If you're stockpiling facemasks, hand sanitizers, and chicken soup, consider this.
Your best bet for protection against common airborne illnesses starts within. Build a strong immune system from the inside out, and don’t sabotage your immunity with habits that hinder your body’s ability to fight off infections and illness.
Three Immune Busters
1. A sedentary lifestyle can reduce immunity two ways:
- It may interfere with good sleep and can lead to obesity. If you sit at a desk all day, this double whammy can leave you and your immune system feeling sluggish. Regular, moderate exercise makes a difference—aim for a daily brisk walk of 30 minutes.
- Exercise increases leukocyte levels, and these cells fight infections.
2. Eat whole foods, especially organic. Choose lots of fruits and veggies for their antioxidants—nutrients that protect cells from free-radical damage that’s been implicated in atherosclerosis, cancer, and arthritis. Free radicals can also interfere with your immune system.
“With up to 80 percent of the immune system located in the gut, the achievement of optimal digestive health is paramount,” says Brenda Watson, CNC, president and founder of ReNew Life Formulas. “A healthy immune system means a balanced immune system, which comes by way of a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet (with plenty of fiber and omega-3 fats), a balanced gut (which can be built with probiotics), and proper digestion of food (and thus, absorption of nutrients) with digestive enzymes.”
3. Although short-term stress may boost immunity, chronic stress appears to do the opposite, exposing your body to more of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which suppress immunity. Learning relaxation techniques, perhaps through yoga or t’ai chi, can boost immunity and improve sleep.
“10 Immune System Busters & Boosters”; “Antioxidants and Your Immune System,” www.webmd.com
The 24-Hour Pharmacist by Suzy Cohen, RPh ($14.95, Collins, 2007)
“Essential Role of Vitamin C and Zinc in Child Immunity and Health” by S. Maggini et al., J Int Med Res, 3–4/10
Green Immunity Boosters by James B. LaValle, RPh, CCN, ND, ($8.95, Square One Publishers, 2009)
“Green Tea Consumption Is Inversely Associated with the Incidence of Influenza Infection Among Schoolchildren . . .” by M. Park et al., 10/11; “Zinc-Altered Immune Function” by K. H. Ibs and L. Rink, 5/03, J Nutr
Personal communication: Brenda Watson, CNC, 7/12
Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC ($12.95, Penguin Group/ Avery, 2010)
The Top 100 Immunity Boosters by Charlotte Haigh ($9.95, Duncan Baird Publishers, 2005)