Having strong immunity throughout the whole year means taking steps to boost your immune system. We usually think of wintertime as cold and flu season and take extra care to make sure our immune systems are in the best of shape then, but a strong immune system all year long means help in fighting off inflammation, allergy symptoms, digestive conditions, and germs whenever those conditions arise. Adding certain foods to your diet, herbal and whole food supplements and a few lifestyle changes can help the immune system work better to protect you.
Foods For The Immune System
One of the best ways to boost the immune system with foods is to add more raw or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables to your diet. Plant based foods are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants that fight off free radical damage to your cells and strengthen immunity. Green pepper, spinach, purple onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cherries, strawberries and grapes are among the best foods for immune system support. These types of vegetables also help the liver get rid of toxins in the body. Vegetables with vitamin A like sweet potatoes and carrots nourish the skin which is the largest immune system organ and offers the first protection against foreign invaders. Omega-3 fatty acids are another important component in supporting how your immune cells react. Fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring are all good sources of omega-3’s. Fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir support immunity by keeping friendly bacteria in your gut, helping to produce antibodies to fight bad bacteria, and in releasing interferon to fight off viruses. Foods with zinc are another good addition to an immunity boosting diet as they help fight damage caused by stress, help heal wounds, are good for the skin, aid in the development of white blood cells, and have anti-viral properties. Food sources for zinc include lean beef, pork, oysters and poultry, sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds, fortified cereals, milk, yogurt, and miso. Garlic has a lot to offer the immune system with its anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and whole grains like oats and barley are good sources of beta-glucan that supports immunity with its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Your immune system can also benefit from adding seaweeds and sea vegetables to your diet to get extra magnesium. Spicing up your meals with turmeric and chili peppers also helps to give your immune system a boost.
Supplements and Herbs for Immune Support
Whole food supplements and herbs can help you get some of these extra immune boosting nutrients when you just can’t seem to squeeze them into your diet. Elderberry, for example, has berries full of flavonoids and anthocyanins and flowers that support immune system function as well as help flush toxins out of the body. Another example is AFA bluegreen algae that research studies have reported can activate blood lymphocytes, natural killer cells and white blood cells and has anti-inflammatory properties. It also provides a peptide called substance P that has been shown to improve immune system function. Eating AFA has also been found to act as a prebiotic for feeding the friendly bacteria in the gut that help fight off bad bacteria, yeast, and viruses. Other research on AFA has reported that it has properties that help increase the number of antibodies the body produces and it is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids found to support immune system health. Taken in conjunction with quality probiotics and enzymes, adds in an extra bonus with digestion system support and can all be found packaged together in this nutritional foundation program. To work in beta glucan as well as a blend of 6 mushrooms research has shown have immune boosting properties, this whole food algae supplement can provide both. When reaching for something to drink, think tea! There are many kinds of teas that contribute to immune system health according to Helen Tomplin of Cornucopia 2. Oolong is good for fighting off bad bacteria and infection, Yerba Mate can help with allergy symptom relief, Rooibos has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties as well as lots of vitamins and minerals, and green tea is loaded with healthy antioxidants.
Lifestyle Do’s and Don’ts To Boost Immunity
Dr. Sarah Brewer, editor of Yourwellness digital magazine and a registered nutritionist, as well as other experts have several lifestyle change tips that can help boost immunity in addition to making dietary changes. First is to stay away from cigarette smoke. If you smoke then it’s time to get serious about quitting, not only for immune system health, but for your entire health and longevity. Even if you don’t smoke, it’s a good idea to stay away from others that do if you are trying to boost your immune system as second-hand smoke can also hurt nasal and respiratory membranes. Cutting down on stress or finding ways to cope with stress is another big component in boosting immunity as stress affects the adrenal glands and depletes our B vitamin supply. The adrenal glands and B vitamins help the body deal with stress. When we are under great periods of stress these glands don’t work properly and we use up our vitamin B stores which means the more stress we have, the less able the body is to deal with the stress. One way of dealing with stress that also gives you lots of other health benefits including those to the immune system, is with exercise. Fast-walking that gets your heart rate going, yoga and deep breathing exercises are all good ones to consider adding to your daily routine. And finally, your overall health and immune system in particular need adequate amounts of good quality sleep in order for the body to rejuvenate itself. This is especially true if you are fighting off a “bug”.
Pretty easy, right? Giving your immune system a boost throughout the year will help you help it protect you. We are surrounded by all types of foreign invaders just looking for a way to get in our bodies and make us sick. Staying well means a happier, healthier, more productive and active life. When you think of the choice that way it only makes sense to incorporate some easy diet and lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in your daily life.
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Bruno, Jeffrey PhD, Eat Light and Feel Bright Chapter