immune system boost
Winter is on its way, that time of year when colds and flu tend to strike. Does an immune system boost really help? Or are we fooling ourselves to think that we can prevent the onset of disease?

Why is it that some people seem to catch winter colds and flu while others sail through the season with unclogged nasal passages and bucketloads of energy? What is their secret? In fact, do they actually have a secret?

Well, it appears that the secret is, in fact, a healthy immune system. While we’re so constantly buffeted with encouragement to strengthen our immune system that the message may simply sail over our heads, we should stop and listen to them. It’s simple: Boost your immune system and you will help your body to fight the onset of disease. As Dr Bruce Polsky of the department of medicine and chief division of infectious diseases at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City explains, ‘We are endowed with a great immune system that has been designed evolutionarily to keep us healthy.’

How your immune system works

Occasionally the immune system breaks down, as it does when severe diseases strike. However, says Polsky, ‘Lifestyle aspects are very, very important’ when it comes to the efficiency of our immune systems.’ Poor lifestyle choices weaken your defences.

What happens when your immune system can’t cope?

Occasionally the immune system breaks down, as it does when severe diseases strike. However, says Polsky, ‘Lifestyle aspects are very, very important’ when it comes to the efficiency of our immune systems.’ Poor lifestyle choices weaken your defences.

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Does cold weather bring coughs and colds?

Why do people get sick more in winter than at warmer times of year? Well, there’s no truth in the fact that you catch a cold because the weather is chilly. In fact, says US nutritionist Danette May, ‘There are multiple studies that show that exposure to cold actually increases your immunity.’
However, the fact remains that people are more likely to get sick in winter. And no one knows exactly why. Some scientists think it’s because we spend more time indoors with other people, spreading viruses and germs.[/message] divider-clear

The best ways to get an immune system boost

While there’s no magic formula to strengthening your immune system, you can help it work better by living healthily.

  • Take steps to boost your immune system. Literally. Take to the road – just 20 minutes of brisk walking three or four times a week (enough to get your heart rate up and raise a slight sweat) will improve immune function. Walk to work if you can. Work at home? Get a dog – those imploring eyes will encourage you to put on your walking shoes and take to the outdoors.
  • Eat properly. A healthy diet is vital to boost your immune system function. Ditch the junk foods. They’ll make you overweight and leave you more prone to infections. And, if you already have an ailment, avoid alcohol and sugar. Microbes love sugar. But they aren’t as crazy about a diet that’s rich in anti-oxidants and vitamins. You know what these foods are – we mention them in almost every post. But, in case you’re new to our blog, an anti-oxidant-rich diet includes dark green, red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as berries, citrus fruits, kiwis, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes and carrots. Garlic has antiviral and antibiotic properties, as does homemade chicken soup. Try to keep a stock of this old favourite cure-all in the freezer. Studies have confirmed that it can ease inflammation and help you get well faster. As for alcohol – too much can inhibit the function of white blood cells and lower your resistance to infection, so no more than two drinks a day for a man or one drink for a woman.
  • Get enough sleep. Insomnia not only leaves you exhausted and affects your daily performance, it can also leave you vulnerable to illnesses such as colds and flu. We’re not sure exactly how sleep affects the immune system, but getting your regular 7–8 hours a night definitely helps ward off infection.
  • Manage stress. A body that is constantly stressed is more vulnerable to any sort of ailment or disease. And that, says Dunkin, is because a steady cascade of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, weakens the immune system and is linked with heart disease and hypertension.
  • Look after your personal relationships. ‘Research shows that people with close friendships and strong support systems tend to be healthier than those who lack such supports,’ says Dunkin. And a good sexual relationship may provide even more immune system benefits by reducing stress and improving sleep.
  • Supplement your diet. There are numerous supplements on the market that promise improved immune function, but we place our faith in our trusted herbal remedies: Immune™ capsules, and Echi-Mune™ formula , which provide immune support; Anti-Flu™ formula and Echinacea capsules.
  • Healthwatch blogs

    
Our blog ‘Colds and flu: the natural way to avoid them or recover quickly’ will help you stay well this winter, and ‘10 Foods to boost your immune system’ gives invaluable information about diet and the best foods to eat.

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Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.

References

  1. Thanks to Amanda MacMillan and Tamara Schryver for their article on immune-boosting foods at www.organicgardening.com, which was used in part as a reference for this feature.
  2. Z Dunkin, M.A. How to Use Your Immune System to Stay Healthy. Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/how-use-your-immune-system-stay-healthy
  3. May, D. 7 Ways to Boost Your Immune System. Gaiam Life. http://life.gaiam.com/article/7-ways-boost-your-immune-system
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