluids not only transport nutrients to the illness site, but also take toxins away for disposal. Green, rooibos, or herbal tea is another immune-friendly vehicle for consuming water.
You don’t want to drink too much water though! There is too much of a good thing here. It’s important not to dilute and wash out the important minerals and electrolytes your body needs to remain healthy.
To gauge if you are getting the right amount of water, your urine should always be straw colored or darker. If it is clear, you are drinking too much water and slowing your metabolism down!
9. Steam Some Oysters
Oysters are the richest source of zinc, which is essential for immune cell function, and many studies have shown that even a mild deficiency depresses immunity. If you’re not a fan of bivalves, grab a grass-fed burger: Beef and buffalo are other good sources of zinc.
You can also get zinc from pumpkin seeds, which is the highest plant source of the mineral, but you’ll need to eat 3 whole cups of them to get the same amount of zinc that is in just 2 oysters!
Most people are low in zinc, so you might consider supplementing with zinc gluconate during cold and flu season. Just know that zinc is not very well absorbed in pill form, so it’s best to get it from food whenever possible.
10. Quit the Sugar
If you do only one thing when you feel like you’re coming down with something, eliminating sugar will do the most good. Refined sugar dramatically decreases immune function. Many scientists and nutritionists consider added sugar in any form to be a drug because of its negative impact on the human body. I have known health practitioners to prioritize eliminating refined sugar from the diet over recommending that people quitting smoking!
Healthier sweeteners such as honey or stevia can be used in moderation, but avoid artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Equal; they are even more toxic than cane sugar!
Most importantly, if you are feeling like you’re “fighting off a bug” or “coming down with something,” avoid sugar and sweet foods until you feel better. In my experience, sugar is enough of an immune depressant that eating sweets of any kind when you are a little under the weather will likely tip the scales against you, and bring on that cold or flu full strength.
Fighting an illness? 4 ways to boost your immune system
The winter months bring cold and flu season, which can take a toll on your health. While flu shots and rest are common advice for prevention, a strong immune system is critical to keeping you healthy all year long. According to Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDE, a Registered Dietitian at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, “Your body’s ability to fight infection and disease depends on your immune system.”
Margaret provides one-on-one nutrition consultations for people with cancer who have a weakened immune system due to the effects of treatment, but she says keeping a healthy immune system is important for everyone. “Boosting your immune system during and after cancer treatment can help you feel better, maintain your strength, avoid treatment delays and speed your recovery. This goes for anyone fighting an illness, or preventing one.”
Margaret offers these important tips to help boost your immune system and keep it running smoothly throughout the year.
Keep a plant-based, heart-healthy menu.
Choose foods first as your source of vitamins and nutrients. Unless your healthcare team directs you to take a vitamin or supplement, you likely do not need one. The best way to include these nutrients is by eating whole foods. Make sure your meals incorporate a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, lean protein and healthy fats.
Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to stay energized and to ensure your body is getting enough calories, proteins and nutrients. Protein acts as a “builder” and the body uses it to build and repair tissues. Protein is also vital for making hormones and enzymes that promote the body’s daily functions and supports a healthy immune system. In addition, drinking eight to 10 glasses of fluids every day is one of the most effective ways to flush waste from your body and support the health of your immune system.
Power up with phytochemicals.
Fruits, vegetables and other plants contain naturally occurring substances known as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their color and flavor. Phytochemicals act as soldiers in the immune system to protect the body from damage. Studies show that phytochemicals help support the:
* Immune system
* Creation of healthy cells
* Death of damaged cells (such as cancer cells)
Decrease your risk of malnutrition.
It can be harder for a malnourished body to fight off an illness or infection. Malnutrition results when the body does not receive enough calories and/or nutrients to promote good health and sustain healthy functioning of your body’s systems. When you’re “in the slumps,” it can be easy to avoid eating altogether. Follow these tips to reduce your risk of malnutrition during cancer treatment:
* Choose a variety of foods each week from all the food groups. Talk with your healthcare team before changing your diet. Eat regularly throughout the day, every four to six hours. Even if you do not feel hungry, try to have a snack or mini meal. If you forget to eat, try setting a timer.
* Include a protein source with every meal and most snacks.
Make changes to your lifestyle. And stick to them.
In addition to using nutrition to boost your immune system, you can also make changes to your lifestyle to help support health and immunity. These include:
- Decrease your exposure to bacteria, viruses and germs.
- Aim for 7 hours or more of sleep every night. If your sleep is interrupted, try a 30-minute nap during the day.
- Reduce stress by taking time to do things you enjoy such as spending time with family, spending time outdoors or reading. If your feelings of anxiety or depression make it difficult for you to complete daily tasks, talk to your healthcare team.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society offers PearlPoint Nutrition Services to all cancer patients and caregivers, providing free nutrition education and consultations. Visit www.LLS.org/nutrition for more information.
Boosting Your Immune System
Fruits, vegetables, and other plants contain a naturally occurring compound known as phytochemicals (or phytonutrients). Phytochemicals refer to a variety of compounds that give fruits and vegetables their color and flavor. Studies show that phytochemicals support the:
- Immune system
- Creation of healthy cells
- Death of damaged cells (such as cancer cells).
Phytochemicals also act as antioxidants to protect the body from damage.
Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and beans in a variety of colors is the best way to add phytochemicals to your menus. Visit The American Institute for Cancer Research to learn more about different types of phytochemicals and the best food sources for each.
Probiotics aid in digestion and support immunity. Probiotics are the good bacteria like those naturally found in your gut or intestinal tract. Food sources of probiotics include:
- Miso soup
- Sour pickles
- Milk with probiotics (buttermilk and sweet acidophilus).
Speak with a registered dietitian or your healthcare team before adding food sources of probiotics to your menus. Some of these foods may not be safe to eat if you are following a low-microbial or low-bacteria diet.
In some cases, your body may need more probiotics than you can get from food. Ask your healthcare team if a probiotic supplement would be beneficial for you. However, your healthcare team may advise you to avoid probiotic supplements if you are immunosuppressed.
Decrease your risk for malnutrition.
People who are malnourished tend to be more susceptible to illness and infection. It can also be harder for a malnourished body to fight off an illness or infection if one is contracted. Malnutrition results when the body does not receive enough calories and/or nutrients to promote good health and sustain healthy functioning of your body’s systems.
Due to the side effects of cancer and treatment, cancer patients are often at risk for malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to interruptions in treatment schedules, longer recovery times and, in serious cases, death.
Talk to your healthcare team if you notice any of the following signs of malnutrition:
- Weight loss of 5-10 lbs. without trying
- Decreased appetite
- Side effects that make eating difficult or unpleasant.
Follow these tips to reduce your risk of malnutrition during cancer treatment:
- Do not drastically change the way you eat by eliminating whole food groups or starting a diet to lose weight.
- Report any unintentional weight loss to your healthcare team.
- Work with your healthcare team to manage side effects that make eating difficult such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, etc.
- Eat regularly through the day, every 4-6 hours. Even if you do not feel hungry, try to have a snack or mini meal. If you forget to eat, try setting a timer.
- Include a protein source with every meal and snack.
In addition to using nutrition to boost your immune system, you can also make changes to your lifestyle to help support health and immunity.
Decrease your exposure to bacteria, viruses, and germs.
The following are tips to decrease your risk of infection and illness:
- Practice good food safety to prevent foodborne illness. Food safety is especially important for cancer patients in active treatment who may have a weakened immune system. Visit the Food Safety page to learn more.
- Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the restroom and before and after handling food. You can also use hand sanitizing gels or foams when you do not have access to a sink.
- Keep your home clean to lower the risk of infection.
- Practice good hygiene and personal care by taking care of your skin, hair, nails, mouth, and teeth.
- Avoid others who are sick. If you are immunocompromised, you may wish to wear a mask over your mouth and nose when out in public in large groups of people.
- If you have a cut or scrape, keep it clean and dry to prevent infection.
Get enough sleep.
Sleep is an important aspect of health. Our bodies need sleep to recharge and heal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 7 hours or more of sleep every night. If you have difficulty sleeping, try the tips and strategies on the Tips for Managing Insomnia or Difficulty Sleeping page and talk to your healthcare team.
In addition to sleeping enough at night, as a cancer patient, you may need to rest more throughout the day. Try to work in a 30 minute nap. Ask your friends and family to help with chores to allow you more time to rest. Your loved ones probably want to help but may not know how, so suggest specific tasks.
Stress can also take a toll on the immune system. In many ways, mental health can also affect your physical health. Try to reduce stress by taking time to do things you enjoy such as spending time with family, spending time outdoors, or reading. If your feelings of anxiety or depression make it difficult for you to complete daily tasks, talk to your healthcare team.
Leading an active lifestyle can also boost your immune system by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. Regular exercise promotes good cardiovascular (heart) health, too. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous, physical activity a week. Physical activity includes walking, jogging, swimming, biking, playing sports, etc. Include strength training and stretching along with aerobic exercise to build muscle and increase flexibility.
Talk to your healthcare team before beginning any exercise plan. You may need to work up to a 150 minutes per week goal or set a goal adjusted for your needs.
Avoid alcohol and all tobacco products.
For cancer prevention, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends not to drink alcohol. However, other studies suggest that modest amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect on heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you do choose to drink, limit consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks for men. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Smoking increases the risk for a number of cancers including lung, oral, throat, esophageal, colorectal, and more. Smoking also increases the risk of other diseases such as heart disease. Read more about the benefits of quitting smoking and how to quit on the Smoking Cessation page.
Download the free publication Healthy Behaviors from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for more healthy lifestyle tips.
Staying up-to-date on immunizations is another important part of a strong immune system. Immunizations help your body build a resistance to specific diseases. Most immunizations work by introducing a small, safe amount of the disease to your immune system. This way if you are ever exposed to the disease, your body’s immune system already knows how to fight it. Most immunizations are vaccines given as a shot or series of shots.
Many people receive one-time immunizations when they are children for diseases such as chickenpox. Some immunizations, such as tetanus shots, need boosters to keep them effective. Other immunizations, such as flu vaccines, need to be received annually.
Ask your healthcare team which immunizations are appropriate for you. Some immunizations are not safe for people who are immunosuppressed. Learn more about immunizations here.
Immune System Disorders
Immune System Disorders cause abnormally low or high activity of the immune system. When the immune system is overactive, the body damages its own tissues. These are called “autoimmune” diseases. Examples of autoimmune disorders include lupus and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). When the immune system is underactive, the body is not able to fight off infection and illness. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an example of this type of immune system disorder.
If you have been diagnosed with an immune system disorder, talk with your healthcare team about how to stay healthy and well and manage your immune disorder.
- National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
- Harvard Health Publishing
- Cleveland Clinic
- American Institute for Cancer Research
How to boost your immune system naturally
We know that no one likes to be ill, but there’s lots you can do to support your immune system to keep you healthy
What is your immune system?
Your immune system is a network of cells, organs, proteins and antibodies that work to protect you against bacteria, viruses and parasites. Whilst we usually only think of our immune system when we feel ill, it’s actually working every day to keep us safe.
What are the best ways to keep your immune system healthy?
Your immune system is made up of lots of individual parts, which all work together to protect you from infection. Due to its complexity, even scientists don’t fully understand how it all works, but they do know that following a healthy lifestyle will help support each function of your immune system.
Top tips for supporting your immunity:
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and minimise your intake of processed foods
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce stress
- Follow good hygiene practices
- Cut your nails (it may sound like a strange one, but longer fingernails can become a breeding ground for germs)
- Don’t smoke
- Limit your alcohol intake
And there are a few things you can do to stop germs spreading, if you do get ill:
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue and away from other people
- Don’t reuse tissues
- Don’t go into work (and avoid public places, if you can)
- Regularly clean surfaces and door handles around your home
- Wash your hands regularly to minimise the spread of germs
The best vitamins and minerals for your immune system
There are a few key vitamins and minerals that are known to help support your immune system. If you eat a healthy, varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, you should be able to get all the nutrients you need.
Vitamin A – this supports the normal functioning of the immune system as it’s thought to help develop a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies. Some sources of vitamin A include eggs, dark green leafy vegetables and cod liver oil.
Vitamin C – this can help support cellular functions needed by the immune system. Oranges, orange juice, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries and red/green peppers are your best source.
Vitamin D – this will help to keep your immune system strong, with the ability to fight off infections quickly. As most vitamin D is received from sunlight, the UK Government recommends a daily supplement between October and March.
Zinc – this contributes to the normal function of the immune system and can be found in seafood, red meat, chickpeas, eggs, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Be careful not to consume more than the recommended daily allowance, which is 9.5mg for men and 7mg for women.
What are the best foods to boost your immune system?
Whilst eating a healthy, balanced diet is vital in supporting your immune health, there are several foods that are thought to give it that extra little kick.
Cinnamon – can reduce bacteria’s ability to multiply, and if you do end up suffering from a cold, it should help it to clear up quicker. Sprinkle some over hot chocolate or a cup of tea, or try mixing it with raw honey, which has similar properties.
Citrus fruits – are great for vitamin C, which can help to fight off infections. Vitamin C can’t be stored by your body, so you need to try and incorporate foods that are rich in vitamin C every day. Try oranges, lemons and limes.
Watermelon – these contain citrulline, which helps keep your heart healthy, and they’re rich in vitamins A, C and B6 too. Their red flesh supplies your body with lycopene, which helps keep your immune system balanced.
Broccoli – when it comes to choosing your five-a-day, make sure broccoli becomes a firm favourite as it’s bursting with nutrients like vitamins A, C and E and contains choline which is good for your gut. Instead of cooking your broccoli, try to eat it raw if you can, as it’s more nutritious this way. Similar vegetables that are classed as super foods when it comes to your immune system include sprouts, kale and cauliflower.
Chicken – zinc is needed for white blood cell production so your body can fight off infection and for healthy skin, hair and nails. Zinc can be found in seafood (like oysters), eggs, chickpeas, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and cashew nuts, so eat these more regularly.
Garlic – raw garlic is brilliant at giving your body’s immune system a helping hand. It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, helping you ward off illness and recover quicker. Raw garlic can increase the number of t-cells in your blood, which in turn fight viruses. Crush or slice garlic cloves and add to salad dressings as garlic’s health powers are best when it’s raw.
Yoghurt – instead of pouring milk on your cereal in the morning, why not add a dollop of yoghurt instead? You need to choose a yoghurt that contains live cultures or ‘friendly bacteria’ as these help your immune system fight against bad bacteria in the gut. They can also encourage your body to produce more white blood cells.
Mushrooms – these are an interesting food ingredient, because – just like us – they synthesise Vitamin D when they are exposed to UV light. You should therefore choose wild mushrooms or mushrooms grown in UV light. They are the only plant source of vitamin D, which supports your immune system.
Bell peppers – these contain lots of vitamin A, which can help repair your body’s mucosal barriers (easily damaged by infection).
Chillies – fresh red and green chillies are incredible health boosters. They contain lots of vitamin A and C (nutrients which can boost the immune system) and capsaicin which can help clear congestion and phlegm.
Elderberries – these are full of flavonoids and they can help stop viruses in their tracks. Even if you do develop a cold or flu, you may find that your body recovers much more quickly if you’ve been eating elderberries.
When you go shopping, the easiest way is to pick a wide range of fruits and vegetables that are lots of different colours. Not only will your plate look more tempting, but you’ll be getting all your immune-boosting nutrients as well.
Exercise to support your immune system
Whilst exercise is known to improve your overall fitness levels and feelings of wellbeing, there is some scientific thinking that regular, moderate exertion could also give your immune system a boost1. One theory is that exercise could help remove bacteria from your lungs, whilst another considers whether a rise in body temperature (during and after physical activity) could prevent bacteria from growing.
Some recommended exercises include:
- Walking 20-30 minutes every day
- Going to the gym 3-4 times a week
- Enjoying a game of golf regularly
Exercise should always be included as part of a healthy lifestyle, but consult your healthcare professional before changing your current activity levels.
Supporting your immune system whatever your age
We’re all born with an immune system but not every baby’s immune system is healthy and functions as it should. Some babies and young children can be more prone to picking up bugs, especially when they start nursery or school.
A healthy diet, physical activity, good hygiene and sleeping habits can all help support a child’s immune system.
Everyone’s immune system changes throughout their life. As you get older, your immune response starts to decline, which means you’re more susceptible to infection. Good nutrition and some levels of physical activity become even more important for elderly people, to ensure their immune system remains in good working order.
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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP/healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
Top Ways to Boost Your Immune System
The immune system is comprised of a network of organs, cells, tissues and proteins that protect the body from foreign substances, including viruses and bacteria. When it’s working properly, we don’t even notice it. However, when its performance becomes compromised in some way, that’s when sickness can set in. As you age, the immune system begins to change, with some of the cells starting to lose the ability to properly communicate with each other. This allows in more potentially harmful germs.
So, how can you improve your immune system and ward off illness this winter? Here are five tips to get you started on a path to better health:
- Choose foods that boost your immune system. It’s time to make some adjustments to your diet, especially if you aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables. Foods packed with vitamin C like citrus fruits, bell peppers and spinach are a great choice because vitamin C helps increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting off infections. Additionally, choose foods rich in other vitamins, like A, D and E as well as those full of antioxidants.
- Add more physical activity to your routine. The stronger your body is, the better it’s able to fight off infection. Studies have shown that people who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day are less likely to get colds than those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
- Reduce your stress levels. Stress has a variety of negative effects on your health, and a weakened immune system is one of them. If you’re always stressed out, you might notice you’re more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Learn how to properly manage your stress levels, whether you practice some deep breathing exercises throughout the day or enjoy more time with friends and loved ones.
- Increase your sleep. It’s a common myth that older adults don’t need as much sleep as their younger counterparts. Seniors should aim for at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night to ensure the body has adequate time to rest, recover and rebuild strength and energy levels.
- Get the flu shot. The CDC states that it’s especially important for adults age 65 and older to get vaccinated against the flu due to the fact that they are at a higher risk for complications from the illness. Flu vaccines are updated each season to keep up with the changing viruses, and will better protect you from the virus strain that will be most common this year.