How many times have you rescheduled a meeting or work appointment because you were feeling under the weather from having a cough, cold, flu or sore throat? Have you asked yourself, “Why am I constantly plagued with infections and illness whilst some colleagues never seem to be sick?”
The reason is attributed to their strong immune system.
Each day is precious and when you’re sick, there is so much you miss out on. It is clear that keeping our immune system healthy and strong should be our first priority if we are to avoid disease and achieve optimum health.
How we age and our quality of life also depends on the health of our immune system although there is no single magic bullet to strengthen it. A comprehensive approach is required.
Protect your body
Germs and adverse environmental conditions like haze, extreme weather changes, constant air-conditioning and pollution from inhaling cigarette smoke can put your health at risk. Rising cases of influenza in all forms fuelled by lack of exercise, sleep deprivation and increased stress weakens the body.
The only thing that determines whether you remain healthy or succumb to an infection is the state of your immune system. Is it able to protect your body against infectious organisms and other pathogens?
The immune system is composed of billions of white blood cells including macrophages, neutrophils, lymphocytes and natural killer cells, much like how the armed forces is made up of the army, air force and navy.
These immune cells are tasked to neutralise disease-causing pathogens like bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and even cancerous cells. Hence, the immune system is the body’s first line of defense, and we should strive to keep it strong.
To build a strong immune system, we need to:
* Strive for 30 minutes of exercise daily, at least five times a week. Physical activity and regular exercise help improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Studies have found that stress is linked to many health problems, including suppression of the immune system.
* Aim for at least seven hours of sleep daily as the body perceives lack of sleep as a form of stress and thus, reduces immune response.
* Consume a daily diet rich in fruits and vegetables as our diet plays a major role in strengthening our immune system.
A truly healthy immune system depends on a continuous intake of a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced society, many of us are not consuming adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables required to keep our immune system working optimally. Getting enough antioxidant vitamins coupled with minerals will help support the immune system to fight off colds, flus and other illnesses.
Follow a daily guide
Some beneficial immune-boosting nutrients include:
• Vitamin C – also known as ascorbic acid, this is a water-soluble vitamin which has been shown to stimulate both the production and function of the immune cells to fight germs. Rich sources of vitamin C include oranges, papaya, broccoli and strawberries.
• Vitamin D – has been found to be an important factor in immune health. Countless studies have linked low vitamin D levels to higher risk of developing influenza. Vitamin D receptor cells have been found on immune cells in which vitamin D binds to and aids the immune system by reducing levels of inflammatory proteins whilst increasing the amounts of antimicrobial proteins that destroy invading germs. Good sources include salmon, tuna, beef liver and egg yolk.
• Zinc – an essential trace mineral, it is probably widely known for its role in the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells to help the body fight infection. Sources include oysters, poultry, mushroom, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds.
• Garlic – is well known throughout history as a food that fights infections from bacteria and viruses. Allicin is one of the immune-stimulating nutrients in garlic that is released when you cut, chop or crush the cloves.
Garlic stimulates the activity of immune system cells that destroy cold and flu viruses.
• Echinacea – research shows that it increases the number of white blood cells to fight infections. However, two other studies funded by the United States-based National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that echinacea did not help in colds for neither children nor adults.
• Yeast beta glucan – one of the most powerful nutrient to strengthen our immune system, yeast beta glucans are the only beta glucans that are able to activate the neutrophils and prime them to “battle”. Without them, our innate immune cells remain “sluggish”. One form of yeast beta glucan that has been in the limelight recently is whole glucan particle (WGP) beta glucan, which is derived from the cell walls of a highly-purified, patented strain of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
For greater protection against germs, infections and illnesses, consider supplementing your diet with all of the above nutrients.
Keep your immune system in check, all the time.