Most people are not “proactive”, and instead “react” to things that happen to them. What I mean by this is most people turn to doctors, or medicines when some ailment strikes them. From a simple cold, to something more deadly – like cancer. But did you know the things you put into your body can help, or harm your ability to fend off diseases our Nation seems to be stricken with?
So Listen Up! (it’s for your own good)
Evidence suggests that the most important contributor to proper immune function is what you eat. For you to stay healthy — and to recover quickly from illness and help prevent disease — your immune system must be healthy too.
THE ANTIOXIDANT SHIELD
You’ve probably already heard about free radicals. These molecules cause cells to break down, speeding the aging process, promoting heart disease and cancer and weakening the immune system. There’s no way to completely avoid free radicals. They’re produced within the body as a result of normal metabolic processes. But certain antioxidant compounds destroy free radicals.
This potent antioxidant forestalls the gradual decline in immune function brought on by aging. It boosts synthesis of antibodies and encourages reproduction of key infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes.
People who take vitamin E supplements mount a stronger immune reaction against invading viruses and bacteria. They also enjoy a reduced risk for cancer.
It’s hard to get adequate amounts of vitamin E in your diet but good sources include seeds, nuts, avocados, and healthy vegetable oils (flaxseed, evening primrose oil, hemp oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil).
These antioxidants increase the number of lymphocytes and natural-killer cells. Supplements are available, and the best food sources are fruits and vegetables — especially carrots, kale, collard greens, tomatoes and cantaloupes.
It energizes the immune system to react more vigorously to cancer cells and microbes. Diets rich in vitamin C have been linked to reduced risk for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.
Good natural sources of vitamin C include all citrus fruits, cantaloupes and green or red peppers.
Minerals are needed for the synthesis of proteins, which are key components of all cells and enzymes in the body…
The most important mineral for immune function, zinc boosts the number of lymphocytes and helps natural-killer cells attack cancer cells.
The average person needs 15 mg of zinc a day. Higher dosages seem to impair immune function. Meats and whole grains are good sources.
An iron deficiency increases infection risk by weakening many different types of immune cells. Too much iron impairs immune function too.
Meats and beans are good sources. Iron pills are good only if a doctor has found you to be iron-deficient.
This mineral encourages growth of immune cells and stimulates production of antibodies.
Grains, nuts, seeds and fish are good sources of selenium. Because too much selenium can cause digestive and neurological problems, supplements generally are not a good idea.
Research is beginning to confirm what traditional healers have long known — that certain foods and herbs boost immune function…
* SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS. Studies in Japan show that these mushrooms boost immune function and inhibit viral multiplication. In Japan, a shiitake derivative called lentinan is used as a cancer-fighting drug. Shiitakes are tasty in soups, stews and vegetables dishes. Eat two to six shiitakes a week.
* REISHI MUSHROOMS. These Chinese mushrooms boost reproduction of lymphocytes and trigger production of chemical “messengers” that coordinate immune system activity. Eat two to four reishis per week.
* GARLIC. Garlic is a good source of selenium and of certain compounds with anti-infection and anticancer properties. Season food with garlic at least three times a week.
* ECHINACEA. This popular herb boosts the ability of immune cells to swallow up cells infected with viruses…and stimulates production of compounds that coordinate the immune system’s response against yeast infections. Echinacea extract should be taken for no more than three days in a row — when you have a cold or flu, or feel one coming on. The usual dose is 30 drops of echinacea tincture, twice a day.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
If you aren’t supplementing regularly with vitamins and minerals you may be deficient and not even know it. Why? Because of our society’s propensity to consume processed foods. And processed foods are notorious for being calorie rich and nutrient poor.
Combined with massively depleted levels of minerals in our soils (from excessive crop production) and you have the basis for widespread vitamin and mineral deficiency in our society.
This is also true a statement: the processing of whole foods destroys a lot of the phytonutrients they contain (plant nutrients including antioxidants and healthful enzymes). This means the more processed foods we eat, the more likely we lack the necessary raw materials to assure our bodies not only function optimally, but also help prevent disease from forming.