Friday, August 28, 2009

Wellness and the Immune System

With the outbreak of the swine flu virus (H1N1) strengthening our immune system is critically important. Our immune system protects us against disease such as viruses by identifying and killing them or warding them off. A weak immune system cannot defend the body from invading pathogens.

About 70% of the body's immune system is found in the digestive tract. The digestive tract's immune system is often referred to as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and works to protect the body from invasion.

Strengthening Our Immune System:

*Get proper rest. Sleep is perhaps the most important lifestyle issue in immunity. The body does all of its maintenance, growth and cell repair when we are sleeping. Lack of sleep has a negative affect on the immune system and leaves us open to infection.

*Reduce Stress. Stress leads to reduced immune function because the physiological stress response causes the release of hormones which suppress the immune system. We are most likely to suffer infections when we are stressed and tired.

*Consuming probiotics can help restore a balance of "good" to "bad" bacteria. Probiotics function similarly to the bacteria that already exist in your gut; they are considered "friendly" bacteria because they can provide health benefits when consumed regularly. Our natural gut bacteria can be disrupted by factors such as stress, illness, diet, antibiotic use, and aging. Most of the evidence for probiotics shows that they may impact intestinal function, immunity, and intestinal disorders.
Products like Danon Activia and others like it are a good probiotic source.

*Increase your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C not only boosts your immune system, but in higher dosages has been shown to be an antiviral as well. The recommendation is to dramatically increase your intake at the first sign you may have been exposed to the flu. Other vitamin and mineral supplements that boost the immune system are Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Selenium.

*Add green tea or green tea extract to your diet. Several clinical studies have shown that the polyphenols within green tea have strong antiviral and therefore anti-flu properties. There have been many other health benefits linked to green tea as well, so this supplement should be a must have.

*Spice your foods with turmeric. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has both antiviral and antioxidant properties to help you body ward off any viral infections. In addition, this compound modulates the inflammation response and decreases the likelihood that your immune system will over react with inflammatory defenses. If you do not like the taste of this spice, curcumin is also sold in an extract form for convenience.

*Add a whey protein shake or two to your diet. Not only is whey protein a great source of protein and essential amino acids, but it also directly boosts glutathione levels in your bloodstream. Glutathione is a strong antioxidant that directly supports your immune system. Having increased levels of glutathione increases your ability to fight off infections and illness.

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