About Immune Health
Did you know that you can build-up your immune health with nothing more than a bit of care and attention to some very small details in your daily life? Although high immune health is a lifelong goal which can seem ominous to some, and expensive to many, your immunity is made up almost exclusively of short term components, components over which you definitely have control.
Did you know that …
- One simple vitamin can strengthen your immunity for about three cents a day
- Laughing is some very serious medicine
- There’s a well known herb that can reduce viral infections by over thirty percent
- A food you eat very day is reducing your immune health by about forty percent
- Loving and caring for a pet can help you recover from illness more quickly
- Briefly keeping a writing journal can markedly increase your immunity
- Getting your lymph and blood moving through exercise will boost your resistance
Ironically, the fastest way to boost immune health against certain diseases is to actually get sick. This creates an antibody memory in your immune system. The idea of this “memory” system is that when your immune system encounters “nasties” it has seen before and stored in its library, it can produce soldiers for future fights at a rapid rate instead of learning or relearning how to fight the enemy first.
Unfortunately, one disadvantage of relying on your immune system memory is that this memory is only created once a person successfully defeats an infection. Therefore, if a new pathogen is attacking, one that your system has not successfully battled in the past, you can expire while your immune system is learning about the new foreign invaders it is fighting. Since immune system memory is not perfect, let’s look at some simple ways in which we can boost our immune system and enhance its ability to protect us.
Vitamin C is a particularly important nutrient in terms of immune health, because it seems to increase the mobility of immune cells like neutrophils and phagocytes. Vitamin C can increase one’s resistance to disease and it is known to help us fend-off cancer. Also, at times when the body is prone to inflammation, this vitamin helps strengthen cell membranes which in turn protects us against damage caused by free radicals.
Studies done in Western Australia by Thomas and Holt suggested that a lack of vitamin C depressed the immune response when it is under attack by germs or viruses. But vitamin C also helps immune response under certain conditions that normally weaken immunity, like pregnancy, smoking, and some medications. Under stressful conditions such as this, it was discovered that the amount of Vitamin C in the leucocytes can be normalized through supplementation. Considering the benefits, you may want to take vitamin C supplements, especially when your health is compromised by illness.
We know that specific nutrients help strengthen our immune system soldiers, as does this plant which is native to America. Although most of the research on Echinacea has been done outside of America, the studies have shown that subjects that took this herb had a decrease in infections compared to non-users. Viral infections such as the flu and common cold where reduced more than 30%.
Echinacea works by stimulating immune health. It helps your body to increase lymphocytes production and natural killer white blood cells. Also, echinacea enables the body to produce more macrophages, cells that search out and consume germs. In addition, Echinacea helps to disable bacteria by interfering with their secretion of an enzyme called hyaluronidase. Moreover, there is evidence that this herb is effective against some viruses, such as cold and flu.
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Studies show that there is a link between low immunity and depression. This has been tested in Mount Sinai School of Medicine where depressed men’s lymphocytes were measured and found to be lower than those of people who were upbeat. Also, US Navy tests have shown that recruits who hated basic training got more colds than those who were positive about it. Chronic stress also depresses immune health; many studies prove it. So what to do? Well the cure is simple – a good belly laugh.
Regarding immune health, laughing not only releases immunoglobulin but also increases oxygen through the deep breathing associated with it. A Stanford University/Loma Linda University joint study proved that after watching a 60 minute comedy, participants increased lymphocytes by 39% and dropped their immune suppressing cortisol hormone levels by 46%. So, laugh well and laugh a lot.
People who are highly stressed produce more harmful chemicals such as cortical and nor epinephrine, chemicals which are not good for immune health. For example, research indicates a link between these harmful chemicals and heart disease. Conversely, A good positive attitude about life can help our immunity, and this is where love comes in.
Research showed that when people with low immunity were taught to love themselves AND others, positive changes in hormone levels and immune system cell levels occurred. A similar immunity benefit occurs with regard to pet owners. Caring for and loving a pet can reduce stress by helping the body to produce more serotonin and dopamine, beneficial nerve transmitters that are linked with pleasure, relaxation, and composure. This is why people with pets often overcome disease faster then others.
Express Your Feelings
A research study at Southern Methodist University in Dallas discovered that writing out your problems or writing about painful events in your life for 10-15 minutes a day for several days straight gave a measurable immune system boost that lasted for up to 5 months! Subjects simply wrote out their deepest thoughts and wrote without corrections or attention to grammar, with the intention that no-one would ever read their notes. At the completion of this study, blood tests of the subjects showed a marked increase in lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells essential to immune health.
The sugar we should avoid is the simple, refined sugar; the sugar you find in candy, cake, soft drinks, and processed foods. Good sugars are called complex carbohydrates and they are contained in fresh fruit, whole grains, and vegetables. So, why do we need to avoid refined sugar?
When you ingest the sugar, about the amount contained in a couple of sodas, it lowers the function of your body’s immune system. Simple sugars like sucrose and honey have been shown to impede the effectiveness of infection fighting white blood cells by approximately fifty percent. In addition, this suppression of immune health lasted several hours. Conversely, research has shown that when subjects ingest complex carbohydrates such as grains and vegetables, white blood cell functioning was not lowered. The lesson here: sugar; how sweet it isn’t!
Pets, Hygiene, & Kids
Can having pets in your home give an immune system boost to your children. Apparently it can, according to a university study performed in England. It seems that when children are exposed to a few specific factors, such as pets, germs, and additional children, the immune systems of those children get busy doing their job, which is fighting germs and fending off potential allergens, and placing those “invaders” into their immune system memory in order to get ready for future warfare. The research study in question compared the antibodies of over one hundred children, some of whom had pets and others who did not. Interestingly, when measured for their levels of antibodies, the children who did have pets at home had higher levels of immunoglobulin A, which is indicative of a stronger immune system. There is additional related evidence to support these results.
A 2002 study published in JAMA, a respected medical journal, reported that children who had early contact with farm animals or pets did not succumb to as many allergy problems in their later years. Once again, there was speculation that exposure to potential allergens in childhood could better “prime” the immune system for successful “battles” later on. To summarize this rather limited research, there is a hygiene controversy in which some people feel it is wise to give the immune systems of children a “workout” by exposing them to various germs and potential allergens. What do you think? Oh, excuse me a moment, I’ve got to go sanitize the bathroom!
The right amount of exercise has been proven over and over to boost immune health. Exercise keeps lymph moving via muscle contraction and that helps the immune system get rid of dead and dying germs and other “nasties.” Conversely, too much exercise depresses immune function. Why? Well, over exercising without adequate rest seems to increase stress hormones to the point where they suppress the immune system. That’s why high achieving athletes are often sick, and it’s why they take longer to recover after they get sick. Studies show that up to 6 hours after a marathon, natural killer cell production is lowered, leaving a window of opportunity for disease to get in and attack!
Research shows that about 45 minutes of brisk walking 5 days a week will keep your immune system primed. You can listen to music while you walk, (other studies prove music boosts immune cells too) and you may get a double dose of immune system boosters at one time!
There are many factors which can affect your immune health. Some lift it up, while others depress it. If your immune system is unhealthy then so are you; you will get sick and stay sick, and maybe even die. Yet the health of your immune system is directly within your control as shown above. What will you do today to start boosting your immune system? click here to learn more about immune health