What are Immune System Boosters?
The immune system is a complex and fantastic body system that protects us from bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other dangerous pathogens (germs). As with many other physical processes, people often take their immune system for granted – until something goes wrong with it!
In the past, medical science primarily worked on ways of curing already-existing illness and disease, but today there is a growing emphasis on preventing illness by boosting the immune system’s strength.
How can Immune System Boosters Help?
Boosting your immune system can help keep your body in peak condition to fight, repelling and destroying infections, viruses, and bacteria. There are many ways to help keep your immune system functioning at its highest potential. If you take care of your immune system, your immune system will in turn take care of you.
Keeping fit and active helps the body to circulate lymph throughout the body. Simply 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can help the immune system to optimally carry out its defense.
Healthy and Balanced Diet
Diet is one of the fundamental aspects of strengthening the immune system – something most of us know and yet so few of us properly follow. Here are some specific foods to try and include in your diet for added nutrients and vitamins:
- Foods containing selenium. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium, but tuna is also a good source and probably easier to include in your diet. Selenium inhibits the formation of free radicals. It does this by activating an inhibitory enzyme that halts this process.
- Vitamin C is another essential requirement for the optimal functioning of the immune system. Foods rich in Vitamin C include kiwi fruit, guavas, and red peppers. Oranges are also good sources of Vitamin C, but are as not quite as rich as we are all inclined to think they are! Other citrus fruits, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes are also rich in Vitamin C, as well as the antioxidant beta-carotene.
- Garlic not only has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, but also has more than 70 sulfur-containing compounds that help the body make other immune-stimulating compounds such as cysteine and glutathione.
- Cultured or fermented foods such as yogurt provides the body with the ‘good’ bacteria that help to fight off the ‘bad’ bacteria.
- Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, to keep hydrated will keep all body systems healthy, not only the immune system.
- Healthy fats are also necessary and these are found in things like olive oil, avocados, fatty fish and nuts.
- Zinc plays an important role in normal growth and increases antibody production. It can be found in seafood, eggs, turkey and pumpkin seeds. Wheat-germ is also a good source of zinc as well as Vitamin E.
- Vitamin B6 helps with the production of antibodies, and good sources include bananas, carrots, lentils, tuna, salmon, sunflower seeds, and wholegrain flour.
- A good multivitamin can help to replenish these levels of vital vitamins and minerals that we need.
- Use organically-grown foods where possible, as they do contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals. Organic is not a new concept – until pesticides and the like were developed, this was all that people ate!
While it’s great to ensure you are getting enough of the healthy foods, it is also important to remember that unhealthy foods depress the immune system. Here are some foods to try and avoid:
- Foods high in sugar such as sweets. Sugar is well known to depress certain cells of the immune system (such as macrophages and NK cells)
- Highly processed and refined foods
- Foods high in hydrogenated oils
- Fried foods
- Try to avoid white flour, breads and pasta and opt for the healthier whole-wheat alternative
Sufficient Amounts of Quality Sleep
Too little sleep or poor quality sleep weakens the immune system - leaving us more susceptible to other diseases and disorders. It is fairly common to see that people who suffer from insomnia or other sleep disturbance often also suffer from other physical ailments. They tend to get sick more frequently, have more allergies than others, and may even suffer from diabetes or another immune-related disorder. During sleep our bodies ‘re-charge’ - so it is important to aim at getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night to keep our immune systems in good working order.
Good Hygiene Habits
One of the most effective ways in strengthening the immune system is to work on the first line of defense -- stopping potentially harmful cells from entering the body. All body openings are potential entry points for germs – such as the eyes, mouth, and nose. The best measure is to wash your hands regularly, especially before eating and after using the toilet. Other good habits that reduce the spreading of virus and bacterial infections include all those things your mother probably told you repeatedly as a child.
- Cover your mouth when yawning, sneezing or coughing
- Don’t share cups and things that have been in contact with the saliva of another (especially if they are sick)
- Keep your kitchen clean and wash dishes in hot soapy water to kill germs
- Avoid sharing wash cloths and towels
- Practice safe sex
Look after your emotional health, find ways to reduce your stress levels, and learn how to relax! Ongoing stress places an incredible strain on the immune system, and this makes you more susceptible to illnesses going around. Anxiety and depression have similarly bad effects on the immune system, and every effort should be made to resolve emotional issues before they affect your health. Laughter is a great way to boost the immune system, as is meditation, yoga, and other stress- relieving exercises.
Being overweight or underweight can be unhealthy and affect the body’s ability to fight illness. The best preventative measure is to try and maintain a healthy weight and try cut down on your calorie intake. Reduced calorie intake improves the maintenance and production of important T-cells in the body, while excessive body fat tends to have a negative impact on the white blood cell’s ability to fight off infection and illness. However, be sure not to get caught up in yo-yo dieting habits, as this has proven to have a very negative impact on the immune system.
Look at your family and personal medical history to give you an idea of your body’s potential weaknesses and take necessary measures to prevent future illness. Keep your medical and dental checks regular, and take an active role in maintaining your health!
Natural Remedies as Immune System Boosters
Natural and herbal remedies can provide much-needed assistance in strengthening the immune system and getting the body’s natural defense mechanisms in top shape. Holistic medicine recognizes that illness is not caused by viruses and bacteria, but by weakened immune systems.
Remember that micro-organisms like the flu virus, TB, etc. are around us all the time, but mostly we manage to resist becoming ill. Boosting the immune system naturally can allow your body to fight off infectious agents without the drawbacks of conventional medication.
There is a wide selection of medicinal herbs well known for their immune strengthening properties that are even safe for children too. Allowing the body to resolve infections without antibiotics will also help to strengthen the immune system against future attacks.
Various Natural Immune System Boosters
Echinacea purpurea is a Native American herb that has become famous for its antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. It is an excellent immune system tonic that boosts the body’s immunity by stimulating the production of immune cells.
Another commonly used herb is Astragalus membranaceous (also called 'huang qi'), which has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to tone the ‘qi’ or life force that we know as the immune system. Astragalus is an ideal remedy for anyone who is prone to recurrent infections such as the common cold, as it is able to increase the body’s resistance and immune response to illness.
Viscum album is commonly known to enhance the immune-stimulating properties of other ingredients, and it encourages repair of damaged cells.
Other natural ingredients with immune boosting properties are Inula helenium, Withania somnifera, Hypoxis Rooperi (extract of African Potato), Mentha piperita, Solidago virgaurea, Crataegus oxycanthoides, Schizandra chinensis, and Olea europea (extract of Olive leaf). All of these powerful and organic ingredients are found in nature’s medicine chest and will go a long way in helping you strengthen your immune system against illness, disease, and infection.