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Strengthening your immune system

Immunity, or lack of it, starts at the cellular level. The immune system involves your skin, intestines, nasal mucosa, blood, lymph nodes, white blood cells, stem cells, b-cells and many other organs and tissues. Factors that impair immune function include nutrient deficiencies, contaminated air, water and food, unhealthy lifestyles and exposure to harmful microbes.

The immune system is the body’s chief defense system, designed to protect the body against germs, viruses, bacteria and other invaders. A weakened immune system leaves the body vulnerable to virtually every type of illness and disease, especially when you move between climates, countries and time zones. The shift from late summer to autumn is always marked in the health calendar by the arrival of a new generation of viruses accompanied by wide- spread coughs and colds.

Your immune system essentials

Echinacea

This popular herb works by increasing the numbers and activity of white blood cells. It also increases the production of interferon, a chemical that is critical to the immune system response.

Resihi mushroom

Reishi has been used by Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners to calm the mind and restore emotional balance. As a preventative treatment, Reishi can stimulate the immune system and im- prove immune function.

Astragalus

Astragalus has antiviral action and enhances the production of immunoglobulin, stimulates macrophages and activates T-cells and natural killer cells.

Garlic

The use of allicin, the primary active agent generated by garlic, for general well-being is on the increase and its role as an antioxidant has been widely investigated.

Elderberry

Elderberry has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat influenza, colds and sinusitis and has been reported to have antiviral activity against influenza and herpes simplex.

Turmeric

Curcumin, a compound found in tur- meric is known to be anti-inflammatory, which helps boost immunity.

Eat your immune system healthy

Poor nutrition is the most common cause of a weakened immune response. Foods that are good natural sources of immune-boosting antioxidants include kiwi fruit which contain more vitamin C than oranges, Chinese cabbage, an excellent source of vitamin A, and avocado, known as nature’s superfood because it provides the optimum healthy ratio of fat, carbohydrates, protein and vitamin E. You can also step up your intake of dietary zinc by eating more seafood, eggs, turkey and pumpkin seeds.

Colourful eating

There’s no one food that stands out as being the most important for your immune system. It’s your diet as a whole that matters. However, as usual, it’s those dietary big guns—the fruit and vegetable family—that can make the greatest difference. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that help your immune system stay fighting fit! Try to include a wide colour spectrum in your diet to maximize the range of nutrients you consume.

The last cough

It is natural for us to become ill each year. Exposing our bodies to new virus- es strengthens our immune system and keeps it up-to-date so it can help with future infections. By eating a nutritious diet and improving your lifestyle choices, your immune system will be closer to being in balance. When you have a healthy immune system, you will reduce the severity and shorten the duration of each subsequent illness.

The next time you feel a sore throat or malaise coming on, rather than waiting for the “bugs” to invade, be proactive and stop them in their tracks. If you are unsure about what you should take, consult your naturopathic doctor or health care provider. S

More Insight: Check out this cool article on the power of seeds for our bodies.

Author: Dr. Joyce Johnson is a well respected licensed Naturopathic doctor who practices in Southwestern Ontario and has a general naturopathic practice with a focus on sports nutrition, women’s health, weight loss, and pediatrics. She is a regular contributor to Optimyz & Silver Magazines.