Your immune system and healthy strategies to consider
The immune system is your body's self-defense mechanism against infectious organisms and other invaders. Through a series of integrated steps called the immune response, the immune system attacks the invading organisms and substances that cause illness and disease. It is composed of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that synchronize to work to defend your body. The cells are white blood cells, or leukocytes, which come in two basic types that target and destroy the invaders.
Generally, your immune system performs remarkably well in this defensive role but sometimes it fails and an invading germ makes you sick. Are we able to intervene and boost our immune system stronger? This is not an easy answer and there is much that researchers don't know about the complexity of the immune response.
However, there are many studies researching the effects of age, diet, exercise, stress, herbal supplements, etc. on the immune response. We have summarised information regarding diet, arising from such research below.
The following commentary has been extracted from the webmd.boots.com website.
A traditional remedy. Extract from these dark berries appears to block flu viruses in test tube studies, and a few small studies involving people, show it may help you recover more quickly from flu. However, scientists caution that further study is needed. The fruit itself is rich in antioxidants which is a health benefit.
Don't dismiss the lowly mushroom as low in nutrients. it has the mineral selenium. Low levels of selenium have been linked to an increased risk of developing more severe flu. The B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, found in these mushrooms, may play a role in a healthy immune system.
Sometimes promoted as a "super food" along with produce like blueberries, the little acai berry's dark colour signals that it is high in antioxidants called anthocyanins. While the acai is not scientifically linked to specific disease or illness fighting ability, some studies suggest antioxidants may help you maintain immune health as you age. Acai berries can be found most often in juice or smoothie form or dried and mixed with muesli.
Aphrodisiac? Immune boosters? Possibly both, thanks to the mineral zinc that's found in oysters. Low zinc levels have been associated with male infertility. Some studies suggest zinc may have an antiviral effect, although researchers can't explain why. However, they do know it is important for several immune system tasks including healing wounds.
Hydrating and refreshing, ripe watermelon also has plenty of a powerful antioxidant, glutathione. Known to help strengthen the immune system so it can fight infection, glutathione is found in the red pulpy flesh near the rind.
This is another source of glutathione which studies suggest helps maintain the body's immune system. And cabbage is easy and inexpensive to find during the winter months when it's in season. Cabbages can be added to any variety of soups and stews to sneak in extra antioxidants and possibly boost your meal's nutritional value.
A handful of almonds may help shore up your immune system from the effects of stress. A 60 gram serving carries nearly 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E, which helps maintain a healthy immune system. And they have riboflavin and niacin - B vitamins that studies suggest are good for the nervous system.
Grapefruit has a good amount of vitamin C needed for a healthy immune system. It's also packed with flavonoids - natural chemical compounds which may reduce damage to cell DNA and cell membranes. Don't like grapefruit? Try oranges or tangerines. Grapefruit can interfere with some medicines – seek medical advice.
Wheatgerm is the part of a wheat seed that feeds a baby wheat plant, so it is packed with nutrients. It has zinc, antioxidants and B vitamins among other vital vitamins and minerals. Wheat germ also offers a good mix of fibre, protein, and some good fat. Substitute wheat germ for part of the normal flour in cakes, biscuits and other recipes.
A daily pot may reduce your chances of getting a cold. Look for labels listing "live and active cultures." Some researchers believe they may stimulate your immune system to fight disease. Also look for vitamin D. Studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of colds and flu.
Garlic offers several antioxidants that may help battle against immune system invaders. Among garlic's targets are bacteria and viruses. Cooking tip: peel, chop and leave for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking to activate immune boosting enzymes.
Also promoted as a "super food", spinach is nutrient-rich. It has folate, which helps your body produce new cells and repair DNA. And it boasts fibre, antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and more. Eat spinach raw or lightly cooked to get the most benefit.
Green or black? Both are loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids. Studies suggest these antioxidants seek out cell-damaging free radicals and destroy them. Caffeinated and decaf work equally well.
Like carrots, sweet potatoes have the antioxidant beta-carotene, which mops up damaging free radicals. Beta-carotene is converted in the body into vitamin A, which is linked to slowing the ageing process and may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Easy to find at the supermarket and incorporate into meals, broccoli is an immune system basic. One study reported a chemical in broccoli helped stimulate the immune systems of mice. Plus, it's full of nutrients that help maintain a healthy body. It has vitamin A, vitamin C and glutathione. Add some low-fat cheese to make a side dish with immune-enhancing B vitamins and vitamin D.
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