Simple ways to help boost your immune system

A healthy body means a healthy immune system. Here's some simple ways you can help your immune system stay strong.

Simple ways to help boost your immune system

Get the facts on your immune system

  • The immune system protects the body from attack by microorganisms, abnormal cells and chemicals.
  • Its army includes macrophages, T cells and B cells.
  • This complex system oversees the repair of tissues that are injured by wounds or disease.
  • Once in a while, the immune system mistakes a harmless foreign substance for an enemy. This causes an allergic reaction, such as hives, hay fever or asthma.
  • Less commonly, the immune system attacks normal body tissue, leading to an autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • When confronted with a virus or other invading organism, the system creates an antibody. This will recognize and attack the virus during any future encounter.
  • This mechanism, called acquired immunity, is what makes vaccinations work.

Learn how it needs help

  • The reason we get sick is because of time. There's a lapse between when an invading organism first enters the body and when the immune system conquers it.
  • In the interim, the invader can make its mark, killing cells.
  • Illnesses develop when the immune system is weakened by any number of stressors, including viruses, bacteria, malnutrition and aging.
  • Fortunately, antibiotics and sulfa drugs can wipe out most bacterial infections in otherwise healthy people.
  • Progress is also being made in the development of antiviral drugs.
  • At times, doctors purposely lower immunity to treat an autoimmune disease or to prevent rejection of donor organs.

Eat right

  • The nutrients in a healthy diet should be enough to maintain a strong immune system.
  • If you eat a well-balanced diet and are generally healthy, taking supplements will not make you any healthier.
  • Supplements are usually not necessary, unless you're taking therapeutic doses for a specific condition.
  • If you don't eat well or are unhealthy, you may need to discuss supplements with your doctor.

Try some immune boosters

  • Garlic and onions may stimulate the fighting power of macrophages and T cells. They both contain sulfur compounds, which may block enzymes that let organisms invade healthy tissue.
  • Shiitake mushrooms may boost immunity, but the practical significance of this is unknown.
  • Probiotics, friendly bacteria that's found in some fermented milk products, may help improve immune responses against viruses.
  • Blueberries, blackberries and grapes contain anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that have potent immune stimulating properties.
  • Certain whey proteins with a high dose of the amino acid cysteine can enhance immune function.
  • EGCG is a powerful antioxidant compound found in green tea. It may have the ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells neutralize harmful free radicals.
  • Some studies suggest that moderate exercise may help improve immune function, especially in people who were previously sedentary.

Our immune system is our main line of defence against disease and illness. With the right diet and knowledge, you can help your immune system, and it in turn can help you stay healthy.

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