Flu! Lately is the word we hear everywhere: on the news, at school, at the office, on a walk in the neighborhood and especially at the playground! Everybody knows somebody that has the flu and the news is spreading faster than the virus. Stay cool! The human body is very strong and protects us daily against diseases and viruses. But sometimes it fails. What can we do to help it? In what ways can we strengthen our immune system?
Mission: Immune boosting
For our immune system to work well and reduce the likelihood of a flu we need balance and harmony. There is much that researchers do not know about the immune response. However, factors such as lifestyle, diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and their association with an enhanced immune system are being studied.
Choosing a healthy lifestyle is the first step towards a strong immune system. Simple instructions that we all know but still continue to neglect can really make a difference:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking – passive smoking often turns out to be more harmful
- Have fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily life
- Make sure you sleep well
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Put exercise in your life – even 30′ is enough to start
- Take appropriate precautions to avoid contamination. Wash your hands thoroughly, cook meat and poultry well
- Try to reduce stress in your life
Nutrition for immune system
Like everything needs energy to function properly, so is our immune system. And this energy comes from food. It is no coincidence that populations that are malnourished are more likely to get sick. If we choose our food properly, then we will see incredible benefits in our energy and defense and we will protect ourselves against the flu.
Choose fruit and vegetables with vivid colors such as oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, red grapes, kiwi, apples, carrots, onions, dark green vegetables etc. Other foods that have been proven a treasure for a strong body are garlic, various varieties of mushrooms e.g. Shiitake and probiotic foods e.g. yoghurt with cultivation and kefir.
What are we avoiding?
We all know that sugar is not good. But why is this happening? Consuming sugar or foods containing it seems to weaken the immune cells, which reduces their ability to respond to dangers. To this direction also contributes the so-called “bad fat”, which we find in ready meals, also known as “junk food”, in fried foods and in general in animal fats.
Dietary Supplements and Herbs
A great way to boost our defense system is by taking a dietary supplement. Nowadays, there are many that contain valuable herbs, which are hard to find in real time. Let’s look what the research has found:
There are 9 types of Echinacea, but 3 are those used for medical purposes:
- Echinacea purpurea
- Echinacea angustifolia
- Echinacea pallida
The extract of Echinacea purpurea is what is commonly used to treat and prevent various infectious diseases. It has antimicrobial properties against pathogens and bacteria that can cause the flu, cold, sore throat and other respiratory diseases. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties, improves body’s resistance to infection and helps in rapid wound healing.
Of great interest is also the fact that echinacea seems to enhance the microflora of the intestine, the beneficial bacteria, mainly the Bifidobacterium species.
However, this herb is not recommended alongside autoimmune diseases or immunosuppressed patients.
Elderberry or Sambucus
Elderberry or Sambucus is a herb that considers to be a good source of protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and especially antioxidants known as polyphenols. The latter appear to have beneficial effects on the immune system, as they confer antiviral properties.
Vitamins B12 and B6
These two vitamins of the B-complex are the main ones responsible for the good function and strengthen of the immune system. Vitamin B12 contributes to cell division and growth, so lack of it can prevent the growth of white blood cells – the body’s basic line of defense.
Vitamin B6, on the other hand, plays a key role in immune biochemical responses. Deficiency in vitamin B6 may lead to decreased white blood cell response. In addition, B complex vitamins help to protect the intestinal microflora from pathogenic microbes.
NAC are the initiators for N-acetyl L-cysteine. It is a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine, which enhances the immune system in different ways:
- It replenishes glutathione, a powerful antioxidant needed for a strong immune system. Supplements with NAC appear to be more effective in the elderly, as they are most likely to have low glutathione levels.
- Research has shown that NAC can protect against flu. Relative research showed that a total of 262 elderly patients were divided in one placebo group and another that took 1200 mg NAC daily for 6 months. In the NAC group we had a significant reduction in the frequency and severity of the flu, with improved symptoms. In addition, only 25% of people infected with H1N1 in the NAC group developed symptoms, compared with 79% of the placebo group.
- Consumption of NAC appears to disrupt the biofilm of harmful microorganisms and yeasts such as staphylococcus, Helicobacter pylori, Candida albicans.
- NAC cleans the mucosa in respiratory problems such as bronchitis.
Of all the above supplements, probiotics appear to be the most effective in boosting the immune system as they directly affect epithelial cells, lymphocytes, T and B cells, and dendritic cells. In particular, they help to strengthen the intestinal barrier and thereby reduce the possibility of harmful bacteria entering the bloodstream. Of the species studied 4 are those that have a significant effect on the immune system:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Lactobacillus paracasei
Immune system and psychology
We all have a bit of anxiety in our everyday life. But when this exceeds normal levels, stress hormones also increase, causing body to be damaged. This makes us more prone to the flu, colds and other diseases.
It can be difficult to get rid of stress completely, but there are ways to manage it:
- Slow down. It may seem difficult when the obligations run, but if you do not give yourself a breath, it is very easy to exhaust him. Give priority to what really matters and philosophize a bit more the joys of life.
- Socialize. Your family, friends and relationships make you good! Research has shown that freshmen who were lonely had a reduced immune response to flu vaccine than those who were more social. Even if your network is not that big, communication strengthens your immune system and meeting new people is always a good idea!
- Exercise. As tired as you feel, exercise – even if it’s a light walk – it helps to eliminate stress and toxins that accumulate in the body.
- Meditate. Research shows that people who meditate have a healthier immune system. A relative experiment showed that people who meditated for 8 weeks produced more antibodies to the flu vaccine than those who did not.
Immune system and Age
As we age and years are passing, our immune system weakens, making us more prone to flu and other viral infections. Although many are healthy, surveys show that compared to younger people, the elderly are more likely to catch a contagious disease. Also, very common in these ages is poor nutrition due to lack of vitamins and minerals. This is because they usually eat less and do not have a variety in their diet. For this reason they belong to the “high-risk” groups.
The same category also includes young children, pregnant women and those with weak immune system who often get sick. These teams should be more careful.
So get ideas to prevent the flu and strengthen your body! Make healthy choices, take care of yourself and equip yourself with optimism, driving away fears and negativity!