Immunity is a topic that's on everyone's mind nowadays. Here are 10 tips for building your defenses by helping your immune system operate at peak efficiency.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
This is a no-brainer. It’s easy for your hands to accumulate microbes throughout the day, so wash them for at least 20 seconds, with soap, frequently and always after preparing food (especially raw meat), touching an animal, blowing your nose or changing a diaper. And make sure your kids wash up, too.
Get Your Vitamin D
Studies show that vitamin D plays a key role in immune support.† Unfortunately, “we have an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in this country because nobody is getting into the sun,” says Len Saputo, MD. “The only time that we can make vitamin D is between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., because that’s when the UVB rays come through.” While spending time in the sun is a good idea if you can manage it, Saputo recommends taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day as a good alternative.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Short-term sleep deprivation can leave you vulnerable to every virus that comes along. “Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus," says the Mayo Clinic's Eric J. Olson, MD. "Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick." Staying physically active is one way to improve your odds of finding dreamland, which leads us to…
Exercise Regularly—In Moderation
“We get a fraction of the normal, natural movement that we would get if we were in our native state. We have to make that up with exercise,” says J.E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM, author of Viral Immunity (Hampton Roads). “Individuals who complete a moderate amount of physical activity on a daily basis—a minimum of 30 minutes—have a stronger immune system,” adds Brian McFarlin, PhD, of the University of North Texas. Moderation is the key; McFarlin says that excessive training tends to suppress immunity.
Load Your Plate with Vegetables
You can’t go wrong with varieties that are rich in color, including deep green (such as spinach and broccoli) or bright orange (such as carrots and sweet potatoes). The nutritional power of many fruits is canceled out by their sugar content. Berries, however, particularly blueberries, are high in antioxidants, making them the preferred choice. To cover your nutritional bases, go with a multivitamin/mineral based on whole foods.*
That Includes Garlic...
Another edible immune-system booster is garlic. “Garlic is wonderful stuff. It has a direct toxic effect on microbes, and it tends to selectively get those microbes that are bad for us,” Saputo says.† Packed with various vitamins and nutrients, garlic also contains the beneficial compounds cysteine and allicin. While garlic is most potent raw, it is still quite effective when its cloves are roasted, giving it a slightly more subtle flavor and soft texture that makes it perfect for spreading on bread. It can also be consumed in supplement form.
...As Well As Mushrooms
While even plain old button mushrooms provide some immune support, there are species that specialize in it—and are tasty to boot.* These include lion's mane, a shaggy white mushroom with a flavor that has been compared to crab or lobster; maitake, often referred to as "hen of the woods" for its feathery appearance; and shiitake, which can be prepared in a number of delicious ways.
Replenish Your Probiotics
Did you know that the digestive system contains approximately 70% of the body’s immune cells? Most people don’t. One way of boosting digestive health is via probiotics, beneficial microbes normally found in a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Saputo suggests making plain yogurt a staple of your diet, particularly brands that contain live cultures and are relatively low in sugar. What’s more, probiotic microorganisms are not just found in the large intestine; some, such as S. salivarius K12, reside in the mouth and nose.*
Break Out the Botanicals
Dozens of different cells and chemicals make up the immune system, each with its own special role to play in fighting off infection. Likewise, nature has supplied a number of plant-based immune aids.* They include arabinogalactan (ARA), a fiber from the Western larch; olive leaf, which contains a substance called oleuropein; andrographis, an herb from India’s Ayurvedic medicine; and astragalus, a herb valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Stay Well Hydrated—Inside and Out
More than half your body weight consists of water, which gives you an idea of how important it is to stay properly hydrated. Consider drinking filtered water, which contains significantly fewer impurities and pollutants. Atmospheric moisture is also an ally in supporting optimal immunity; arid air can dry out mucous membranes, the body’s first line of defense. People who are susceptible to viral illness may want to run a humidifier at night, particularly in cold climates and in desert-like areas such as the Southwest.†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.