new_health (2006-30)

A Good Defense

Make immune system boosters part of your game plan

by Wendy C. Smith

Our immune system is our first defense against bacteria, virus, toxins and a wide variety of sicknesses. It’s getting to be a tougher battle every day. Bacteria and thus bacterial infections are getting more and more resistant because of anti-bacterial products and over-prescribed antibiotics. Environmental poisons and pollutants surround us on a daily basis and enter our bodies through our skin and our lungs as well as the foods we eat and drink. These invaders and substances fight with our immune system.

Keeping the immune system strong is important for many reasons, the most basic being that it is our main stronghold against disease and illness and keeps organisms and toxins from ravaging our body. These defenses include our skin, mucus and the cough reflex. Failing that, our internal organs, mucus membranes and blood jump in. Our whole health status is tied closely to our immune system. When the flu is raging, for example, a lot of people contract it, but there are some who don’t, and one of the primary determining factors in who does or does not get it is the strength of the immune system.

In this modern world, it is wise for a person to learn how to keep their immune system healthy. It is important to remove as many immune-suppressing items as possible from one’s lifestyle. Smoking is an immune suppressant, as is stress. In fact, high levels of stress over time can lead to diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which causes extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate, weight gain or loss and depression. Foods such as corn oil, soy oil and sugars (sucrose, corn syrup) are immune system suppressants.

Some basic ways to keep the immune system healthy are paying attention to sleep, having fun and getting enough exercise. For example, insufficient sleep greatly compromises the immune system. Laughter is a great immune system booster; the whole body is revived by a good laugh and the hormones that laughter releases. Exercise is another good immune system tonic. Aside from the physical benefits of keeping us in shape exercise steps up our hormone functions and augments the immune system’s functionality.

Vitamins C and A are important in building a strong immune system. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant and crucial in maintaining cellular integrity. It keeps the cell walls sufficiently strong to withstand invaders. Taking a high dosage vitamin C supplement, especially when colds, flu and other such illnesses are going around, is a good idea. Vitamin A is necessary for the wellness of the intestinal mucus membranes and the integrity of the connective tissues. Be careful about mega-dosing vitamin A, though, because it is a fat-soluble vitamin and is used more slowly than water-soluble vitamins such as C.

Echinacea is an herb that is very supportive of the immune system and one of the supplements that is often recommended during cold and flu season. Echinacea contains polysaccharides, which stimulate immune system functionality. Garlic is also an immune system stimulant and tastes good, too. Mushrooms are another friend to the immune system because they contain beta-glucans, which aid and support the immune system. Mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to remedy all sorts of ailments and disease.

There are several supplements that are specifically formulated to balance the immune system. New Chapter makes a product called Host Defense Mushroom Formula that contains several types of mushrooms such as shitaki, reishi and maitake and is designed to strengthen the immune system and fight viral infections. Another is Wellness Formula Balance by Source Naturals Materials. It contains astragalus (an Ayurvedic herb that cleanses the mucus membranes), garlic, vitamin A, anti-oxidants and a plethora of other vitamins, minerals and herbs designed to stimulate, enhance and support the immune system. Please note that immune boosters should not be used in the case of auto-immune disorders. In that instance, an immune modulator like plant sterols or the mushroom complexes is helpful, but not echinacea.

Our bodies are amazing machines and are constantly fighting to keep us healthy. It’s only smart to help your body fight the good fight. It’s not hard to do things that boost and maintain the immune system, and it’s more important than you might think.