Many people are familiar with the words, 'immune system,' but what do these words actually mean?
A person's immune system is designed to provide a barrier between the person and invaders such as infectious organisms. To accomplish this, a person's body has specialized infection fighters in various organs, cells, tissues and proteins throughout their body, to include their spleen, lymph system, bone marrow, digestive tract, and thymus gland. Some of a person's immune system's cells are tasked with identifying foreign agents; others produce protective substances referred to as, 'antibodies,' designed to protect the person against repeat visitation by a substance. After a person has had chicken pox, for example, antibodies created by your immune system protect you from experiencing that specific illness again.
The immune system is incredibly efficient when it is working appropriately. Yet with such an extensive system spread throughout the body things may go wrong. That is when common colds turn into bronchitis or worse and infections keep returning no matter which antibiotic a doctor administers. When this occurs it is time to concentrate on repairing broken immunity.
Repairing Broken Immunity
A healthy immune system does not simply happen. You need to provide an environment in which the different elements have the opportunity to thrive. The modern world presents obstacles; in addition to a number of ever-evolving viruses and bacteria, people are surrounded by pollutants and toxins that constantly challenge our individual efforts to remain healthy. Maintaining a strong and responsive immune system is not that hard as long as you are vigilant and keep some basic guidelines in mind.
An excellent place to start is by eating a nutritious diet of whole foods, which means unprocessed and unrefined foods, instead of fast or processed foods. Drink plenty of clean, filtered water and sleep at least eight hours each night. Exercise moderately several times each week. 'Exercising moderately,' means just that - more is not necessarily better. Several studies have shown that too much exercise may backfire on a person, depleting their immune system instead of reinforcing it.
It is also essential to learn to manage stress, which is one of the immune system's biggest enemies. If you have been relying on a daily drink or two to relax it might be a good time to consider stopping the habit, at least for a while. Researchers have discovered that alcohol seriously dampens a person's immune system and its ability to attack invading organisms.
Another easy way to recharge your immune system is with humor. There is a substantial amount of research showing that laughter is connected closely to wellness and healing. Remembering something funny, or taking a moment to listen to another person's joke can help you to smile while perking up your immune system at the same time.
Supplements to Strengthen Your Immune System
Chart showing information regarding immune system and supplements
In the meantime, specific supplements might make a large difference in immune effectiveness. Bear in mind that it takes time for herbal and other remedies to work so be patient. People often times experience results in 2-3 weeks, but on occasion it might take a month or more for blood levels of a particular substance to reach a, 'tipping point,' and for healing to start.
- Echinacea: Studies have shown that Echinacea enhances a person's immunity while increasing the production of infection fighting cells.
- Astragalus: Astragalus has been used for centuries in China and studies have shown that it may recharge the immune system. One of its main strengths is its effect on white blood cells that attack viruses and bacteria, making it a good choice during cold and flu season.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are also known as, 'friendly bacteria,' and help to establish a well-balanced environment in a person's digestive tract. The beneficial bacteria enhance digestion, support healthy immunity, and might actually prevent disease-causing bacteria from obtaining a foothold in your intestines.
- Beta-glucan: Beta-glucan is derived from oats, mushrooms and nutritional yeast. It improves the ability of white blood cells to fight off invading microbes. Several studies have shown that beta-glucan has profound virus and bacteria killing abilities, as well as the ability to strengthen the immune system's natural defenses. One researcher felt beta-glucan could be, 'the most important natural immunomodulator.'
- Vitamin C: The majority of experts agree that while vitamin C by itself is unable to prevent people from getting a common cold, it can reduce the intensity of symptoms and length of time a person is ill. One study found that people who were exposed to cold viruses and then given vitamin C reported 85% fewer symptoms than those who did not take the vitamin. Vitamin C is water soluble, so it is not stored in the body and must be replenished often. Even at high levels it is completely safe, although it might cause diarrhea or an upset stomach in some people.
Another recommendation is a large bowl of chicken soup for those who want to increase their immunity. Not only is this a time-honored tradition during cold and flu season, but a scientifically proven remedy! Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center put homemade chicken soup to the test. The researchers concluded that chicken soup does reduce inflammation associated with colds and upper respiratory infections.
Whole Foods and Your Immune System
Chart showing information regarding immune system and whole foods
A healthy, weekly diet of whole foods that build a person's immune system would consist of fruit, vegetables, seafood and whole grains. For people who simply do not make the time to eat as healthy as we know we should, whole food supplements are the next best thing to pursue. Studies at both the University of Florida and the University of Arizona discovered that certain whole food supplements support a number of important markers of proper immune function.
- Yogurt: A person's body needs certain bacteria in order to function properly. The bacteria found in yogurt actually help to fight bad bacteria in your digestive tract.
- Garlic: Garlic is a food that builds a person's immune system as well. It has been shown to produce incredible results in helping your body to fight off viral or bacterial infections. Even fungal infections have been fought off with the help of garlic.
- Fish: Oysters, lobster and crab are all very rich in magnesium, calcium and vitamin C. Salmon is an excellent choice too because it contains not only rich nutrients and vitamins, but also Omega 3 fatty acids that are highly beneficial in preventing arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
- Mushrooms: Shitake mushrooms are another food that build your immune system. The mushrooms have been found in a number of studies to increase white blood cells. They do so because they contain, 'Beta Glucans,' which are carbohydrates that can be found in foods such as oats, mushrooms, yeast and barley. They are taken as an herbal medicine to prevent and treat cancer, low cholesterol, HIV and diabetes, as well as to increase immune system function.
- Fruits: Fruits are a natural choice of whole foods that build a person's immune system. Natural sugar from fruits is much better than refined sugar. Refined sugar breaks down your immune system and has several other negative effects. The, 'Mangosteen,' fruit and its potential benefits are worthy of mention. The fruit contains 43, 'xanthones,' or powerful phytonutrients. The fruit has been used by people in Southeast Asia for centuries and is an excellent source of phytonutrients. Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is helpful when fighting colds and flu. Blueberries have also been found to be helpful because they help to reduce stress levels.
- Vegetables: Vegetables provide several vitamins and nutrients compared to other types of food. Vegetables are also a wonderful source of fiber. When examining your diet, vegetables should be a predominant choice. Carrots are particularly good when it comes to protection against certain forms of cancer. Carrots contain Beta-Carotene, which helps your immune system to reproduce cells. Broccoli is an excellent choice as well because it is rich in vitamin A and C - it even has more vitamin C than oranges! Broccoli also contains calcium, magnesium, and selenium. Interestingly, the majority of vitamins do not contain selenium - even thought it is an essential trace vitamin. The benefit of whole vegetables simply cannot be understated, making whole food supplements very convenient and an excellent choice.