Why is boosting your immune system important?
You are exposed to thousands of germs everyday- bacteria and viruses that are dying to get inside you and take over. Your only defense against them is your immune system- a complex army of warriors that protects you. MOST of the time. When it breaks down, you get sick. Then, you come to see me in all your misery hoping I can give you something magical to make you feel better…
Here’s the thing: it works way better to boost your immune system and keep it working at peak efficiency all the time to PREVENT infection than to try and take something to jumpstart it once you’ve already gotten sick.
A fringe benefit: Boosting your immune system isn’t just for colds and flus. Not a lot of people know this, but boosting your immune system is one of the best ways to prevent cancer too. One of the major functions of some of your immune cells is to seek out and destroy cancer cells- that way the disease never really gets going.
Unfortunately, as you age, there is a noticeable drop in your immune function, especially by your 70’s & 80’s. You actually produce as many immune cells as you always have, they just don’t work as well anymore. (Kind of like everything else as you get older right?) The simple reason for this is that your immune system is also the victim of free radical damage.
Boosting your immune system is pretty tough when you have constant destruction from free radicals.
There are many ways the free radicals thwart your system:
- The immune cells themselves (T-cells, natural killer cells, etc) are damaged.
- Next, they knock out the cytokine pathways (communication between immune cells)- they can’t operate properly without communicating.
- And last, but not least, it upsets the delicate balance of free radicals that macrophages use to work. Macrophages actually release their own free radical, nitrous oxide, to destroy bacteria, parasites and viruses. If the free radical/antioxidant balance is out, the nitrous oxide ends up destroying the macrophage also.
So the best way of boosting your immune system is to load up on free radical fighters- antioxidants!
How Some Antioxidants Help in Boosting Your Immune System:
(Warning! This is pretty specific and somewhat technical. For techie-minded people like me only! If the last paragraph bored you, move along to another page…)
- Vitamin C
Of course! There has been more research on vitamin C and it’s role in boosting the immune system than any other nutrient. Specifically, it increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies. It also increases interferon, which basically coats your cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses.
- Vitamin E
It boosts your immune system by increasing the production of natural killer cells- important for destroying germs AND cancer cells. It also increases B cells, which are responsible for making antibodies to fight specific germs. Supplementing with vitamin E has been shown in many studies to reverse some of the decline in immune response that is seen in aging.
- Carotenoids (The most famous being B-carotene, but there are many others.) These increase production of natural killer cells and helper T-cells
- Bioflavonoids (There are lots of these, especially in fruits & veggies) Your cells have receptor sites, which are like parking spaces that allow germs and other toxins into the cell. Bioflavonoids take up these “parking spaces” so the germs won’t have access to your cell.