Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2016
Boost Your Immunity
Improving overall health and strengthening our immune system become an important part of preventing sicknesses associated with this time of year. There are a variety of easy tweaks you can make to your diet and lifestyle to ensure that your immune system is strong. Here are some of my faves.
Probiotics: Seventy percent of our immunity starts in our gut. Probiotics (the good bacteria) are the gatekeepers of this immunity. Probiotics directly stimulate system-wide immunity by increasing lymphocyte function and the strength of antibody binding, allowing for a more rapid response to infection. Take a daily 10-billion dose of lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Vitamin C: This vitamin plays a vital role in the response of white blood cells and antibodies to infection, bacteria and viruses. Vitamin C directly enters infected cells, binds to and neutralizes the protein coating manufactured by the viral DNA and prevents the replication of new viruses. Chili peppers, red and green bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and strawberries are all loaded with vitamin C.
Zinc: Zinc is crucial to the development and functioning of neutrophils (our first-line defence cells) and natural killer (NK) cells and the activation of T-cell cytokines, the inflammatory chemicals that destroy pathogens. Zinc also has antioxidant properties and helps strengthen the mucosal lining of the throat, nasal pathways and gastrointestinal tract, reducing the ability of viruses to adhere and pass into the body. Try taking zinc in lozenge form (10 to 25 milligrams a day).
Vitamin D: Stress and high cortisol levels are associated with an increased risk of viral infection. Vitamin D helps reduce the production of stress hormones, increases production of NK cells and boost T-cell function. In addition, research has shown that this important vitamin promotes the production of a natural antibiotic protein by mucosal cells acting as an immune barrier to viruses and is likely involved in the expression of genes vital to fighting infection. About 3,000 to 5,000 international units (IUs) a day can help keep the doctor away.
Diet and Lifestyle Tips
Fuel your body with complete lean proteins at every meal to provide the building material for immune cells and prevent carbohydrate-induced spikes in blood sugar that depress immunity. Try fish, chicken, egg whites or Greek yogurt. Avoid inflammatory processed foods and fats that draw immune resources away from fighting viruses.
Reduce stress (by implementing techniques like deep breathing, massage therapy or music therapy) to reduce cortisol and strengthen the immune system. Moderate exercise is also a stress reliever and immune booster.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to reducing the severity and incidence of sickness this season.