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How Can You Boost Your Immune System?

You may not be aware of it, but every day there’s a battle raging inside your body as it is under constant attack from dangerous free radicals and foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. What keeps ill health at bay is a strong immune system.

Your immune system consists of various antibodies, each with a special protective role. These are dependent on good nutrition and a supportive lifestyle. However, if your immune system becomes overworked or is not nourished properly, it gives up the fight and surrenders to the bad guys. Once this happens, not only will you be ill frequently, but you will also take a long time to recover from whatever has made you ill.

What can you do to give your immune system that extra boost? Here are a few suggestions:

Step up your intake of ‘ACE’. Vitamins A, C and E have the power to boost the immune system and limit the damage done by free radicals — unstable molecules produced by the body. They can trigger degenerative conditions, like heart disease and cancers.

Free radicals, also known simply as radicals, are organic molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases. These molecules are very unstable, therefore they look to bond with other molecules, destroying their vigor and perpetuating the detrimental process. Antioxidants, present in vitamins A, C and E, are molecules that prevent free radicals from harming healthy tissue.

Befriend friendly bacteria. Probiotics, ‘friendly bacteria’ added to yogurt drinks and also available in supplement form, could boost your immune system. It appears that probiotics help to activate certain cells in the immune system, and studies have found that the beneficial bugs can cut the duration of the common cold by nearly a quarter.

Sink your teeth into zinc. This valuable mineral increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively. It also increases killer cells that fight against cancer and helps white cells release more antibodies. Zinc supplements have been shown to slow the growth of cancer.

A word of caution: too much zinc in the form of supplements (more than 75 milligrams a day) can inhibit immune function. It's safest to stick to getting zinc from your diet and aim for 15 to 25 milligrams a day.

Exercise regularly. A healthy amount of energy is a great boost to your immune system — half an hour of brisk walking, five days a week, is all it takes. Exercise is also a great stress buster, and stress puts a real dampener on your immunity.

Just don’t overdo the exercise. ‘Overtraining’, actually suppresses the immune system. If your workouts are too long, too intense or you don’t allow yourself enough rest in between, you’ll leave yourself more vulnerable to illness.

Get a full night's sleep. Everybody's different: your body may need anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Whatever your personal sleep requirement is, get it! Sleep has been linked to balanced hormone levels (including human growth hormone and the stress hormone, cortisol), keeping weight down, clear thinking and reasoning, improved mood, and vibrant, healthy skin.

Avoid these enemies. Your immune system has many enemies — try to avoid:

  • Stress
  • Pollution
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Food contaminants such as pesticides
  • Too little, or too much, exercise
  • Obesity
  • Crash dieting
  • Poor nutrition

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