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Which Foods Boost the Immune System?

Can certain foods boost the immune system? We look at what to eat to prevent illnesses and stay well

Can foods boost the immune system? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone. When it comes to preventing infections, we roughly know the drill. Wash your hands thoroughly. Sanitize surfaces. Stay home if you’re not feeling well. But many of us remain unsure as to what to eat to prevent our bodies from constantly getting ill.

It’s easy to fall prey to marketing gimmicks deployed by food brands. After all, it’s comforting to think that there is a single superfood or supplement out there that can supercharge our immunity and solve all of our health problems. But in reality, it’s way more complicated than that.

It’s definitely true that certain vitamins can provide a boost to our immune system. But at the same time, our bodies are complex machines with sophisticated needs. Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet may be much more beneficial to our health than popping vitamin supplements. So if you’re interested to know whether foods can actually boost the immune system, keep reading. Here, we’ll discuss what and how to eat in order to keep yourself fit and healthy.

WHICH FOODS BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Fruits

Fruits are one of the most nutrient-dense food groups. Packed with vitamins, minerals and many different biologically active compounds, they can provide a great boost to your immune defenses. Every type of fruit has something to offer your health and wellbeing. To get the most benefit, make sure to include a whole rainbow of plants in your diet.

Having said this, certain fruits may have stronger immunoprotective properties than others. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and limes, are a perfect example of foods that can boost the immune system. They’re widely known to be one of the best sources of vitamin C, a nutrient routinely used to treat viral and bacterial infections. But that’s not the only compound that makes them so effective. Citrus fruits are also rich in flavonoids, particularly hesperidin. Hesperidin is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and respiratory viruses. According to an article in Frontiers of Immunology, regular consumption of citrus fruit juices can increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells and decrease the levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

Another family of fruit that’s been shown to promote a healthier immune system is berries. Multiple studies have shown that berries contain antioxidant, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties.

Vegetables

If you want to boost your immune system, one of the best ways is to include more vegetables in your diet. Similarly to fruits, this food group provides a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They’re also a great source of fiber and prebiotics – compounds that feed the good bacteria living in our gut. And keeping our gut health in check will in turn have a beneficial impact on our immune responses. To maximize your chances of staying free from infection, include many different types of vegetables in your diet.

Red bell and chili peppers are a great source of vitamin C, almost on par with citrus fruits. They also contain an alkaloid called capsaicin. According to a review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, capsaicin possesses strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and as such, has the potential clinical value for pain relief, cancer prevention and weight loss.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, can also contribute to a stronger immune system. They contain high levels of vitamin C and E, as well as compounds called glucosinolates. As described in the Molecules journal, glucosinolates have been shown to be protective against many different types of cancer, including breast, brain, blood, bone, colon, gastric, liver, lung, oral, pancreatic and prostate.

Broccoli is another great example of a food that can boost your immune system. Apart from containing many vitamins, polyphenols and glucosinolates, it’s also a great source of substances called sulforaphane and quercetin. According to a review published in Phytochemistry Reviews, sulforaphane is highly involved in detoxification and neutralization of chemical carcinogens and free radicals. Quercetin also displays powerful antioxidant, anti-allergic and antiviral properties.

Special attention should also be given to green leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce and spinach. Spinach is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables. Multiple studies have demonstrated its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, and cholesterol-lowering abilities. It provides a solid dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including a carotenoid called lutein. As suggested in a review in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, lutein has been shown to stimulate the production of antibodies and fight bacterial infections.

Mushrooms

There’s been a growing interest in the immune-strengthening properties of mushrooms. This food group provides a good deal of selenium and B vitamins, both of which have an important role in our immune health. Furthermore, mushrooms contain a range of highly specific immunomodulatory and anti-cancer proteins, as described in the Journal of Autoimmunity.

Many types of mushrooms are beneficial to our health, but recently the attention has been directed particularly at shiitake mushrooms. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, regular consumption of shiitake significantly improves white blood cell and antibody production in the body.

Fermented foods

Fermented food and drink has a long history. They were among the first processed food products consumed by humans – and for many good reasons. The fermentation process improves the shelf life, safety and flavor of foods like yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. It also enhances their nutritional properties.

Many fermented foods contain strains of beneficial live bacteria, often referred to as probiotics. Probiotics can stimulate immune system function through enhancing natural killer cell toxicity, regulating the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and increasing white blood cell count, according to a study in the Food Control journal.

Seafood

When it comes to foods that boost the immune system, seafood may not be the first thing to cross your mind. But this food group has a lot to offer. Oily fish, for example, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, tryptophan and polyamines. According to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, regular fish consumption can lead to better gut health and a reduced risk of developing inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Shellfish – including shrimp, lobsters, oysters, mussels, scallops, clams, crabs, krill and snails – also contain significant quantities of immune-stimulating bioactive peptides, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In fact, oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, which is linked to immune health.

Spices and condiments are great for increasing the flavor of dishes, but that’s not the only thing they’re useful for.

Garlic is a great example of a food that can boost the immune system. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition, garlic appears to stimulate the production and regulate the functioning of white blood cells, cytokines and immunoglobulins. Regular consumption can contribute to the treatment and prevention of respiratory infections, gastric ulcer, and even cancer.

Garlic

Ginger is another example. According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, ginger has a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anticancer potential.

What’s more, black pepper may also be able to boost the immune system. Due to its antibacterial properties, it’s long been used as a food preservative. It contains a compound called piperine, which according to a review published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, displays numerous health benefits.

In the last several years, researchers have also been extensively studying the immunomodulatory properties of turmeric. Recent studies have demonstrated that curcumin – the main active ingredient of turmeric – shows antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulatory properties and can reduce the risk of several types of cancers.

HOW TO INTEGRATE IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS INTO A BALANCED DIET

Many foods have the ability to boost the immune system, but how can you make sure you’re including them in your diet?

Firstly, make sure to focus on eating wholefoods and cooking from scratch. Also, try to avoid highly processed foods – items such as packaged bread, microwave meals and breakfast cereals may appear healthy, but they tend to be largely devoid of immune-supporting nutrients. If you feel peckish, try to snack on citrus fruit and berries. When it comes to larger meals, try to add a solid portion of vegetables, mushrooms, fish, shellfish and fermented foods to your plate. Experiment with spices and condiments too.

It’s also good to make sure that your cooking processes don’t destroy immune-boosting nutrients. For example, fruits and vegetables are sensitive to heat, so don’t overcook them. Instead, stick to steaming and gentle processing. According to an article published in Food Science and Biotechnology, prolonged boiling, frying and baking may result in reduced levels of vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. In fact, broccoli may lose up to 50% or more of its vitamin C when boiled.

If you’re not a fan of the taste of turmeric or mushrooms, consider dietary supplements. Many brands offer good quality extracts made from immune-boosting foods. It’s also relatively easy to top up on probiotics in the form of tablets or capsules – for best results, look for quality products with multiple different bacteria strains. If you are thinking of changing your supplement routine, however, it’s best to consult your doctor first.

OTHER WAYS TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Increase your physical activity levels

There’s no doubt that being more active is one of the best things you can do for your physical health and mental wellbeing. It’s also a great way to boost your immune system. According to an article published in the Nutrition journal, exercise intensity and duration are closely linked to the functioning of multiple immune system components.

Researchers from the Sports Medicine journal also pulled together the results of multiple studies and concluded that higher levels of habitual physical activity is associated with a 31% lower risk of contracting an infectious disease and a 37% reduced risk of dying from it.

Prioritize quality sleep

Maintaining good sleep hygiene can make a huge difference to your quality of life. But getting enough sleep is also an important factor in immunity. A good snooze helps to balance the levels of hormones and cytokines that are responsible for regulating the inflammatory responses in the body, as described by a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Some animal studies have also shown that interactions between immune signaling molecules and brain neurochemicals increase significantly during infection, indicating that we tend to sleep differently when we are sick. Researchers suggested that during infection, these sleep alterations help our body to recover faster.

Keep your stress levels under control

Short bouts of stress can help us to survive dangerous situations. But when that stress becomes chronic, it can have a serious impact on our physical health.

In an article published in the Brain and Behavior journal, researchers speculate that chronic stress severely disrupts immune system signaling and increases the levels of inflammation in the body. There’s also a growing body of evidence to suggest that stress-reducing interventions have a direct impact on our susceptibility to infections. For example, multiple studies have shown that engaging in mindfulness meditation may result in decreased markers of inflammation and improved immune signaling.

By Anna Gora

www.livescience.com


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5 Foods For a Strong Immune System

There are a number of ways your lifestyle can enhance your immune system, but one of the most important is eating the right foods.
So how do we choose?
It seems like every few weeks there is a new immune-boosting superfood on the scene. But as an immunologist and functional medicine doctor, I’m here to tell you that any nutrient-dense food that’s rich in vitamins and minerals is an immune superfood.
However, some foods seem to stand out from the rest for their beneficial properties. Here are five magical superfoods that I always try to add to my diet for a strong and healthy immune system:

1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. And now we have modern science to explain the effects of these amazing fungi, which, depending on the species, can boost, redirect or modulate our immune activity.
The one I like best is maitake, also called “hen-of-the-woods” or “chicken-of-the-woods.” Not only do they make delicious tacos, but they can increase Th1 cytokines, which help stimulate cellular immune response when fighting bacterial infections.
I’m a fan of shiitake mushrooms, too. Studies show a pattern of immune-boosting benefits, such as an increase in NK and Cytotoxic T cells — both advantageous in conquering viruses and cancer cells.
Lastly, there’s the reishi mushroom, which has been shown in several studies to increase the Th1 cytokine response and help make chemotherapeutic drugs more effective. In addition, extracts of reishi promote the immune response against certain strains of herpes virus.
Reishi mushrooms have a hard outer shell that makes them inedible, so capsules are the most convenient form.

2. Ginger

Ginger has several strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The spicy, aromatic root contains compounds called gingerols, which show promise in preventing cardiovascular disease by reducing oxidative stress in blood vessels, as well as inflammation in the heart area.
Studies reveal that ginger extract may help prevent alcohol-induced liver disease and can also block the kidney damage created by chemotherapy drugs.
I often recommend ginger to patients who have nausea, bloating and other GI complaints from imbalances in their microbiome. You can incorporate fresh ginger in savory dishes, smoothies and ginger tea, or grab a ginger shot bottle (found at many juice bars and cafes) to drink plain or dilute in water.

3. Broccoli sprouts

Recently, a great deal of attention has been focused on broccoli sprouts, a potent source of one of the most immune-supportive biochemicals: sulforaphane.
On its own, sulforaphane has been shown to increase the levels of several antioxidant compounds by inducing a compound in our cells called NRF-2. This is sometimes called the “master regulator” of antioxidants, which means it helps increase the production of other antioxidants.
NRF-2 can play a role in lowering inflammation seen in many diseases like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and liver disease.
Most cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, contain large amounts of glucoraphanin, which converts to sulforaphane during digestion. However, young broccoli sprouts contain between 10 and 100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli!
The best way to eat broccoli sprouts is raw — for instance, in salads — because sulforaphane is easily broken down by cooking. I always aim to eat two ounces of broccoli sprouts a week.
Garlic

4. Garlic

Not only does garlic make everything taste more delicious, but this pungent vegetable has multiple compounds that regulate the immune system.
Studies on garlic find that it is immune-stimulating — increasing the activity of NK cells, a type of immune cell that has granules with enzymes that can kill tumor cells or cells infected with a virus.
At the same time, garlic is anti-inflammatory and can be cardioprotective by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
It’s also fabulous for fortifying our gut, for several reasons:
  • It can increase levels of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, a natural inhabitant of the GI tract and an excellent probiotic.
  • It’s known to be antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.
  • It can fix bacterial imbalances in the gut that may be driving inflammation.
You can incorporate garlic into almost any recipe — so use it whenever you can — and you can also find it in supplement form if you’re not a fan of the taste.

5. Turmeric

If I had to pick one culinary compound out of nature’s apothecary for it’s immune-supportive effects, I’d go with turmeric root.
The bright yellow-orange root is not only a staple in Indian cooking, but it contains a magical compound called curcumin.
The bright yellow-orange root contains a magical compound called curcumin, which has many key benefits:
  • It can buffer high cortisol levels.
  • It can suppress some of the immune changes at the root of autoimmune diseases, while generally helpful in reducing chronic inflammation throughout the body.
  • It encourages the growth of beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut and lowers other disease-causing bacterial strains.
  • It’s effective for minimizing joint swelling in rheumatoid arthritis.
Turmeric is a great spice to use in cooking, although it does impart a bright yellow hue to your skin tongue and teeth. And, because it’s not well-absorbed in the GI tract, you’d need to eat gobs of it to achieve immune-modulation effects.
Given that, curcumin supplements are the best way to get this beneficial compound. Dosages vary based on need. For general health, I recommend about 1,000 milligram a day in divided dosages.
Sat, Mar 5 2022      Dr. Heather Moday, Contributor
Dr. Heather Moday is a board-certified allergist, immunologist and functional medicine physician. 
source: www.cnbc.com


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The Vitamin Deficiency Linked To Autoimmune Disorders

A vitamin that reduces autoimmune disease risk by almost one-quarter.

Vitamin D supplementation over five years is linked to lower autoimmune disease risk of 22 percent, a study reveals.

Inflammatory disorders such as thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and polymyalgia rheumatica are examples of autoimmune diseases (AD).

AD can lead to life-threatening complications and death as currently there are no cures for AD and only a few treatments seem to be effective.

However, past research has highlighted that vitamin D and omega-3 (or n-3) fatty acid supplements may benefit many patients with these conditions.

A study called ‘VITAL’ assessed 25,871 participants to see whether supplementation of vitamin D or omega-3 or a combination of these two have any impact on reducing AD rates.

Participants were divided into different groups; receiving either 2,000 IU vitamin D3 or 1,000 mg of fish oil a day or a combination of both.

The fish oil capsule contained 460 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 380 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The research team found that those who received vitamin D with fish oil or vitamin D alone were less likely to develop AD.

omega3

Dr Karen Costenbader, the study’s senior author, said:

“This is the first direct evidence we have that daily supplementation may reduce AD incidence, and what looks like more pronounced effect after two years of supplementation for vitamin D.

Now, when my patients, colleagues, or friends ask me which vitamins or supplements I’d recommend they take to reduce risk of autoimmune disease, I have new evidence-based recommendations for women age 55 years and older and men 50 years and older.

I suggest vitamin D 2000 IU a day and marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), 1000 mg a day—the doses used in VITAL.”

The results show that 5 years vitamin D supplementation reduced autoimmune disease by 22 percent in patients with AD.

Whereas supplementation of fish oil with or without vitamin D reduced the AD rate by only 15 percent.

“Autoimmune diseases are common in older adults and negatively affect health and life expectancy.

Until now, we have had no proven way of preventing them, and now, for the first time, we do.

It would be exciting if we could go on to verify the same preventive effects in younger individuals.”

About the author

Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.

The study was published in BMJ (Hahn et al., 2021).

March 10, 2022    source: PsyBlog


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3 Mental Techniques That Boost Your Immune System

Lack of sleep, loneliness and stress are the main psychological factors that make people more vulnerable to infection, research finds.

However, loneliness can be combated by speaking to others using apps like FaceTime, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Google Duo.

Stress can be reduced with simple psychological exercises and sleep can be improved by following sleep hygiene guidelines.

Dr Christopher Fagundes, an expert on how mental health affects the immune system, said:

“We’ve found that stress, loneliness and lack of sleep are three factors that can seriously compromise aspects of the immune system that make people more susceptible to viruses if exposed.
Also, stress, loneliness and disrupted sleep promote other aspects of the immune system responsible for the production of proinflammatory cytokines to over-respond.
Elevated proinflammatory cytokine production can generate sustained upper respiratory infection symptoms.”

1. Loneliness

Studies have repeatedly shown that loneliness tends to make people more susceptible to infection.

People who spend less time around others are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus, research finds.

Staying connected with others and experiencing positive emotions, though, can boost the immune system.

Dr Fagundes recommends video calls:

“There is some evidence that it may be better to video conference versus having a regular phone call to reduce feelings of isolation.
There’s something about chatting with people and having them visually ‘with’ you that seems to be more of a buffer against loneliness.”

2. Sleep

Sleep deprivation makes people more likely to get sick, said Dr Fagundes:

“The overwhelming consensus in the field is that people who do not consistently get a good night’s sleep—7-9 hours for adults, with variation on what is optimal—makes a person more likely to get sick.”

One of the best methods for improving sleep is called stimulus control therapy.

In general, though, having a regular sleep schedule, bedtime routine and prioritising sleep, all help people sleep better, scientists have found.

 

sleep

 

3. Stress

Stress is the third factor that can affect the performance of the immune system, said Dr Fagundes:

“It’s important also to note that when we talk about stress, we mean chronic stress taking place over several weeks, not a single stressful incident or a few days of stress.An isolated stressful incident does not seem to make a person more susceptible to a cold or the flu.”

Daily routines are a wonderful defence against stress, said Dr Fagundes:

“This will regulate your sleep and allow you to focus on immediate goals and plans.In turn, you will overthink things less and feel more accomplished.”

People who are particularly susceptible to worry may like to try this exercise, said Dr Fagundes:

“People often worry and overthink things because their brain is telling them there is something to solve.
However, it can be counterproductive after a while.
A good technique is to set aside 15 minutes a day where you allow yourself to worry, preferably with a pen and paper.
After that, you aren’t allowed to think about the issue for the rest of the day.”

A further step is to address cognitive distortions, said Dr Fagundes:

“People often convince themselves that a situation is much worse than it is by telling themselves things that are not true.
We call these cognitive distortions.
For example, it is common to catastrophize a situation by convincing themselves that the worst-case scenario is the most likely scenario.
When people learn to identify and then refute these thoughts, they often feel much better.”

 

The studies were published in various journals (Cohen et al., 2011; Cohen et al., 2018; Prather et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog.
He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

 

source: PsyBlog        March 28, 2020


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Top 10 Immune-Boosting Foods

Keeping your immune system strong and healthy
is one of the essential keys to great health.
Fortunately, doing so is easier than you think.

The immune system is a complex system of organs, cells and proteins that work together to help protect us against foreign invaders, including: viruses, bacteria, fungi and other foreign substances we may come into contact with. We rarely give it a second thought until we’re burning up with a fever or fighting some form of serious infection.

There are many ways to keep your immune system strong and healthy, including:

  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting sufficient sleep
  • Reducing stress as much as possible
  • Washing hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Thoroughly cooking any meat, fish, or poultry in your diet
  • Eating a diet rich in immune-boosting fruits and vegetables

BEST IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS

Most fruits and vegetables, as well as other plant-based foods, boost the immune system, but some are better at it than others. Some of the best immune-boosting foods include:

Beets

Rich in the immune-boosting mineral, zinc, beets along with their leafy greens, are a great addition to your diet. Beets are also a rich source of prebiotics, the foods eaten by probiotics, or beneficial microbes, in your intestines. By eating more beets you’ll feed the healthy bacteria and other beneficial microbes that give your gut and immune health a boost. Add them to fresh juice, grate and add to salads and sandwiches, or roast and enjoy on their own.

Blueberries

Blueberries don’t just taste amazing, they are packed with nutrients known as flavonoids that give them their gorgeous color and delicious taste. Research in the journal Advances in Nutrition shows that flavonoids boost the immune system. Eat fresh blueberries on their own or atop salads or added to smoothies. Frozen blueberries that have been slightly thawed taste like blueberry sorbet and make a delicious dessert.

Blueberries

 

Citrus Fruits

Grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruit are excellent sources of immune-boosting vitamin C, making them excellent choices to include in your daily diet. Juice them or add them to salads or salad dressings, or in the case of grapefruit and oranges, eat them on their own as a quick snack.

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain plentiful amounts of the essential fatty acids known as Omega 3s that give your immune system a boost and help to keep it functioning well on a regular basis. Add flaxseeds or oil to your smoothie or top previously-cooked vegetables with a splash of flax oil and sea salt.

Garlic

Rich in immune-boosting allicin, garlic helps to stave off colds and flu by giving our immune system a boost. Cooking reduces the potency of garlic but both cooked and raw garlic are still worth eating on a daily basis. Add some garlic to your soups, stews, chili and, of course, combined with chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and a touch of salt for a delicious hummus.

Kefir

A beverage similar to yogurt but thinner, kefir comes from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good feeling” probably because let’s face it: we feel better when we’re not sick. Kefir offers immune-boosting health benefits due to its many different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Make sure the one you choose contains “live cultures.”

Kimchi

The national dish of Korea, kimchi is a spicy condiment that has been found in research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food to offer immune-boosting benefits.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain plentiful amounts of the immune-boosting fats known as Omega 3s, along with the essential immune health mineral, zinc, making them an excellent choice to include in your diet. Throw them on top of your salads, grind them and add them to flour for baking, or snack on them as is.

Walnuts

Raw, unsalted walnuts are rich sources of immune-boosting Omega 3 fatty acids. If you don’t like the taste of walnuts, I urge you to try ones that are raw, unsalted and kept in the refrigerator section of your health food store since they are typically fresher than the ones found in packages in the center aisles of the grocery store. The bitter taste most people attribute to walnuts is actually a sign they have gone rancid. Fresh walnuts have a buttery and delicious taste.

Yogurt

Yogurt and vegan yogurt contain beneficial bacteria that boost your gut health, which in turn, boost your immune system health. Make sure the yogurt you select contains “live cultures.”

 

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook            August 1, 2018

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking.  Follow her on Twitter.

source: www.care2.com


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Three Things to Boost Your Immune Health

Are you trying to get through flu season without catching a cold or getting sick? Make sure to follow these three habits as part of your immune boosting care kit:

1. Eat well

Having a well-balanced antioxidant rich diet is the most effective immune-boosting nutrition strategy. Carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats are great to fill up on immune boosting nutrients like vitamin C, D, iron, zinc and magnesium.

Consider adding at least two to three antioxidant rich foods at each meal. These can be citrus fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and dark coloured vegetables such as spinach or peppers.

The body’s immune cells feed on carbohydrates, and with the natural drop in blood sugar that occurs during exercise, having good pre- and post-training nutrition is key to keeping your immune system fuelled. Aim to have a snack before and after your training. If you’re running for longer than an hour, consider having a gel or sport drink.

2. Love friendly bacteria

Friendly bacteria in your gut or “probiotics” have been shown to have a positive effect on immune health. Before heading to buy a probiotic supplement, try to first increase probiotic intake through the diet.

Many foods are naturally high in probiotics such as yogurt, aged cheeses, Kefir, Kombucha, miso, tempeh and kimchi. Aim to have two to three probiotic rich foods per day to populate your gut friendly bacteria.

3. Spice up your diet

Many herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, mint and cinnamon have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties contributing to a healthy immune system. Aim to include herbs and spices daily, for example add cinnamon to peanut butter toast, smoothie or an oatmeal bowl.

Choose fresh ginger, as it is best consumed uncooked, and grate into soups. Add turmeric to curry stews or make homemade spiced roasted nuts. Try adding fresh mint leaves to your salad or infusing the leaves to make tea.

The list is endless, get creative and spice up your diet.

by Melissa Kazan MSc, RD,  SportMedBC’s registered dietitian and sport nutritionist 
February 4, 2018


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Boost Your Immune System And Ward Off Viruses With These Foods

Chicken soup helps, sure, but a diet rich in vegetables, fish and even garlic can help lessen the severity of a cold or prevent you from getting sick.

The combination of chicken, homemade broth, veggies (such as carrots, celery and onions) and noodles or rice in chicken soup is immune-boosting and soothing, and the warm broth clears your nasal passages and keeps you hydrated.

Winter doesn’t just bring the blues, it also gifts us with coughs, runny noses and sore throats. It’s not because of the old adage of bundling up or “you’ll catch a cold!” We tend to get more cold and flu viruses during the winter as germs survive longer indoors due to poor ventilation and lack of humidity, and we are stuck indoors for much longer during the frigid months.

There’s a key to rev up our immune system that can make a huge difference: you are what you eat. A healthy diet often prevents colds and flus or reduces their longevity. The antioxidants including vitamins C, A and E found in fruits and vegetables protect our cells and boost our immune system. Supplements can never replace the real thing.

A healthy diet year-round is crucial to keeping well. This means cutting down on inflammatory foods including white flour, white rice, sugar and saturated fats, as inflammation reduces your immune system. Stick to a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein.

Garlic

Allicin, a natural chemical in garlic, fights common viruses. Add it to your cooked foods and salads. Don’t forget to have breath mints on hand!

Broccoli

Raw or lightly steamed broccoli contains vitamins A and C, as well as the compound sulforaphane, which helps ward off viruses. Add it to salads or use for dipping.

Vitamin C

For decades this has been the most popular vitamin for fending off viruses, but a handful of supplements won’t do much once you’re already infected. The best defence is to include a variety of fruits and vegetables daily with vitamin C to keep your immune system strong.

Oranges aren’t your only option — you can get more vitamin C from strawberries, kiwis, pineapple, mango, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, snow peas, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale.

Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are good for the gut. We generally think of this as meaning digestion, but our gut health is actually a key component to many elements of our health, including 70 per cent of our immune system. Studies show that specific foods containing probiotics reduce the occurrence, length and severity of colds. These foods include sauerkraut, kefir, yogourts with live and active cultures, kimchi, kombucha and miso.

Chicken soup

There’s nothing like a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup when you’re under the weather, but does it actually help to fight off a cold? The combination of chicken, homemade broth, veggies (such as carrots, celery and onions) and noodles or rice is immune-boosting and soothing. The warm broth clears your nasal passages and keeps you hydrated. Mother was right!

Tea

We drink mug after mug of tea when we’re ill as it feels great on a sore throat, but it’s actually doing more to help, depending on the type. Black and green teas contain an amino acid called L-Theanine, which boosts our immune system. Black tea has more of this amino acid than green, but green tea protects the immune system against disease-causing free radicals. Drink up!

Spinach

Spinach is rich in vitamin C and contains several antioxidants, which increases the ability for our immune system to fight infections. Eat it raw or cook it as little as possible to get the most nutrients.

Shellfish and fish

Indulging in fish or shellfish twice weekly may prevent colds and flus. Selenium, a mineral found in oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams, helps white blood cells produce proteins that fight flu viruses. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring are loaded with omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation.

Before you end up sidelined on the couch this winter, include a combination of these immune-boosting foods so you can have a healthy 2018.

By ROSE REISMAN    Special to the Star    Thu., Jan. 11, 2018
Rose Reisman is a nutritionist, caterer, speaker, media personality and author of 19 cookbooks. info@rosereisman.com
 


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Your Immune System May Decide How Your Social Life Goes

A new study finds brain and lymphatic connections change how we might view our capacity for being social.

Self-help authors have collectively made billions off books that are essentially how-to guides on winning friends and influencing people. There may be some useful insights in those tracts—hey, use everything ya got—but a new study suggests sociability isn’t just a matter of temperament, agreeableness, quick wit or sustaining eye contact during conversations. In some ways, it comes down to biology. According to a new study, the health of your immune system is directly correlated to the healthiness of your social life.

Detection of the link was made possible by a groundbreaking scientific discovery last year. The brain and immune system aren’t fully discrete, but instead are actively engaged with each other. This finding presented a game-changing new fact; a Discovery article on the revelation was titled “They’ll Have to Rewrite the Textbooks.” Writer Josh Barney described the conclusion, that “the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist,” as one that stunned the scientific community. “I really did not believe there were structures in the body that we were not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,” Jonathan Kipnis, a neuroscience professor the University of Virginia study co-author, marveled.

The new study, which builds on those findings, sheds light on how that interconnectedness influences our social behaviors. Researchers involved in the 2015 study noted that an immune molecule called “interferon gamma” seemed to play a key role in social behavior, and as Science Daily writes, “flies, zebrafish, mice and rats, activate interferon gamma responses when they are social.” Production of that same molecule happens when bodies encounter pathogens—“bacteria, viruses, parasites” and the like—and ensure the immune system functions as it should. When scientists blocked the molecule in mice, the mice turned largely antisocial and their immune systems suffered. When they turned its production back on, in addition to the expected immunoresponse, researchers noticed the mice also became far more interested in hanging out with other mice. Their obvious conclusion? Interferon gamma, and the health of an immune system, play a “profound role in maintaining proper social function.”

“Not only are we showing that [the brain and the adaptive immune system] are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens,” Kipnis told Science Daily. “It’s crazy, but maybe we are just multicellular battlefields for two ancient forces: pathogens and the immune system. Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system.”

While all this likely brings up a lot of questions, an obvious one is, why is this true? Why does having a compromised immune system affect our social skills? Researchers see some practical reasons for this evolutionary development.

immune

“The hypothesis is that when organisms come together, you have a higher propensity to spread infection,” Anthony J. Filiano, lead author of the study, told Science Daily. “So you need to be social, but [in doing so] you have a higher chance of spreading pathogens. The idea is that interferon gamma, in evolution, has been used as a more efficient way to both boost social behavior while boosting an anti-pathogen response.”

Speaking to the Atlantic’s Julie Beck, UMass Medical School professor and study co-author Vladimir Litvak explained further. “Naturally if individuals tend to spread diseases, that could easily result in extinction of the whole colony. So you have to have a very strong immune response.”

In other words, when your immune system isn’t in the best state, maybe you feel less like getting together with all your very nice—but germ-carrying—friends because your body’s not in the best state to fend off potential illnesses.

Taken together, these studies may hold massive implications for the future treatment of psychological conditions that have long baffled us. As Beck notes, “immune system dysfunction is linked to several diseases that involve social dysfunction—dementia, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder among them.” In the future, a first step to address these disorders might begin with paying medical attention to their immune systems. The idea—which is not yet a done deal, since there’s lots more studies to be conducted—could upend our traditional thinking about approaches to treatment for psychiatric conditions.

“A lot of the preclinical studies have targeted synapses in the brain, and all of these therapies have failed,” study author Filiano said to Epoch Times. “The immune system, just because of our access to it, is a lot easier to target.”

 

By Kali Holloway / AlterNet August 25, 2016
Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.


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The Immune System Affects Social Behaviour and Personality

The immune system was thought to have little effect on the brain — until now.

The immune system is directly responsible for social behaviour and even our personalities, new research finds.

The conclusion comes as a shock to scientists and raises questions about the cause of mental health problems like schizophrenia and autism.

A malfunctioning immune system could be at the heart of these disorders.

Professor Jonathan Kipnis explained why the finding is so shocking to scientists:

“The brain and the adaptive immune system were thought to be isolated from each other, and any immune activity in the brain was perceived as sign of a pathology.
And now, not only are we showing that they are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens.
It’s crazy, but maybe we are just multicellular battlefields for two ancient forces: pathogens and the immune system.
Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system.”

For the research in mice and other animals, the scientists blocked a critical immune molecule called interferon-gamma.

The mice (and other animals) then became much less social than they had been before.

The study follows on from findings published last year that there is connection between the brain and the immune system previously thought not to exist.

immune

The link between the immune system and social behaviour makes sense, though, as being social is important but also raises the risk of disease.

Dr Anthony J. Filiano, the study’s lead author, explained:

“It’s extremely critical for an organism to be social for the survival of the species.
It’s important for foraging, sexual reproduction, gathering, hunting.
So the hypothesis is that when organisms come together, you have a higher propensity to spread infection.
So you need to be social, but [in doing so] you have a higher chance of spreading pathogens.
The idea is that interferon gamma, in evolution, has been used as a more efficient way to both boost social behavior while boosting an anti-pathogen response.”

Professor Kipnis said:

“Immune molecules are actually defining how the brain is functioning.
So, what is the overall impact of the immune system on our brain development and function?
I think the philosophical aspects of this work are very interesting, but it also has potentially very important clinical implications.”

The study was published in the journal Nature (Filiano et al., 2016).

source: PsyBlog       21 JULY 2016


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Creative Immune Boosting

Give seasonal colds and flu the (winter) boot

Don’t be at the mercy of winter’s cold and flu season. A little creative immune boosting, such as massage or a daily dose of laughter, might just keep nasty germs at bay.

Winter—the season of snow, skiing, holidays, and maybe even a little hot cider or wine in front of the fireplace with your loved one. Unfortunately, along with fun and passion, it’s also cold and flu time. Because we’re indoors more in winter, we’re likelier to play pass-the-bug with family, friends, and co-workers.

Nevertheless, we don’t have to avoid others or live outside permanently during winter to stay healthy (though a nice brisk walk or engaging in winter sports does wonders for the mind and body). There are many ways to boost your immune system, making it harder for colds and flu to take up residence.

Magic fingers

Remember the old telephone ad, “Let your fingers do the walking,” which encouraged us to use the Yellow Pages? If you don’t already have a massage therapist, now is a good time to look one up and let their magic fingers do the walking—over your body.

Numerous studies have shown that massage boosts your immune system by

  • increasing the number, kind, and distribution of good white blood cells throughout your body, making it less susceptible to disease
  • reducing inflammation and edema, which can lower the body’s immune system
  • stimulating your brain to release endorphins, producing calm, happy feelings
  • decreasing cortisol, a stress hormone that suppresses your immune system

There are many different types of massage, ranging from gentle stroking to deeper tissue kneading. Speak to your health care practitioner before beginning a massage treatment if you have blood, vein, or bone problems.

  • Aromatherapy massage uses plant-based essential oils on the skin to enhance the healing and relaxing effects of the massage.
  • Lymphatic massage concentrates on improving the flow of lymph, a fluid that helps fight off infection and disease.
  • Shiatsu uses gentle finger and hand pressure on specific body points to relieve pain and enhance the flow of energy (qi) through the body.
  • Swedish massage blends a variety of strokes and pressure techniques for all-over body health.

Laughter is the best medicine

Laughing is good exercise for the body, releasing mood-boosting endorphins, decreasing stress hormones, and increasing the type of white blood cells that fight infection. Scientists may not be the funny people of the world, but their research indicates a good laugh could be another tool in your disease-fighting arsenal.

Studies have investigated self-reported sense of humour, exposure to humorous stimuli, and smiling versus laughing. Computer geeks may be right: laughing out loud (LOL) had the most consistently positive immune-enhancing effect.

Find out what tickles your funny bone. Books. Movies. Silly songs. Sign up for a joke-a-day website and get your morning chuckle delivered right to your mailbox. Surround yourself with people who like to laugh and you’ll find yourself laughing with them.

When it comes to preventing colds and flu, let funny be your friend. Laugh, chuckle, or guffaw yourself healthy.

Sleep: Nature’s remedy

While you don’t have to hibernate to escape cold and flu season, getting enough sleep reduces stress, elevates your mood, and gives your immune system the resources to fight off disease.

If you’re sleep-deprived, your body’s cycle is thrown off and your immune system is disrupted. Even mild sleep deprivation—a couple of late nights—can have an adverse effect by overstimulating white blood cells. The greater and longer the deprivation, the more pronounced the effect and the more difficult it is for your immune system to recover its natural balance.

Aim for seven to eight hours. Sleeping fewer than seven hours makes you three times more likely to get a cold. And don’t count on the flu shot to make up for too many late nights; sleep deprivation can cut the effectiveness of the flu vaccine by 50 percent.

Sweet dreams.

Socialize to stay healthy

Strengthening your social network strengthens your immune system. Good friends keep you feeling connected to others, warding off feelings of loneliness. Researchers have known for years that people with strong social ties are more likely to survive serious illnesses.

Newer studies point to the effects of isolation on your immune system. Loneliness actually changes the immune system on a cellular level, decreasing your body’s ability to fight disease.

Colds and flu are not generally life-threatening, but they’re not a lot of laughs either. Family and friends may accidently pass on a virus, but their social support helps your immune system fight it off. They’re also likely to bring you chicken soup if you do get sick.

If you already have a strong social network, don’t take those people for granted. No matter how busy you are, make time to connect, even if it’s only a short phone call or an email. If you want to build up your circle of friends, take action. Volunteer, enrol in a course, take up a winter sport, or join an interest group to give you something to talk about.

cold

Think positive for better health

The mind-body connection is a two-way street. Being unhealthy can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed, while a negative mental state can lessen your immunity, causing illness. So it’s no surprise that research showed positive people fought off both cold and flu viruses better than those who were anxious, hostile, or depressed.

Rose-coloured glasses? Not necessary. Instead, strive for realistic optimism, which accepts that bad things happen but emphasizes keeping negative thoughts and fears at a manageable level. Staying positive allows your body to be its own doctor—releasing endorphins to cope with pain, gamma globulin to fortify your immune system, and interferon to fight viruses. Negative thoughts short-circuit this process.

The good news is that other immune boosters—sleeping, eating properly, social networking—also help keep you more upbeat, creating a positive feedback loop on the highway to health.

Eat a rainbow

Is it feed a cold and starve a fever or the other way around? Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables daily, and you’ll be less likely to have either. The pot of gold at this rainbow’s end is a stronger-functioning immune system.

Each colour group tends to be high in particular vitamins, antioxidants, and other disease and inflammation-fighting compounds. In general, the darker the colour, the more nutrients. By regularly eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, you’ll get the widest range of nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants—tools your immune system needs to keep running at its best.

Orange and yellow

The orange and yellow family owe their colour to beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Many are also high in vitamin C and folate. Foods in this family include apricots, cantaloupe, mangoes, nectarines, butternut squash, carrots, yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, and citrus fruits.

Red

The red family aren’t blushing; they’re just filled with lycopene or anthocyanins, heavy hitters on the keep-healthy team. Good choices include strawberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, red peppers, beets, red cabbage, and cooked tomatoes.

Green

The green family get their eco-friendly shade from chlorophyll and may contain other health-enhancing compounds such as lutein, indoles, folate, and vitamin E. Members to munch on include green apples, grapes, limes, spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens, green peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and avocado.

Blue

The blue and purple family are coloured by anthocyanins, powerful protectors of cells in the body. Grab some blackberries, blueberries, raisins, figs, purple grapes, prunes, or eggplant.

White

The white family may not be found on a real rainbow, but they have a place in your daily diet. They get their colour, which ranges from white to brown, from anthoxanthins. Some also contain allicin and potassium. Members in good standing include bananas, onions, parsnips, turnips, jicama, and potatoes. Garlic has long been known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties, while reishi, maitake, and shiitake mushrooms are believed to directly boost immune function.

Supplements that boost immunity

Great! You’re trying your hardest to get massages, laugh, sleep enough, eat properly, surround yourself with friends, and have a positive attitude. But let’s face it: life can get in the way of even the best intentions.

Adding vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements to your diet can help you this cold and flu season—and all year round for that matter. Many of them do double duty, helping your immune system while protecting you from a wide range of other diseases.

A daily multivitamin, especially one that contains selenium, zinc, and magnesium, is a good way to enhance your immune system. Don’t overdo it, however, particularly with vitamins A and E and zinc: too much of even a good thing can be bad, so enjoy the most immunity-boosting benefits by taking the recommended daily dose of these supplements.

Certain herbs and supplements also look promising for increasing immunity. Garlic, ginseng, milk thistle, and astragalus possess protective properties that have been shown to fight viruses and infections. Probiotics—healthy bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium—may also support immune function.

November 28, 2013        Harriet Cooper