Immune system boost strategies diet and tips
here is a lot of talk about immune system boosting but this system is more complex then it appears. The supplement industry offers immune booster but the immune system is more complex than that and it is after all – a system. Unfortunately our medical establishment does not pay too much attention to prevention, exercise, nutrition and your doctor, if you’re lucky might talk to you about how to implement lifestyle changes. Health care today seem to be more focused on disease. They know a lot about prescribing you drugs after you get sick. Let’s just avoid this altogether and not get sick which is much more better. Your immune system is perfect but if you are getting sick too often there are strategies to improve your overall health and your immune system will follow.
Your immune system is perfect and it has been perfected by millions of years of evolution. That is why you are here today. All you need to do is provide the right conditions for it to work. To take one supplement or to do one single thing will not make your immune system work better, and in fact it might even make it worse. If you have too much of one type vitamin it might cause a unbalance as some vitamins in excess hinder the action of other beneficial substances. What can we do to promote balance by adopting healthy living habits.
Here are four things you can do as strategies to boost the immune system:
- Stress reduction:
- Stress can cause the greatest negative impact to the immune system
- Lack of proper sleep which is also related to stress comes next causing further damage
- Lack of proper nutrition which can be a secondary effect of stress depletes the immune system of the energy it needs to do the job
- improves sleep, circulation, food absorption, reduces stress, makes you happy. The lack of it does exactly the opposite
So can we have a better then average immune system if we calm down, eat and sleep well and exercise? I certainly think so. How much better? You just have to try and find out.
Stress produces the biggest insult to your immune system for a variety of reason. Stress activate your adrenal glands which secretes cortisol and lowers immune response. Stress might be just unpleasant to us but our bodies have a different reaction to it which is called “fight or flight” response. Adrenal glands secrete adrenaline hormone when you are stressed. Your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up you become more alert and hyperactive and ready for action in response to a perceived danger. All of this action comes at a cost. Other hormones released during stress are corticosteroids which suppresses the immune system by reducing the number of lymphocytes. There are two types of lymphocytes 1) B cells responsible for creating antibodies which fight invading virus and bacteria. 2) T cells that protect internal cell invasion. The main types of immune cells are white cells they also divide in two groups: lymphocytes and phagocytes.
If stress is brief there is no harm; the body returns to its normal balance. Brief episodes of stress can even be stimulating, the problem is when we are under constant or chronic stress. Chronic stress have a direct and also indirect negative impact in the body.
When we are stressed we also tend to engage in unhealthy practices such as drinking, smoking, eating excessive starchy or sugary foods. This can create a compounded negative impact. It can trigger negative feedback loop causing more stress and more stress causes more negative behavior. Stress is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and ulcers. Stress also interferes with our digestive system.
When we are under stress our digestion is greatly inhibited. Digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system comprised of millions of nerves connected to the central nervous system. When under stress our nervous system go into panic mode and shut down normal blood flow aiding digestion; contraction of your digestive muscles are affected and there is also a decrease in digestive secretions. Stress can also increase the release of acids in the stomach causing indigestion and acid damage. When your digestive system is not functioning properly there is less food absorption or less nutrient absorption leaving your body depleted of rich nutrients and making your immune system weak and your whole body weak. No matter how many supplements or anti-stress foods you eat – if you can’t absorb them, it will simply just pass through your body.
Stress creates a three prong insult to your immune system:
- Increase heart rate and blood pressure
- risk of coronary heart disease
- increase in cholesterol by adrenaline release of fatty acids
- lesions in arterial walls
- Hormonal impact
- corticosteroid suppression of the immune system
- Disturbances of the digestive system
- less nutrient absorption
- damage to digestive tract
Rather then using diet or supplements to boost our immune system we first need to address stress. Stress reduction may well be the most important strategy to boost immune system.
Nutrition play a huge role in promoting immunity or supporting the immune system functions. There are two types of nutrition deficiency: one is the proper absorption of nutrients or not having enough nutrition; the other is the lack of quality in the nutrients we eat. Not ingesting the beneficial nutrients can impair cellular function. Without an adequate nutrition regimen, the immune system cannot perform the effective immune responses needed to protect you from a host of infections such as bacteria, fungi and viruses. Human malnutrition is usually a complex syndrome including multiple nutritional deficiencies; however a few vitamins and minerals and trace elements have been found to be crucial for the maintenance of the immune system:
- Vitamin A
- Folic acid
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Antioxidants (preserve cells and keep them functional)
Is too much of a good thing a good thing?
So you might ask; if these vitamins and minerals enhance immune response should I just load up on them leading to a super immune system? Not really. Excess of some nutrients might bring more harm then good. Too much of one substance may affect the action of other nutrients which benefit the immune system; for example: vitamin E and zinc in excess may impair the immune system. There are also interaction between polyunsaturated fatty acids which contribute to stress in the immune system and vitamin E which protects. It is very difficult to know exactly what you need because every human being absorb nutrients differently. The best is to have a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of healthy fats, meats and protein.
Role of proteins and fats
Protein is perhaps on of the most significant nutrition you can add to your diet in order to boost immune system. Diets rich in proteins and fats are responsible for lymphocyte proliferation, cytokine synthesis, natural killer (NK) cell activity, phagocytosis (eating bacteria action) and so on. Proteins and fats also have anti-inflammatory action and protection against auto immune diseases. Proteins help to fight infection by creating a cascade reaction which end up puncturing bacteria cell walls. As bacteria begins to die other proteins recruit cells that consumes dead bacteria thus cleaning the system.
Regular exercise is the pillar of health and of course will greatly benefit your immune system and benefit all other aspects of your health. Exercise raises your endorphin (the feels good neurotransmitter) levels. Exercise improve your sleep quality, lowers your blood pressure, help control weight, and greatly improve circulation which might be one of the greatest assets to the your immune system. Better circulation helps by making needed substances, available to aid cells in disease fighting.
Moderation and diet
Exercise in excess may have the opposite effect we want to achieve in boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that after extreme training sessions athletes have presented lower immunity. This can be compound by a diet rich in carbohydrates and poor in proteins and fats. It is important that if you exercise even in moderation that you eat sufficient amounts of nutritional foods. The body is always trying to compensate and equalize. Complex carbohydrates should be consumed before your workout; they are pure energy that your muscles need quickly. After finishing your workout eat fat and proteins. This is specially true if your are performing strength exercise and muscle building.
For scientists who study biology, sleep is the greatest enigma of all. There are many hypothesis but the true function of sleep remains a mystery. One known fact is that: all animals sleep, even though they risk being dinner to other animals. The relationship between sleep and the immune system have been known for a long time but only recently these variables have been investigated. Sleep alters immune function, more sleep more immunity. Based on this premise it is thought that sleep is a component of acute phase of response to infection. In one study of 26 mammalians the ones with the largest sleep hours had the highest number of white blood cells which is fundamental for fighting infection. Also it was demonstrated that animals sleeping longer have more resistance to parasites. So your mother was right when she said “go sleep early if you want to get rid of this cold”. Sleep is also linked to exercise, stress and nutrition. If you exercise, eat well and relax you’ll sleep better; it all works in conjunction.
One more thing: water
Some people think that if they don’t drink half a gallon of water everyday they will be dehydrated. Your body does not get dehydrated that easy; it keeps everything in balance whether you want it or not. However the more hydrated you are the better. Your body will perform toxic cleaning functions better because it has more water available. Your lymphatic system plays a huge role in your immune system. It filters impurities and bacteria along with other proteins that should not be in your body.
Hydration is important because if you have less water blood circulation will get priority over every other system and the lymphatic system action will be somewhat diminished. Your body has a priority system when it comes to water usage. Blood circulation and volume has priority. Organ oxygenation is the most important. When there is lack of water the kidney cannot properly do its job. Less water means less urine and less chances to “take the garbage out”. That’s why when you feel sick you should flush yourself with water and drink generous glasses – you’ll flush your system and flush bacteria and virus which tries to attach to your body. Don’t go crazy, your body has everything under control, it just need a little help.
It’s better to go to the root causes of immune deficiency rather than trying to manipulate the immune system through immune boosters or any other mechanisms.
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