Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Your immune system cells are constantly gobbling up bacteria and blocking viruses from invading your cells.
Like your heartbeat or your digestion, the immune response is a function you don’t control. But there are plenty of things you can do to lend a helping hand.
Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and boosted by healthy-living strategies such as these, don’t smoke, eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep and take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
Having good hygiene is the first line of defense. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food and after using the bathroom. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, or cough into your elbow rather than your hand. Simply brushing your teeth would introduce enough harmful bacteria into your bloodstream to kill you. Luckily, your immune system protects you from these ordinary, everyday bacteria.
Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight and protects against a variety of diseases. Exercise can contribute to general good health and, therefore, to a healthy immune system. It may help even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Yogurt: The probiotics found in yogurt are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract clear of germs that may lead to disease and illness. A great time to eat yogurt is for breakfast or a snack to reap the germ-fighting benefits.
Selenium: Shellfish, oysters, lobsters, and crabs and clams are loaded with selenium. Selenium is an element that helps white blood cells produce proteins that eliminate viruses from the body. Salmon, herring, and mackerel are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation in the throat and lungs caused by a cold. This would be something good to eat once a week.
Garlic: Garlic has a reputation for causing the breath to stink; it’s beneficial when it comes to your immune system. Garlic is loaded with allicin, a sulfuric compound that can ward off illness. Chopping garlic cloves into the size of a pill and swallowing it like medication will bypass the garlic breath myth.
Honey: Honey has been used as a cold remedy for centuries. Honey is loaded with antioxidants that can kill the bacteria that cause sore throats, ear infections, and coughs and can also speed up the wound healing process strengthen your digestive systems and even clear up your skin.
• Vitamin B6 — Found in chicken, cereals, bananas, pork loin and potatoes with skin.
• Vitamin C — Found in tomatoes, citrus fruit, sweet peppers, broccoli and kiwi fruit.
• Vitamin E — Found in sunflower seeds and oil, almonds, safflower oil and peanut butter.
• Magnesium — Found in whole wheat, legumes, nuts and seeds.
• Zinc — Found in Oysters, beef shank, Alaskan king crab and turkey (dark meat).
While some people age healthily, many studies conclude that, compared with younger people, the elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases and, even more importantly, more likely to die from them. Respiratory infections, influenza, the COVID-19 virus and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people over 65 worldwide.
The idea of boosting your immunity is inviting, but the ability to do so has proved indefinable for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the details and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, use your first line of defense and choose a healthy lifestyle.
Check out our new and improved website for more ways to boost your immune system and tasty immune-boosting healthy recipes: www.healthykingsport.org.
Healthy Kingsport is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a community that actively embraces healthy living by promoting wellness, enhancing infrastructure and influencing policy.
Aiesha Banks is the Executive Director of Healthy Kingsport. She can be reached at [email protected]