What Is The Immune System
One of the greatest health benefits we can enjoy is learning to develop and to maintain a strong immune system. The immune system is a collection of special cells, organs, and substances that defend the body against infection and illness. It monitors the body at the cellular level and attempts to rid it of anything unfamiliar and intrusive to the body.
You may already know this but any substance that enters the body which the immune system does not recognize is known as an antigen. When an antigen enters our bodies, the immune response is triggered and the attack to get rid of it begins. Our immune system has the ability to destroy anything containing a particular antigen including, germs, viruses, and cancer cells.
It is safe to say that without our immunity we wouldn’t be around too long because it is a tireless warrior protecting our health. There are bacteria and viruses everywhere and our immune systems continuously fight all types of bacteria, viruses and various parasites in order to protect the body from potential harmful effects that their presence in our bodies can cause.
We also use our immunity to fight and kill cancerous cells that can pop up in our systems and while of course it is not always successful as people still get cancer because there are other factors beyond just immunity that can affect the bodies response to cancer, it is a fact that those with a poor immune system are at greater risk of succumbing to cancer than individuals who take care of their immune system but cancer is not the only health threat we face on a daily basis.
It is therefore of great importance to invest time taking care of our immune system health. Thankfully, some of the ways in which we can do this are also beneficial in other ways to our overall health.
What are some ways we can maximize the effectiveness of our immune system to stay as healthy as possible? Here are just a few tips that I know are certainly helpful in building up the immune system:
- Get immunized. Every year, you are given the opportunity to get an influenza shot. This “shot in the arm” will literally boost your immunity against the likely influenza viruses floating around through the winter months. Older people should get the Pneumovax vaccine, which prevents pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
- Eat balanced meals. Now, eating healthy meals as daily habit for me poses a real challenge and I am by no means the role model here so I do eat health consciously even if my meals are not as balanced as I would love them to be on a daily basis. I have discovered ways of making up any shortfalls in diet by adopting a more holistic approach to overall health and reinforcing good health and eating habits over negative ones. More balanced eating simply means getting enough nutrition through the meals, fruits vegetables and nuts and seeds that we consume.
There are nutrients in these foods that act as antioxidants, scavenging your body for oxygen free radicals that can damage cellular systems. The problem though is that much of the fruits and vegetables gracing our grocery shelves are increasingly nutrient-deficient as a result of the commercial farming methods used. The continuous impoverisation of our farming soils through the proliferate use of pesticides and other questionable farming methods that have now become common place and acceptable is a whole new topic for a separate blog which I will address hopefully soon.
Organic produce is best but can be quite expensive and most regular income homes might find it beyond their pockets to stick to organic produce. When I suffered from serious ill health issues many years ago, I engaged the services of a natural herbalist who put me on an uncompromising organic food regime and for four years, I only purchased the highest grade of organic fruits and vegetables delivered weekly to me by a local organic store. As you can imagine it was pretty expensive but my health was seriously at stake then and I was determined to regain full health. Later, I will share some tips on how you can maintain good immunity even if you cannot afford to go organic.
- Stay away from tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker please try and commit to quitting. There is help available I you search for support groups in your area and online forums. I know people who smoke that have lived long and even outlived people with healthier lifestyles but that is not the norm. Documented research shows that smoking is extremely toxic to health and significantly increases the risk of lung and other cancers. Smoking is also extremely aging on the skin.
Tobacco smoke unarguably ruins immunity even if you aren’t the actual smoker. Kids have an increased risk of getting middle ear and lung infections when repeatedly exposed to second-hand smoke. Adults are more prone to getting bronchitis and pneumonia when exposed to tobacco smoke. The toxic ingredients in smoke lessen your ability to fight off all kinds of infections.
- Cut down on alcohol. UK government’s unit guidelines state that there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women and both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. I am not a regular drinker and I have no idea what 14 units of alcohol actually looks like. Please feel free to contribute to this article by dropping me a line if you know what constitutes 14 units of alcohol and I’ll provide the update in the subsequent blog.
The risk of developing a variety of serious conditions including cancer, increases with any amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. Excessive alcohol intake also leads to an increased risk of getting infections from a poor immune system. Pulmonary infections are particularly likely to happen in heavy drinkers. Alcohol intake on a regular basis is also aging to the skin and heavy drinkers tend to look older than their age. Because alcohol is dehydrating to the body it is always advisable to consume plenty water throughout the day to rehydrate the body and to detoxify the body from the harsh effects of alcohol.
- Take probiotics. The benefits of taking probiotics on a daily basis cannot be overstated. I came to discover how necessary probiotics are for optimum digestive health and general immunity several years ago and I take these religiously both from food sources and also supplementally. Probiotics are one of the best things to reach mainstream medicine and it’s a topic to devote to a separate article of its own as there is a lot to explain about its immense benefits which many people overlook due to the lack of awareness.
Probiotics consist of living spores of healthy bacteria or living organisms themselves. They colonize the gut and displace the “bad bacteria” that can make you sick. With probiotics, you can have a healthier gut immune system and can avoid gastrointestinal upset from bacteria or fungi in the gut. Probiotics are found in some yogurts as well as in capsule form. I will devote time in a later blog to explain its benefits and the best food sources and supplements for probiotic health.
- Eat garlic. Garlic is one of the oldest and most cultivated culinary spices in the world. It is a perennial plant with numerous health benefits as well as being an antimicrobial and antiviral agent. Garlic belongs in the same food category as onions, spring onions and shallots and has a strong pungent smell when used or ingested. It boosts the immune system in a general way but because it is inactivated by heat it is best taken on its own or by adding to foods just before serving the food. Garlic may also be taken in supplement form. Many will be familiar with the home remedy of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey brewed as a drink and taken warm to relieve, colds and flu. Garlic is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Manganese, Selenium, Vitamin C and a host of other important minerals.
- Build Up on Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin required by the body for the absorption of calcium. It is widely believed from some research that Vitamin D inhibits or prevents the formation of cancer in the body. The body produces Vitamin D from the absorption of the suns UV rays however many people in sun-challenged climates tend to be deficient in Vitamin D particularly in the winter months and this can negatively impact on immunity. You can get Vitamin D with exposure to the sun or you can take a Vitamin D supplement as it is a bit of a challenge to get sufficient levels of Vitamin D solely from food sources. Some food sources for Vitamin D are: salmon, eggs, fortified milk, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms etc. It is worth having your Vitamin D levels checked periodically until you find a dosage of Vitamin D that brings your level into the normal range. In the summertime, just ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight per day can be a big benefit to your immune system.
- Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is indispensable in building the body’s immune defense and for ensuring proper functioning of body. The vast benefits offered by Vitamin C are too numerous to mention here and I will devote further articles to explain more about this amazing nutrient. Vitamin C reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps in reducing cholesterol, it helps the body fight off infection, improves circulation and is a powerful anti-aging nutrient.
- Eat Shitake and Maitake Mushrooms. Studies have shown that really concentrated extracts of these types of medicinal mushrooms have enhanced the immune system of women who have breast cancer. While eating the mushroom alone hasn’t been studied, it may have a beneficial effect on the immune system of otherwise healthy people.
- Immune Supporting Herbs. There are tons of immune-supportive herbs out there too numerous to mention. Some well-known ones are Echinacea, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero (otherwise known as Siberian Ginseng), Astragalus, Curcumin, Ginger, Ginkgo Giloba, Gotu Kola, Cat’s Claw, Ganoderma (bitter mushrooms) etc. These have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to prevent infection and to maintain a strong immune system. They can be found at most reputable health food stores around you. There is a lot more valuable information to be shared on an even wider range of immune boosting herbs and I intend to do so in later blog articles. I am eager to share my own experience of using many of these herbs on a regular basis.
There are many more factors that determine levels of immunity which are beyond the scope of this article. The ones listed here are just a few tips. I think that it is in all our interests to continue to strive towards improving our immunity levels as it makes such a hugely positive difference to our state of health and well-being. If you have other tips on immunity from your own personal experience and knowledge that you would like to share, please feel free to drop me a line and I would be very happy to share this in further updates to this topic and perhaps you could even send me a full article on this or other relevant health topic and I’ll post it on this forum with your name and details! Wishing you great health and immunity!
From my heart to yours, always
Learn The Benefits Of Taking A Daily Multivitamin
The ads and health professionals all say you should be taking a daily multivitamin. But where do you even start? What and who can you trust? How do you make informed choices from the millions of shiny and attractively packaged health supplements that beckon you from their shop shelves? Why should we take multivitamins? Are they really that important? Well personally I would say absolutely yes, but it does depend on the quality of the multivitamins you purchase and your specific nutrition supplementation needs. Do you even know?
Well, the truth is that getting your vitamins and minerals from food rather than supplements is the best method to ensure your body receives all the nutrients it needs. However, this is next to impossible these days as many modern lifestyle factors affect our ability to get adequate nutrition from the food we eat despite the fact that there is so much food all around us. Many of us just don’t eat right and even when we do eat right, the nutritional levels in the foods we buy may not be as dense or nutritionally concentrated as they ought to be or as they used to be. This is due to increased soil depletion caused by the types of modern farming and transport methods used in ensuring that our processed and natural foods arrive at or grocery stores in good time and in the best looking condition. But as we know, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold and that also applies to foods we eat. So multivitamins provide an easy way to get the nutrients you may be missing from your diet.
But just grabbing a multivitamin off the shelf may not be the best advice. Several years ago when I suffered from serious and chronic ill-health problems, I had little awareness of the value of multivitamins beyond the fact they were supposed to be good for me in some way. I also assumed most multivitamins were created equal and that the difference in price was due more to the fact that some were packaged more prettily than others. Well, I was not that ignorant but near enough so regarding the whole issue of multivitamins.
Back then, I would have been satisfied with simply choosing a reasonably priced and attractive looking multivitamin brand off the shelf of my regular grocery store or local. Now, I am a lot more responsible in the way I select my nutritional supplements and also a lot more informed than I was back then. I am also a lot more passionate about health related matters. That’s because my health circumstances at the time prompted an interest in getting back my health using every means available to me. I had to take responsibility for regaining my health as I could not bear the thought of continuing to live on the cocktail of prescription drugs that I had been put on and which caused me so many worrying side effects. So, in my bid to take my health back into my own hands I did a lot of reading and research, subscribed to reputable health forums and directly sought the opinions of reputable and certified holistic health practitioners.
Over the course of time, my awareness of the important distinctions between various supplement brands improved. I became better able to distinguish between quality multivitamin / multi-mineral brands in terms of recognizing synthetic and more natural based brands and the criteria for determining which brands offered superior quality supplements that the body was better able to absorb compared with lesser grade supplements that were more difficult for the body to absorb. More on this in future articles but it is worth investing some time to understand a bit more about supplements and the best ones to take as well as what distinguishes a good supplement brand from its lesser competitor brand. If you do decide to go down the route of taking multivitamins on a regular basis, it is worth taking supplements that will genuinely benefit you health wise rather than wasting money on next to worthless supplements that provide your body little or no benefit.
Best Nutrients to Have in Your Multivitamin /Multimineral Supplement
Try and ensure that your preferred multivitamin/multimineral supplement at least contains the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D3 (absorbed best when taken with Vitamin K)
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
Other important minerals that should be included in a good multi supplement are:
Unless you are clearly deficient in the following minerals, it is not advisable to take a multi supplement which contains the following three combinations:
This is because these three mineral supplements combined, increase the levels of oxidative stress in the body and are best taken separately to resolve issues when there is a clear deficiency. It is not advisable to take large or continuous doses of iron or calcium as they can cause serious or adverse effects in the body. I take iron regularly but on an off/on basis because I tend to be slightly anaemic. So, I take an iron supplement for about six weeks and then stop for a period and then resume for another six weeks and so on.
Your multi vitamins and multi minerals form the basic ‘building blocks’ for good health and proper nutrition. Be sure to check the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for each vitamin and mineral required. Read the label and make sure you are getting what you need. Spend a little bit of your time to research the daily recommended amounts and use that as a basis for determining your choice of supplement. If in any doubt seek advice from a qualified health practitioner though I personally would not rely on my regular doctor for advice on multivitamin supplementation just because in my opinion they are not necessarily up to date on preventative health concepts or health care. But, don’t take my word for it. Do your own research and make up your own mind. I often tend to seek the opinions of practitioners who as well as being formally trained and qualified to practice medicine are also trained in alternative or complementary health concepts. When you have the right balance of vitamins and minerals in a multivitamin, you will help give your body the ability to function properly. Here are just a few areas where the correct nutrients can help fend off illness and promote good health:
When your body is deficient in vitamins and minerals, you can experience an array of health problems. Taking a good quality daily multivitamin can help reduce the risk of health issues due to these deficiencies.
For example, vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that protects the body’s cells from damage; both externally and internally caused damage. For instance, in patients with cataracts, this vitamin has shown the ability to help stop the progression of cataracts, and in some cases even reduce the formation of cataracts.
Daily stress is something everyone lives with. Life is filled with stressors, both bad and good. When you feel the adrenalin pumping, you know your body is using up your resources of vitamins and minerals just to handle the anxiety and stress. If you don’t have the proper nutrients your body needs to replenish and handle the drain on your body, you will suffer a deficiency. That’s when you get sick.
For example, our bodies quickly use up vitamin C during stressful situations. If not regularly replaced, this leads to a deficiency. And, in this instance, a deficiency can cause more than an illness. A deficiency of vitamin C can actually perpetuate the stress cycle as it causes irritability and anxiety, causing more stress, causing a drain of more vitamin C, and so on and so forth. Taking a supplement with vitamin C can help end this cycle.
Boosting Energy and Brain Power
Lack of proper nutrition can make you feel sluggish and tired. By taking a multivitamin every day, you know you’re providing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs. Having that bit of nutrition ‘insurance’ helps your body stay healthy and awake, and doing what you ask it to do.
In much the same way, having the proper balance of vitamins and minerals provides your brain with the nutrition it needs to stay focused and alert. If achieving mental clarity is a priority in your life, then by all means add a multivitamin to your daily regimen.
Most of us want to eat right. After all, we need to keep our bodies fed with the proper amount of vitamins and minerals to operate at maximum capacity. Getting the nutrition we need from our food is ideal. But, the fact is, life keeps us busy. We don’t always take time to eat properly. Including a multivitamin in your day can help fill the gaps in nutrition. That one little step may just give you peace of mind as you strive to achieve a healthy lifestyle. More from me later.
From my heart to yours always,