Building and maintaining a strong, healthy immune system.
Your immune system is the “shield of protection” that keeps illnesses, viruses and bacteria, at bay. The stronger and healthier your immune system is, the less chance you have to develop an illness, catch a cold or get the flu.
Many nutritionists will tell you that a weak immune system stems from a diet lacking in adequate amounts of nutrients. It is important to eat from all the food groups, making sure you take a daily dose of Vitamin C and Vitamins B’s (especially vitamin B6 and B12), as well as the necessary minerals like zinc, selenium, folate, and so forth.
Eating balanced, healthy meals that include fibre, high amounts of vegetables and fruit, fortified cereals, proteins, minimizing alcohol consumption, not smoking, washing your hands every time you come home from the shops / school / after you went to the restroom and before you prepare meals, as well as exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, are all role-players in aiding the immune system.
It is important to get adequate sleep, drinking plenty of water and minimizing and/or getting rid of stress. In today’s world stress is one of the major causes of illnesses as well as 80% of the cancers! So; start today by signing up for a yoga class, a meditation group, breathe deeper (inhale and exhale slowly for 8 – 10 counts as an easy way to relax the mind and body), and start to listen to classical music. There are many links of YouTube, for example, where you can listen to classical music, relaxation music and mediational channels.
Be careful when advertisements advertise products that can “boost” the immune system. There are a vast number of different cells in the body, and, like everything else in the body, new cells are formed naturally every day. Did you know that athletes who engage in “blood doping” (pumping blood into their systems as a means of boosting their blood cell-count and enhancing performance), runs the risk of strokes?
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is vital to keep your immune system strong when the seasons start to change. As we are moving into summer, but still have chilly nights and/or rainy, cold days, keeping the immune system strong will keep you from developing a cold / flu. When you are outside in the sun, for example, and you go indoors into an airconditioned building, your chance of catching a cold can increase if your immune system is low. On the flip side is winter-time when we spend more time indoors in heated rooms than outdoors in the cold! Regardless of the latter, go out, open your windows to get fresh air in and, when the sun is out, go out and catch a dose of vitamin D (another important vitamin)!
Remember the days when your grandparents / parents were young and they had to drink Scot’s Emulsion (Omega oils) when the seasons change? The simple reason – it keeps the immune system strong!
Looking after yourself as you age, and after the elderly people, is important. Some people age well while others catch illnesses more often. Nobody is 100% sure why, but scientists think it is because of the decrease in T cells (the latter fight off infections).
However, nutrition plays a key role; especially when the elderly person(s) live in a retirement centre where certain food groups are either limited in their meals or not included at all. Another key factor is the fact that elderly people eat less because they are not as active as the younger generation. Micronutrient malnutrition (where a person is deficient in certain essential vitamins and trace minerals), can start to develop.
It is important that the older people supplement their diets with a good vitamin complex, make sure to take vitamin A, C & D, and add Omega 3-oil to their diets. Vitamin B6 & B12 are also very important. Vitamin B6 is only found in red meat, so taking a supplement when you don’t eat meat / not a lot of red meat, is a great way of making sure your iron levels are where it should be and your blood cells are getting all the nourishment it should. Not only is it the elderly that is more susceptible to getting ill, but also those people living in poverty (regardless of their age). There is evidence that indicates that micronutrient deficiencies (including zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6 & B12, C and E), play a role in a weak immune system.
Whether you are ill, just getting over a cold, or stressed, the body’s first response is to fight it off. However, if the body’s immune system is too weak, then you stay ill for much longer (or get worse), you get ill again, and so forth. Vitamin B6 & B12 should be taken in a combination-form, and plays a vital role, as this is the first vitamins that get depleted when your body is “under attack” from illness or stress.
There is a saying that goes: “the best defence is a strong defence.” Thus, a strong immune system is the best defence against viruses, germs, stress-related illnesses and more serious illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease and others. And it all starts with the choices we make for ourselves and our children: what to eat, to start exercising, to not smoke (or to stop), and to take care of our bodies: physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. After all, “if you want to change the outside, you must first change the inside.”
I am going to leave you with these three quotes that I once read on Facebook…
- “In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.” ~Author Unknown;
- “By cleansing your body on a regular basis and eliminating as many toxins as possible from your environment, your body can begin to heal itself, prevent disease, and become stronger and more resilient than you ever dreamed possible!” ~Dr. Edward Group III;
- “Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by food choice, toxic food ingredients, nutritional deficiencies and lack of physical exercise.” ~Mike Adams.
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By: Ezette Viljoen (Health & Fitness Editor)