Health & Wellness Articles

6 Steps to Strengthen Your Immune System

Boost Your Body's Defenses

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Your immune system is important. Very much like your own personal army, it guards your body against attacks from invaders (like bacteria, fungi, and viruses), defending against infections and several kinds of cancer. And it’s smart, too, often “remembering” certain infections so it’s ready for them the next time they try to attack. But just like any other body system, your immune system can deteriorate if you don’t treat it well. Keep it functioning at its peak performance, so you can stay healthy, too, by following these six steps.

1. Eat Right
In theory, this one is pretty simple: Eat just enough of the right foods when you feel hungry. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple to put into practice. We’re tempted by unhealthy options everywhere we turn, we eat for emotional reasons, or we don’t even know what the “right” foods are. For those of us who struggle in this area, this may take some work.

Avoid eating too much, which can lead to weight gain and harm the immune system. Research performed by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has shown that obesity prevents the immune system from functioning properly, increasing its vulnerability to infection. In the study, obese mice were found to be 50 percent less capable of killing the flu virus, compared to lean mice. The researchers believe that the same holds true in humans. To find out how many calories you need to maintain or lose weight, refer to your customized Nutrition Tracker.

Just as important as how much you’re eating, is what foods you’re eating. Some nutrients and foods that have been found to enhance the immune system include:
  • Vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus fruit and broccoli
  • Vitamin E-rich foods, like nuts and whole grains
  • Garlic
  • Zinc-rich foods, like beans, turkey, crab, oysters, and beef
  • Bioflavanoids, which are found in fruits and vegetables
  • Selenium-rich foods, like chicken, whole grains, tuna, eggs, sunflower seeds, and brown rice
  • Carotenoid-rich foods, like carrots and yams
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, salmon, tuna, mackerel, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil.
Of course, you can find these nutrients in pill form, but food is always the best and most usable source of vitamins and minerals. Supplements can be shady, since no regulating body ensures that they contain what they claim to, or that they’ll be absorbed as well as nutrients you get from food.

Some immune system all-stars that have recently garnered a lot of attention in the scientific community are vegetables from the brassica family, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. According to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and published online in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, a chemical produced when these vegetables are eaten can stop the growth of cancer cells and boost the production of certain components of the immune system. Turns out, Mom was onto something when telling you to each your broccoli!
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • SSMITH7606
    Now, more than ever it's vitally important to support your immune system. You can find an amazing assortment of premium, high quality, all natural nutritional supplements to support immune defense (Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Colloidal Silver, Green Tea Extract, SUPER ANTIOXIDANT OPC and more): http://www.antiag
    ingultra.com/
    immunesystems
    upport.html - 11/3/2014 6:01:29 PM
  • FOXGLOVE999
    I was hoping for something more. My son has struggled with a weak immune system most of his life, and none of this is going to help him. - 10/24/2014 8:25:20 AM
  • What a fantastic naturopathic website! Thanks so much for the referral. - 9/28/2014 10:31:54 AM
  • MD_BRANDNEW
    Great information provided. In addition I have also came across a great article that focuses on ways to check if you have a low immune system as well as how to boost your immune system.Thought it would be worth the share: http://www.drdnat
    uropath.com/i
    ndex.php/how-
    to-build-a-st
    rong-immune-system/
    Enjoy! - 12/4/2013 11:21:28 AM
  • I still recall that when I was a smoker I ALWAYS had to stop when I got a cold or the flu.
    - 11/3/2013 8:31:54 PM
  • ...duh. Fluff piece. - 1/15/2013 6:52:31 PM
  • Pretty much things in moderation & not to abuse our bodies with smoking & alcohol - makes sense. - 9/8/2012 10:13:26 PM
  • Really enjoyed this article! The 6 tips were great! Definetely will put them to practice! Good thing I am not a smoker, so that is one less thing to worry about! - 2/23/2012 10:42:16 AM
  • Definitely need to follow this advice! - 12/8/2011 10:24:25 PM
  • Good article! Clearly I need to find ways to stress less and exercise more. I'm glad to see that I'm doing most of the other things right. - 12/8/2011 11:09:28 AM
  • DAMSELFLY3
    Great article. I know we have heard so much of this info before, just need to apply it! I catch colds way too often, now I have some immune ammo to build up my body with. hugs deb - 8/29/2011 6:28:22 PM
  • If your family medical history lends itself to autoimmune disease, please read about gluten grains and how eliminating them might help your pain, inflammation, immunity. Google is your friend.

    Here's one woman's account: http://autoimmune
    diseasesgfliv
    ing.blogspot.
    com/2009/03/g
    luten-autoimm
    une-disease-connection-or.html or for shorter, easier copying and pasting:

    http://bit.ly/e1o
    lsH

    If you or someone you love has IBS, it might be celiac disease and misdiagnosed. Gluten-free diet helps with epilepsy, Tourette's, narcolepsy ...

    ~40% of our population have the genes for celiac disease. Doesn't mean they're triggered, but stress can do it. 95% of the population are undiagnosed. I am not even talking about gluten "sensitivity" which is another topic.

    Sure, you can take QUALITY vitamins, but are you absorbing them?! Your immunity is in your gut, so take care of it!

    Speaking from experience (unfortunately). :P

    (Always cracks me up that people have to be told to be moderate in their drinking. Why isn't it ever suggested to not drink at all? ... I know, killjoy, huh?!) lol - 3/21/2011 4:57:00 PM
  • Very good article.So glad I love broccoli.No wonder I rarely get sick.I try to eat right,get exercise and keep a positive attitude. - 3/21/2011 1:53:44 PM
  • Your otherwise useful article is marred by the offhand comment "supplements can be shady". It is a complete mischaracterizati
    on that dietary supplements are unregulated. Foods are no more regulated than supplements in terms of providing the stated nutritional levels. Both foods and supplements are regulated by the FDA, both are subject to Good Manufacturing laws (cGMPs), which, help ensure safety, identity and quality of food and dietary supplement ingredients, all of which help ensure these products provide the stated nutritional content. The FDA has similar powers to enforce these laws for foods as it does dietary supplements and the FTC has jurisdiction over claims for these foods including nutritional content and health claims. Some nutrients are even acknowledged by the medical profession as difficult to acquire from the typical diet alone, especially as we age. Women don't get enough calcium, most of us don't get enough Vitamin D. So If you think you can get all the nutrients you need from the fabled "healthy diet" go right ahead and try! Me, I will continue to take my fish oil, Vit D, calcium, chromium, magnesium and zinc because I personally feel better when I'm taking these supplements and I have confidence that they are just as regulated as foods! - 3/21/2011 10:47:07 AM
  • I am 70* years old, widowed recently and have been taking vitamins from a very reputable company for over 35 years. I see the difference the older i get. I'm a firm believer in the premise that good nutrition and regular exercise improve our quality of life, do not necessarily extend it...............
    ........there is a company called Nutrilite that can answer a lot of questions regarding supplementation and they've been around for over 65 years............
    . - 3/20/2011 8:49:30 PM

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