The immune system is a complex system of many different glands with the sole purpose of producing different types of white blood cells that act as an army to defend against outside infective agents. Many of the health problems we encounter are a direct result of a weakened immune system.
In fact, some of these health issues that may be directly associated with a compromised immune system, and include arthritis, asthma, allergies, psoriasis, lupus, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a tendency to always be fighting off some kind of infection. Not everyone exposed to a virus or bacteria gets an infection, it is only those people with weak immune systems that become ill.
Improve Your Immune System
Before we start discussing what you can do to increase the functioning of your immune system, we should talk about what weakens your immune system in the first place. Lifestyle habits are one of the greatest depressors of the immune system.
Cheraskin, a medical and dental doctor, ran experiments where he subjected students to different types of stress and then tested their immune system. He found those common things like cigarette smoke, low blood sugar, and stress, drastically reduced immune function. One of his theories is that during a normal day, we may do things that severely limit the immune system to fight back against infections.
Other common conditions that restrict our immune system are high cholesterol diets, heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, alcohol, fried foods, food additives, obesity, industrial pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, prescription drugs, too much ultraviolet sunlight, and radiation. There are four major areas that should be considered when talking about improving the function of our immune systems:
Immune System and Nutrition
Our immune system depends on a series of reactions that begin in our bone marrow. There, cells are produced that will become either red or white blood cells. The ones that are used in the immune system then migrate to either the thymus gland, where they become T cells, or to the lymph tissue, where they become B cells. These are the soldiers in the immune system army. In order for this transformation process to occur, we must have adequate nutrition. Any deficiency in the essential nutrients will result in a weak army.
One of the real problems is that when we are feeling well, we do not need a large army. When an infection attacks the body, our immune system needs to dramatically increase in size. The immune system needs dramatically higher levels of essential nutrients to fight the infection. Ironically, this occurs just when we feel sick and don't feel like eating.
Immune System and Exercise
A second important factor is exercise. Exercise in moderation stimulates the immune system. It also reduces stress-related hormones that suppress the immune system and normally impair proper function. When we exercise, the hormones are quickly used up and removed from the bloodstream.
These hormones are found elevated in people who suffer from depression, anxiety, low blood sugar, and attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity (ADHD). Type A personalities, excessive-compulsive personalities, and persons under stress also will produce more of these hormones. A short daily exercise program is one of the best antidotes for reducing the levels of these hormones.
Immune System and Sleep
Adequate sleep is another important component that stimulates our immune function. When we are in deep sleep, our immune system is actively fighting whatever invader has been detected. Poor sleep patterns only hamper our immune function.
Finally, your thoughts and mental outlook have a great bearing on your immune function. Norman Cousins wrote about his personal experiences with emotions and immune system. It is well known that going to bed depressed affects your immune function. Your emotional state is one of the most important factors in whether your immune system will respond or not.
How to Boost Your Immune System
Are are some specific nutritional requirements for improving the immune system. Your general diet is extremely important in keeping
your immune system strong. These general guidelines will keep your body in a ready state to battle infection:
- Severely limit eating saturated trans fats, food additives, and alcohol.
- Take daily a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement to obtain a broad base of essential nutrients.
- Make sure your diet has adequate protein.
- Make sure that you have an adequate intake of Vitamin C daily.
- Eat 3 to 4 servings of vegetables daily.
- Eat 2 to 3 servings of legumes weekly.
- Eat 3 to 4 servings of omega3 fatty acid rich foods weekly.
- Eat 2 to 3 servings of fruit a day.
In addition, specific nutrients have been shown to enhance immune function. These include substances like pycnogenol, grape seed extract, coenzyme Q10, probiotics, Echinacea and specific mushrooms like shitake, maitake and reishi.
Infections, like influenza and pneumonia, enter through our mouth and nose. Adding foods to our diet that are high in vitamin A and betacarotene, will strengthen the lining of the respiratory system. One of the first things you should do when you get that little tickle in your throat is to suck on a zinc lozenge. Do this every two hours for two days. This has been shown to not only reduce the chances of getting an infection but, if you are unlucky enough to come down with one, zinc has been shown to reduce the length of time that you have the infection. If you have the flu, try the following recommendations to speed up your recovery:
- Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
- Get plenty of sleep and do not stress yourself. This reduces your immune response.
- Do not use aspirin gums or throat sprays as they can irritate the mucous membranes.
- Do not give aspirin to a child.
- Do not take zinc at the same time as citrus juice or fruit as they decrease the effectiveness of the zinc.
- Do not take alcoholic beverages with Tylenol. The combination has been linked to liver problems.
- Cough or sneeze into disposable tissues, and dispose of them by flushing.
Think of your immune system like a football team. You need a constant defense against invaders, supported by a multivitamin-mineral complex and daily intake of foods like garlic and onions. When attacked, you want to go on the offence by increasing the specific nutrients needed to increase your white blood cell production. If needed, you want to send in the special team players like probiotics, coenzyme Q10 and others.
As you can see, there are many variables that can be used to enhance your immune system. Don't wait until you have come down with the flu to start them. By preparing your immune system to fight, you will avoid getting sick in the first place. If you do get sick, then you can use these tips to shorten the length of time that you are recuperating.
Dr. Michael Minond is leading Chiropractor in NYC who specializes in traditional chiropractic care, and finding natural remedies to overcome severe and chronic illness. Learn more by visiting his website.