Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Every morning I like to start my day with a fresh juice, out of habit now I don’t even realize I am being proactive. Let’s face it: Most of us only think about the immune system when something goes wrong.
And these days, that seems to be increasingly often. As I mentioned, allergies are a common example of an immune system that’s over-reacting to harmless proteins encountered in the environment. Auto-immune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even multiple sclerosis, are also all too common. These serious diseases involve attacks by the immune system on the body’s own cells.
The human immune system is amazingly complex and effective. It’s tasked with protecting us against a broad range of threats, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Of course, not all bacteria are harmful, so it also has to be able to identify a given foreign substance and respond appropriately.
Common allergies are one example of an immune system that’s responding inappropriately. For reasons that are not entirely clear, allergies happen when the immune system mistakenly identifies simple, harmless proteins, such as pollen, as threats, and it mounts a response.
Like other organs and systems in the body, the immune system works best when conditions are optimal. That means: 1) getting enough rest 2) eating healthfully, and 3) avoiding exposure to excessive toxins. It also means: 4) basking in sunlight occasionally (or taking supplemental vitamin D3), because vitamin D is a sort of master hormone that helps regulate immune system activity. Vitamin D is generated when sufficiently strong sunlight strikes bare skin. “Strong” generally means mid-spring to late summer sunshine, in most of the Northern Hemisphere. And finally; 5) It’s important to get adequate exercise. Research shows that regular exercise helps boost immune system function.
Of course, there’s more to #2 than meets the eye. Eating healthfully means getting essential nutrients like complete protein, essential fatty acids, such as the omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, sufficient calories, plenty of hydration, and all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly. Plant foods are especially beneficial. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables tend to contain beneficial compounds with antioxidant properties. And research suggests that grapes and berries in particular may help boost immune system function due to certain compounds they contain.
Flint HJ. The impact of nutrition on the human microbiome. Nutr Rev. 2012 Aug;70 Suppl 1:S10-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00499.x.