Building your immunity is the first step towards being proactive about your health. It goes a long way in helping you lead a fuller life. Here are some sure-fire ways of strengthening your body's defence system.
Phytonutrients such as flavonoids, vitamins and minerals enhance immunity. Include fruits and vegetables in your diet as they are abundant sources of phytonutrients.
Along with these, fish, poultry, lean meat, low-fat dairy products, cereals and legumes [peas, lentils, and beans], cheese and eggs are also rich in minerals and vitamins.
Berry fruits such as cranberry, cloudberry, raspberry, strawberry and bilberry possess antimicrobial properties as they contain bioactive compounds such as phenolics and organic acids.
Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, and selenium also play a huge role in enhancing immunity, especially in the elderly. Of the list, vitamin C is a key element, so make sure you get enough of it.
Researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia, concluded that maintaining the right levels of intestinal bacteria plays a huge role in immunity. They prescribe consuming fibre-rich foods, probiotics and prebiotics [either in their natural form or as supplements] to keep diseases at bay.
Zinc is another important, yet often ignored mineral, which strongly affects the immune system. Pumpkin seeds, beans, lean beef and oysters are its rich sources.
Herbs like garlic, ginseng, cloves, Echinacea and licorice also display immune-boosting properties.
Magnesium, calcium and vitamin D, though known only for strong bones, have a strong effect on the immune system, including respiratory health.
Research shows that a small amount of tea is good for your immunity. A laboratory experiment showed that L-theanine [an ingredient found in black and green tea] boosts the immune system's ability to attack bacteria For the experiment, the scientists used ethylamine, which is produced when L-theanine is broken down in the liver.
Experts suggest that getting enough sleep is crucial for a healthy immune system and that chronic insomnia can decrease its effectiveness.
Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University found that lack of good quality sleep disturbs regulation of key chemicals produced by the immune system to fight infection.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine when it comes to suppressed immunity. So, always look for reasons to laugh—see a funny movie, get together with friends, or read a light book. Research shows that laughter decreases harmful chemicals that suppress the immune system.
We are integrated beings and our emotions have a positive effect on our health. A study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine journal proves that people who are energetic, happy and relaxed are less likely to catch a cold than those who are depressed, nervous or angry.
Put simply, a happy brain sends positive messages to the other organs that keep the body healthy and sound.
Aromatherapy and massage
Essential oils have immense relaxing power, which in turn boosts immunity. Thus, aromatherapy is good for immunity.
It is found that most essential oils trigger the production of white blood cells and people who use these have higher levels of resistance to illness—they catch fewer colds and recover more quickly.
Essential oils like bergamot, chamomile, lavender, lemon, myrrh, pine, sandalwood and thyme have a positive effect on the immune system.
Along with oils, getting a massage also boosts the immune system. Getting a massage on a regular basis reduces the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
So, occasionally indulge in a deep and relaxing massage or a hot bath to rejuvenate yourself, it will do wonders for your body's defence mechanism.
Exercise and yoga
Moderate exercise leads a temporary increase in cells that fight bacteria. Experts believe that regular and moderate exercise can lead to substantial benefits in immune system health over the long-term.
However, do not overdo as there is evidence that excessive and intense exercise is actually bad for immunity. Along with exercise our disease fighting ability also benefits from yoga and deep breathing.
Our lifestyles expose us to pollutants all the time and this causes our immunity to dip. A regular cleansing and detox regime is a must to rid the body of toxins. Air pollutants such as cadmium, lead and mercury; and tobacco smoke deplete the body's reserve of vitamins and minerals.
When absorbed by the body, they interfere in its functioning. Hence they are sometimes referred to as ‘antinutrients’.
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