The current Flu strike is forecast to be so widespread that few of us can expect to escape infection. The numbers are quite staggering and the epidemic if H1N1 may even combine with the H1N5 and become quite difficult to manage.
It is important therefore to
understand the defence system we have in place and what we can do to increase its protection power.
The body’s Immune System has quite a few trick in providing us with a barrier to invaders.
The first lines of defence against invasion are:-
- The skin,
- Mucous membranes in the air passages
- The digestive system
The skin is a tough, self repairing, slightly acidic, waxy coated barrier that some bacteria find difficult to penetrate.
The mucous membranes that line the nasal passages and lungs secrete sticky, antimicrobial mucus that catches and disposes of foreign particles.
The digestive system in itself provides a number of barriers. First there is hydrochloric acid in the stomach followed by the mucous in the intestines which line the tract. The digestive system produces 10 litres of digestive juices a day to break down the food you eat & enable the nutrients to pass through the gastro-intestinal wall
The health of this gastro- intestinal tract is imperative in any situation but in the current threat it is important to improve the capability of the gut to absorb high levels of nutrients needed to create a barrier to the virus.
It is well known the strength of the immune system is dependant upon a number of criteria e.g. age, genetics, smoking habits, levels of exercise, diet, stress, history of infection, vaccinations and medication. Any element which is unbalanced could leave the immune system susceptible to attack. We are reliant upon our immune system for our wellbeing and as such we are well advised to boost this asap.
Unfortunately many modern drugs and treatments also have an adverse effect on the immune system. Antibiotics can destroy many of the digestive system bacteria which help to protect us. The typical western daily diet contains around 150g of refined sugar. At 100g it has been shown that the immune system function is cut in half and in addition reduced amounts of Vitamin C enter the white blood cells. Excessive alcohol severely depletes zinc levels – essential for a health immune system
On the other hand a number of well known nutrients will boost the immune system.
Boosting the System
Your immune system is entirely dependant on an optimum intake of vitamins and minerals. Lousy diet– guess what, low immunity!
Deficiency of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, Folic acid, C, E and minerals Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium will suppress the immune system.
Vitamins B1 & B2 have a mild immune boosting effect compared to B6. The production of antibodies, so critical in any infection, depends upon B6 as does T cell function. B12 & Folic acid are also essential for proper B cell & T cell function. Since no nutrients work in isolation, it is a good idea to take a high strength multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Nutrition for the immune system can of course be delivered in a balanced diet. The ideal immune boosting diet is, in essence, no different from the ideal diet for anyone.
Since immune cells are produced rapidly during an infection, sufficient protein is essential. Diets high in saturated or hydrogenated fats suppress the immunity and clog up the lymphatic system, but essential fats, found in cold pressed seeds oils boosts immunity. Therefore a well balanced protein, low fat diet with fats obtained from essential sources such as seeds and nuts, together with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals is the way to eat for maximum immunity.
|Vit. & Mineral||Best Natural Sources|
|A||Halibut Liver oil, Liver, Butter, Cheese & Eggs|
|B1||Dried Brewers Yeast, Yeast Extract, Brown Rice, Wheat germ, Nuts,|
|B2||Yeast extract, Dried Brewers Yeast, Liver, Wheat germ, Cheese Eggs|
|B6||Dried Brewers Yeast, Wheat Bran, Yeast Extract, Wheat germ, Oat flakes, White meat, Vegetables|
|B12||Pig’s Liver, Pig’s Kidney, Fatty Fish, Pork, Beef, Lamb, White Fish, Eggs, Cheese, Seaweed.|
|Folic Acid||Dried Brewers Yeast, Soya Flour, Wheat germ, Wheat bran, Nuts
Brussels sprouts, Asparagus, Peas, Chickpeas and Brown rice
|C||Acerola Cherry Juice, Camu Pulp, Rosehip, Black cherries, Guavas, Parsley, Kale, Broccoli, Green Peppers, Citrus Fruits|
|E||Wheat germ Oil, Soya bean Oil, Maze Oil, Nuts & Seeds|
|Iron||Cockles, Dried Brewers Yeast, Winkles, Wheat bran, Cooked Liver & Kidney, Soya Flour, Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (such as watercress and curly kale)|
|Zinc||Oysters, Liver, Dried Brewers Yeast, Shellfish, Meats, Hard Cheese, Canned Fish, Whole bread, Eggs|
|Magnesium||Soya beans, Nuts, Dried Brewers Yeast, Whole wheat Flour, Brown Rice, Dried Peas, Shrimps|
|Selenium||Organ meats, Fish & Shellfish, Muscle meats, Wholegrain, Cereals, Brazil Nuts.|
Additional Herbs & Tonics
In addition some herbs and tonics are particularly helpful in aiding the immune system.
Echinacea, Goldenseal, Cat’s Claw, Ginger, Astragalus and some mushroom species are known to possess immune enhancing properties. Studies have shown the active ingredient in Garlic, allicin, has antimicrobial and antiviral activities.
A rebalance of the gut bacteria with pre & probiotics will make sure the defence mechanisms are in peak condition and are advisable particularly after a course of antibiotics.
As a pick me up and for those recovering from illness a number of quality liquid tonics with multivitamins and other essential ingredients are available. These have shown to improve the conditions of those with low immunity. e.g. Bio-Strath.
Overall the immune system is your one and only defence against infection. Look after it and it will look after you.
Nature of course has a few answers and there is evidence that complementary remedies such as certain herbs and supplements may help to prevent the onset of the common cold and / or shorten the duration of the symptoms. Here are a few:-
Well known for its general health benefits and evidence has found that in suitable doses (1000- 3000g/day) may have a preventative effect of catching a cold. As a general immune support 600-1000mg /day during the winter months is well advised. There is a broad range of Vitamin C products from chewable, liquid, powder and low acid. Good sources of Vitamin C includes: – broccoli, red peppers, currants, Brussels sprouts, parsley, potatoes, citrus fruit and strawberries. Vitamin C is also available as ‘Ester C’ which is a citrus free format.
Traditionally used as a gargle for sore throats laryngitis and tonsillitis. It has a numbing effect on the throat, is astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and helps to actively ease pain. Taken with Echinacea allows infection relief to be more effective. Available as tincture and tablet format.
Well known antioxidant mineral which is essential for the maintenance of a healthy immune system. Recent research highlights the fact that zinc can inhibit viral infection and may actually prevent common cold viruses from attaching to the nasal cells in the first place. Available as tablet/capsule format and combined with Vitamin C.
Relieves congestion in the mucous membranes and can reduce inflammation – so is just the job for swollen glands, glue ear, coughs, colds and sinusitis. It is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and is a natural antibiotic with antihistamine properties. Available in tincture forma
Strengthens and cleanses the mucus membranes and ideal for coughs, bronchitis and any condition where mucus builds up in the lungs. A warming expectorant with antibacterial properties particularly suited for chronic conditions.
Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that make a perfect remedy for treating a wide variety of infectious conditions. Garlic is effective in killing many infectious bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics by stopping them from multiplying. Available in odourless capsule format in different strengths and in high strength liquid.
Elderberries stimulate the immune system and have anti-catarrhal and local anti-inflammatory actions, making it especially good for heavy colds and flu involving deafness and sinusitis. Test tube research has shown that elderberry stimulates the production of interferon-like substance in human immune cells, which inhibits the growth virus.
Moderate exercise has been shown to increase the immune system effectiveness in the fight against colds. It has a number of added benefits particularly increasing the blood flow. Research has advised us that 30 to 45 minutes of moderate daily exercise is ideal with results indicating an increase in levels of leukocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection.
However all exercise comes with a health warning. Overdoing it may actually weaken the immune system and anybody on a training regime should already be increasing their natural barriers by additional nutritional help either through diet or supplements.
If you require any assistance in the “Cold Season” Appleseeds Health Store has a full range of all you need. Call in for free advice.