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Monday, 13 October 2014 11:17

Fight Back - Keep Your Immune System Strong

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Fall indicates the official beginning of the flu and cold season. You really can fight back! Keep in mind that the flu season extends officially all the way to May. More importantly though, you need to protect yourself while dieting because not as much nutrient dense foods are being consumed. So here are some basic guidelines to think about before getting sick.

Good nutrition will prevent 95 per cent of all disease. – Linus Pauling
Flu Shot

A flu shot can be beneficial to help those who are more vulnerable to the flu and colds. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests an annual flu shot for everyone aged 6 months and over. The only exception is for those who are allergic to the vaccine. It is especially important to:

  • People who are 50 or more years of age
  • People who have chronic lung disease, including asthma and COPD, or heart disease
  • People who are 18 years old or younger AND taking long-term aspirin therapy
  • People who have sickle cell anemia or other hemoglobin-related disorders
  • People who have kidney disease, anemia, diabetes, or chronic liver disease
  • People who have a weakened immune system (including those with cancer or HIV/AIDS)
  • People who receive long-term treatment with steroids for any condition
  • Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during the flu season. Women who are pregnant should receive only the inactivated flu vaccine. (Vaccinations should usually be given after the first trimester. Exceptions may be women who are in their first trimester during flu season, because their risk from complications of the flu is higher than any theoretical risk to the baby from the vaccine.)
  • The vaccine takes approximately two weeks to fully protect against prevalent flu strains.
The Immune System, Food, Lifestyle and Special Nutrients

101518770Besides a flu shot, medical science has established the biggest factor to support a strong immune system has to do with consuming healthy food and having a healthy lifestyle. Also note that the gastrointestinal tract is also a big part of the immune system.

Most people are unaware of how the gastrointestinal tract barrier is essential for optimal immune function protection. It is your best defense against illness. The inside lining of your gastrointestinal tract has the role of keeping out damaging molecules and pathogenic organisms while still allowing important nutrients and food components into the body. In other words, the gastrointestinal mucosal area has to know how to keep harmful bacteria and viruses out while at the same time allowing only health promoting nutrients in. A tall order for one organ to deal with. So with this in mind the very food you eat can protect this barrier, or weaken it. High quality probiotics support this too, especially if you are on reflux medications or have poor digestion. Obtain probiotics from a high end quality health food store for best results. And obviously, eat well.

High quality lean protein helps to promote a healthy immune system. Your multivitamin and the numerous B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, bioflavenoids, zinc and selenium provided in your multivitamin and healthier foods all support your immune system. Those dieting should ideally choose a variety of the most outstanding food sources to support a healthy immune system. Some of these foods are: all leafy greens, vegetables, parsley, cauliflower, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, crimini mushrooms, chard, spinach, asparagus, carrots, squash, blueberries, strawberries, garlic and tomatoes.

Major health authorities are now suggesting 9-11 servings a day of fruits and vegetables for optimal health benefits. In maintenance, Step 3 your guidelines are larger servings in this area. Before you feel overwhelmed with the amount, remember the servings sizes are not all that big; generally one half cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of raw vegetables are serving sizes. Fruit servings vary but usually they are small. (Again, we encourage these larger amounts in Step 3, maintenance.)

The worst foods in general are most processed foods, sweets, sodas, juices and alcohol. Bacteria and viruses seem to almost 'breed' on any kind of sugar despite controversy on that topic. Even refined flours (including refined whole grains) are almost as high on the glycemic index as sugar because of their high refinement. They should be considered a form of sugar, especially when consumed in excess.

Obesity was actually found to be associated with increases of illnesses and infections. Since most obesity is usually caused by consuming too many sweets and refined foods, it only makes sense that overweight people may be at a higher risk for being sick.

Other specific nutrients that promote a healthy immune system include a balance of omega-3's to the omega-6's. Most people consume enough omega-6 but are deficient in omega-3's which are found primarily in fattier fish like wild salmon, (not farm raised) mackerel, and sardines. Other good sources include flaxseed oil (not the fiber, although it's very beneficial too), walnuts and leafy green vegetables sources. Research suggests a ratio of 1:4 of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. On your diet plan you are consuming adequate protein with plenty of omega-6 but if you are not consuming your fish a few times a week, particularly salmon, mackerel, and/or sardines, you may be deficient and need to supplement. Quality fish oil has been researched extensively to support numerous other conditions including weight loss.

Vitamin D has also been found to play a big role in the immune system. According to the newest medical research, especially in pregnant women, many people are coming up short with vitamin D3. Some clinical studies suggest that deficiencies may also inhibit your weight loss and cause insulin resistance if you are not getting enough.

Immunity Basics

And don't forget the basics to stay healthy:

  • Get adequate sleep on a regular basis as a preventative measure and especially if you are already sick.
  • Drink generous amounts of liquids, especially filtered water (again, NOT juices!).
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco when possible (it harms the mucosal barrier in your gastrointestinal tract).
  • Avoid contact with other people who are sick when possible. If you are ill, stay home to protect others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze to protect others from your germs and encourage others to do the same.
  • Continually wash your hands and keep them away from your face.
  • Engage in regular moderate exercise.
  • Stress has been proven to affect immunity. Since it is a fact of life, learn how to cope with it in time honored and effective manners: deep breathing, meditation, music etc.
  • And don't forget that, "Laughter is the best medicine."
Selfish isn't a dirty word. It means we take care of ourselves and are healthy to give back. – Jillian Michaels

WebMD has more on vitamin D.

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