Most of us have some familiarity with our immune systems. We know it keep us from getting sick or catching a cold. But what else is our immune system responsible for? Is it something that we should consider on a daily basis?
Absolutely! The immune system takes care of everything exterior that comes in contact with our bodies. Especially with all the talk of Swine Flu, it’s important to remember just how necessary a healthy immune system is. Catching a cold, virus, or just feeling run-down is often not the fault of the germs or conditions with which you’ve come in contact. Our bodies are designed to come in contact with all sorts of organisms and germs without problem. Why do some people seem to always be sick, while others never catch a cold? Why do some people always seem allergic and stuffy? Long before the days of cold medicine, antibiotics, and extremely sterile conditions, we were going up against germs and pollen on a regular basis. We started over-medicating and over-sanitizing, but our rate of sickness hasn’t really improved. And why is that? Because it’s all about the immune system.
The role of the immune system in mild allergy symptoms is often overlooked. Especially if you’ve recently acquired seasonal allergies, or if you’ve noticed your symptoms worsening, you should take a look at your immune health. An allergy is basically a small irritant to which the immune system overreacts, giving you itchy eyes, sneezes, and other uncomfortable symptoms. When the immune system is stronger, the body is more inclined to deal with these irritants without the uncomfortable symptoms. Many people dismiss allergies as something that cannot be helped without some kind of medication. Strengthening your immune system through diet, as well as taking Vitamin C (a natural antihistamine), can drastically improve mild allergy symptoms.
So, how exactly do you strengthen the immune system? Many health food stores and natural markets sell immune-boosting supplements. These can be helpful, but they are no replacement for the necessary diet changes that should be made to boost immune health.
Boost Your Immune System:
- Avoid all sugar. This includes in beverages, foods, processed foods, and even natural sugars. Natural sugars like fruit are fine in moderation, but if you feel run-down, it’s beneficial to avoid them.
- Emphasize vegetables, especially green. Vegetables are dense sources of all the vitamins and nutrients we need for fully-functioning bodies and minds. Green vegetables are alkalizing, which means they make the body a harder place for bacteria and viruses to thrive.
- Kick the substances. Alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine all deplete the immune system. Avoid them entirely! A little alcohol or caffeine can be used in moderation when you’re feeling well. Cigarettes are obviously worth eliminating.
- Eat immune-boosting foods. Fresh, raw garlic is an excellent immune-booster. Aim for 3-5 cloves a day if you’re feeling run down. Cooked garlic is still somewhat effective, but raw is best.
- Stay hydrated and sleep enough. These are obvious, but worth mentioning. Make sure you’re drinking water all throughout the day. If you have a coffee vice, make sure you drink a glass of water with your morning coffee. Also aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Many don’t feel rested with only seven hours, but you’ll find as you strengthen your immune system in other ways, you’ll feel more rested on less sleep.
- Supplement, if you need it. I always recommend optimizing your diet before turning to supplements. If you’ve already done the above, you can look to probiotics, or healthy bacteria. Probiotics are sold at natural food stores and are normally refrigerated. These healthy bacteria help keep your intestinal flora in balance. Since a large portion of the immune system is in the digestive system, keeping your digestion healthy and regular has great immune benefits. Probiotics can also be found naturally in yogurt (look for greek yogurt or yogurt with no added sugar) or other naturally cultured foods like kefir or kimchi. Immune-boosting supplements come in a variety of forms. Some are simply vitamin supplements, which shouldn’t be necessary if you’re eating a vitamin-rich diet. Others are extracts of medicinal mushrooms or of immune-boosting foods like garlic. These are worth trying if you feel you have covered all the other aspects of immune health. I like a simple Vitamin C supplement (500mg) to help alleviate mild allergy symptoms or to take if I feel I may be getting sick.
As you can see, there are a lot of things we can do to improve our immune health that don’t involve taking poisonous medical concoctions or mysterious drugs with endless side effects. A quick fix never really works, so invest in your health by making the necessary dietary changes.