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Nutrient - Top tips for a 'tip-top' immune system

By Kelly Rose DipION FdSc VN

 The immune system is one of our most important body systems and also one of the most complex. It works in many different ways, through a variety of white cells in the blood and lymph, focusing activity through the thymus gland and lymph nodes, and it is vital for protecting us against all sorts of incoming threats; from viruses like the common cold or flu, through to disease-causing bacteria. It also has a vital role in responding to cells that change and have the potential for developing into growths such as tumours. In short, our immune system, through many different actions, is responsible for ‘mopping up’ unwanted invaders and threats and keeping us on our feet! 

The immune system is incredibly clever, with a built-in memory, and, on a daily basis, it will combat many issues, often at the same time. There are times of year, or situations, where the immune system might have to work harder or you may be more susceptible to unwanted invaders. A good, healthy immune system is paramount for optimum health and vitality all year round. Try some of these top tips to keep your immune system in tip-top shape: 

Change your diet

  1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. The brighter and more varied, the better.
  2. Avoid sugar, alcohol and fried or fatty foods, that all take their toll on the body.
  3. Avoid white, refined foods (breads, pasta, etc), as these offer little nutritional support for the body. Choose wholegrain alternatives instead.

Choose supportive supplements

  1. Vitamin C is a well-known and well-researched nutrient when it comes to providing immune support. Indeed, research has proven that vitamin C positively supports several types of immune cell and, by supporting the immune system, may help speed up the time it takes you to get over an infection.
  2. Zinc is an important mineral that is found in every cell in the body and is essential for maintaining the integrity of the immune system. Zinc deficiency is known to increase a person’s susceptibility to a variety of infective agents.
  3. Olive leaf is an ancient herb and has long been known for its potential health-giving benefits. The most potent forms of olive leaf extract contain active natural substances, including D-calcium elenolate.
  4. Black elderberry is another plant traditionally used for supporting a healthy immune system. The black elderberry contains five times as many anthocyanins (the compounds that give the fruits their lovely colours) as the blueberry and provides excellent antioxidant benefits.
  5. Echinacea has been traditionally used for many centuries and is now one of the most well-known immune-supporting plants. It has been shown to be effective against many different types of infective organisms and also offers preventative support.
  6. Probiotics are the good gut bacteria and are recognised for their support of digestive functioning, but one of their major roles is in the maintenance of a healthy immune system. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that a large proportion of our immune system is in the intestinal area.
  7. Beta glucans (1,3/1,6) come from the oyster mushroom and have an important role in helping to trigger an immune response. Macrophages are types of immune cells that, once activated, can recognise and kill foreign invaders. Macrophages have specific receptors on their outer surface that seem to be particularly sensitive to beta glucans.
  8. Blackcurrants are rich in nutrients, including the antioxidant anthocyanins (see above). More recently, research on blackcurrants has shown promising support of the body’s natural defence mechanisms.
  9. Cat’s claw is a Peruvian plant that has many uses. One of its most common effects is to support white blood cell production and a healthy immune response, which is so important when fighting infections.
  10. Selenium is a mineral found in Brazil nuts. Selenium levels in soil have become depleted over the years, leading to a lower intake of selenium through the diet. Various studies have revealed enhanced immune cell response after supplementation. It also seems that selenium supports immune messengers called cytokines. These play a vital role and send signals and directions to the immune system.

Make lifestyle alterations

  1. Get good sleep – a lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, is known to reduce the functioning of the immune system. Try to get around seven hours per night. A power nap during the day (if you can manage one) can also be extremely revitalising.
  2. Wash your hands – bacteria and viruses can be transmitted through touching surfaces that may be infected. Wash hands regularly and spray with a natural biocide, such as a colloidal silver solution. A diluted solution of grapefruit seed extract may also be useful for sanitising surfaces.
  3. Meditate – some experts believe that this can support chemicals in the body that play a role in healthy immunity. Meditation can also be useful for stress reduction. Stress is well-known to have an adverse effect on immunity.
  4. Exercise wisely – moderate exercise is supportive to good immune functioning, but beware of overdoing it. Too much exercise may be detrimental.
  5. Think positively – research often reveals that the happiest people tend to live the longest! Negative thinking can have a detrimental effect on the immune system and, while life can be very stressful at times, trying to find positivity in your world can be hugely beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing.

We may never be in an environment that is totally free from bugs and hazards but we can ensure we are fully prepared to deal with anything! Taking a pro-active stance can mean our immune system is in tip-top shape and is keeping us in optimal health. The good thing is – it is never too late to start making changes! 

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