By Cliff Smith
This time of year, there are plenty of reminders about flu vaccines. However, one of the most significant statements about avoiding illnesses like the flu comes from the doctor who said, “Your best protection is your own immune system”.
Your immune system protects you in several ways:
- It creates a barrier that prevents bacteria and viruses from entering your body.
- If a bacteria or virus does get into the body, the immune system attempts to eliminate it before it can reproduce.
- If the virus or bacteria is able to reproduce, your immune system is in charge of eliminating it.
The immune system also has several other important jobs. For example, it can detect cancer in early stages and eliminate it in many cases. Unfortunately, most people do so much damage to their immune systems on a regular basis that they cannot possibly fight off major diseases like cancer, until it is too late.
These are some of the enemies of the immune system:
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of sunshine
- Lack of exercise
- Exposure to environmental pollutants
- Lack of high quality nutrition
Here are healthy ways to reinforce your immune system:
- Avoid Sugar. Sugar can suppress the immune system. Researchers at Loma Linda University evaluated the effects of sugar on phagocytes, the white blood cells of the immune system that eat up bad bacteria and foreign invaders. To put it simply, the more bacteria consumed by the phagocytes, the stronger the immune system, and the less chance for disease. One of the Loma Linda studies showed that sugar caused the phagocytic index to drop dramatically, which had a negative impact on the amount of debris that could be removed by the immune system.
- Get Plenty of Rest. The Institute of Medicine reports a definite link between sleep deprivation and increased risks for diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression and stroke. Lack of sleep also has a detrimental effect on the immune system, so it can truly make you sick.
- Perform Moderate Exercise. The key is to work up a little sweat, some heavy breathing and a few tired muscles without over-doing it. Really, 20-40 minutes of healthy exercise that gets the blood flowing and the heart and lungs pumping 3-5 days a week can make a huge difference in the ability of your immune system to stay strong.
- Eat Healthy Foods. Since you’ll be avoiding sugar, you’ll want to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables instead of junky snacks. People rarely think about strengthening the immune system with proper nutrition, but there are specific nutrients that feed the T cells of the immune system. The T cells are the defense system protectors that need nourishment just like any other part of the body.
- Drink Healthy Beverages. Instead of consuming things that compromise the immune system like coffee, energy drinks or soft drinks, it is better to consume herbal drinks like green tea. Healthy herbal beverages can support the immune system when they are made without artificial ingredients or sugar.
- Protect Your Skin. Your skin eliminates waste through perspiration, serves as a protection from pollution and weather, is the first layer of the defense system and it plays an important role in your overall health. Collagen is vital for skin to stay healthy. Some people refer to collagen as the glue that holds the body together. Without it, the body would, quite literally, fall apart. Consuming Non-GMO, fermented soy products, like Tofu, you can support skin health by supplying high-quality protein needed for building and maintaining collagen, the material essential to connective tissues. Soy isoflavones may also act as antioxidants that protect collagen from free radicals, highly reactive molecules that can weaken or destroy cell membranes, damage DNA and depress the immune system.
Let's face it, there will always be allergens, viruses, cancers, and other attacks on the immune system. So, it is a good idea to fortify your defenses today for protection tomorrow. If you're wondering why you suffer through frequent allergies, colds, viruses, or why you may be perfectly healthy except for "this one thing", it could very well mean that you have a weak immune system. You can take these steps today to build your defenses up rather than seeing them degenerate.
Author Cliff Smith is one of the owners of BestHealthFoodStore.net and resident nutrition research specialist. As a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in Communications, he enjoyed a 30 year career in broadcasting. Before opening his online health food store, Cliff hosted radio programs in Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Contact Cliff