- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Foods that Boost Immunity in Children and Adults
Good Health is not the result of a super-endowed immune system in just the same way that taking excess vitamins will not make you healthier. Health is simply at matter of fitness and the absence of disease or some other aliment.
Good health is the baseline or threshold for a sound immune system. Once you reach the bar that's the best you can do. You can't have a boosted immune system that exceeds the baseline.
Once you're healthy and at the baseline, your immune system can deteriorate though disease, poor diet or unhealthy activities. If your immune system is degraded it may need a boost to get it back to the baseline - but best is enough, you can't make it better than best, which is the baseline.
A more appropriate term may be repair rather than boosting, as boosting implies building it up to super-levels - better than the best it can be when you are healthy.
Tips for Using Food and Diet to Boost Immunity Naturally
If your immune system is already at its peak, over- stimulating it or trying to boost it to super levels may damage it. Over-consumption of special immunity boosting supplements can be harmful to your health through promoting inflammation and other responses. Just as you can overdose on vitamins and you can overdose on immune boosting supplements. This article outlines when and how you may need to boost your immune system and dispels the fact from fiction.
If you are healthy and don't suffer from aliments and disease, there is little you can do to make your baseline level of immunity better. The exception are probably antioxidants and probiotics etc. - which don't boost the immune system, but rather complement it, and act as an ally in the battle against disease.
- An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules and so reducing the production of free radicals that can damage or kills cells. Antioxidants are widely used as ingredients in dietary supplements and have been investigated for the prevention of diseases such as coronary heart disease and cancer but the benefits have yet to be firmly established and there is evidence of harmful effect at high levels.
- Probiotics are living cultures of various microorganisms which when taken in sufficient quantities provide a health benefit. Bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria and are the most common types but a range of bacteria and yeast cultures may also be helpful. Probiotics are usually consumed when lie cultures are added to fermented foods such as in yogurt and soy yogurt, or as dietary supplements.
What is the Immune System
The immune system is very complex and consists of two major parts, the adaptive or specific immune system and the innate or non-specific immune system. The innate immune system is the first immune defensive system against infections and includes the body's barriers to infection such as the skin, gut lining and lungs. The adaptive immune system is the second defensive system and it is more specific targeting one type of disease organism or species and takes a while to respond by developing antigens. In contrast, the innate system acts rapidly and non-specifically to a variety of organisms. The adaptive immune system 'remembers' that it has responded to an invading organism before and reacts more rapidly on subsequent attacks from to the same organism. The adaptive immune system gets boosted every time it is challenged with new organism. Antigens developed naturally and through vaccines are stored in the body ready to react.
Fact and Fiction about The Immune System
Fact: Stress lowers your defences makes you more vulnerable to illness.
Various types of stress can make you more vulnerable to illnesses, from colds and flu, work pressures, family problems, chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Research has shown that sustained chronic stress over a long time seems to gradually age the immune system or 'wear it out', increasing your susceptibility to various conditions such as osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Reducing the amount of stress in your life can help restore your immune system.
Fiction: Getting a flu shot weakens your immune system and makes you more likely to get the flu.
The reverse is true as the flu vaccine helps to stimulate the immune system to develop antigens to the flu so that your body can go straight into battle when you get exposed to the virus. A flu vaccine contains a weakened or dead virus that closely resembles the live virus but cannot infect you, but allows your immune system to develop an antigen to the live virus when it invades. Some people may mistake the side effects of the vaccine (fever, aches) for flu symptoms, and so believe that they have the flu.
Fact: Poor Diet can Affect your Immune System
Your immune system, if you are generally healthy and have a reasonable diet, get some exercise and sufficient sleep), will not need to boosting. However a poor diet can degrade your immune, and an improved diet can build it up again. Eating a balanced, healthy diet with a variety of whole foods, including fruit and vegetables, keeps your immune system in good shape. Eating more antioxidants may be beneficial. Vitamins E, C and A are antioxidants, as are other organic chemicals such as flavonoids that occur in vegetables and fruits. Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet is the optimal way to get antioxidants.
Foods that support your immune system include:
Nuts - Snack on cashews, almonds or walnuts that are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant and an essential requirement for creating antibodies.
Whole grains - Brown rice, buckwheat (kasha), millet, quinoa, barley, oats and other whole grains are a valuable source of the minerals and vitamins that are vital keeping the immune system healthy. Fiber helps to clean out the colon and remove toxins and reduces the risk of infections in the intestine.
Vegetables - Eat large quantities of fresh vegetables, which are very important in sustaining the immune system. They are one of the best sources of the minerals, vitamins,and phytochemicals that have important roles in protect the body against many diseases. Especially important are the dark leafy greens. Yellow and orange vegetables are also very important as they contain beta carotene, that is a very important anti-oxidant. Carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are good to eat nad support the immune system.
Fresh fruit - Provides many of the same benefits as vegetables,but can be eaten as snacks. Fresh fruit is best.
Protein - Reasonable quantities of high quality protein are important for maintaining cell growth and replacement and to support the immune system. Lean meat and poultry, and fish, especially those species that high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for supporting the immune response. These species include mackerel, trout, salmon, sardines and tuna. For vegetarians the best source of protein are soy products, and beans and legumes.
Spice - Onions, ginger, garlic and turmeric and all types of mushrooms are known to support the immune system.
Water - Try to drink about 6 - 8 glasses of pure water every day. This helps to improve the function of the kidneys and liver and to get rid of toxins from the blood. Water and other beverages, should not be drunk ice cold.
Supplements - Vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and herbs are important especially if you cannot get adequate amounts in fresh food.
Yoghurt - The natural bacteria found in yoghurt and other foods, help keep you digestive system lanced and functioning properly. Research has shown that consuming foods with probiotics supports your immune system.
Green Tea - The polyphenols contained in green tea are very active antioxidants. Research has shown a specific type of polyphenol, called catechins, appears to stimulate the immune-system. Green tea also has antioxidant properties
Fact: Your immune system probably gets weaker as you grow older.
As people get older, their ability to fight infections declines. Older adults are more prone to infections. Research has shown that for people older than 65 vaccines are less effective. One possible reason for the extra vulnerability to disease may be related to poor diets that lack minerals and vitamins. It is important that seniors eat a healthy diet with lots of antioxidant fruits and vegetables to maintain their immune systems.
Fiction: Running a fever when you're sick weakens your immune system.
A mild to moderate fever can help your immune system fight infections by increasing the metabolic rate of the cells that helps the fight against illness. There are conflicting ideas about whether a fever should be treated or allow to continue to aid in fighting the cause..
Fact: Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system.
The symptoms of allergies develop when the immune system reacts to harmless substance like carpet mites, pollen, fungi, or molds. Your body sees the allergen as a disease and fights it, causing sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose.
Fact: Your Immune System can Make You Sick
In patients with an autoimmune disease, the immune system loses its ability to differentiate between healthy body tissue and antigen. As a result the immune starts destroying normal body tissues. Some examples of autoimmune diseases are: Celiac disease, Addison's disease, Multiple sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis.
© 2011 Dr. John Anderson