(NaturalNews) Well, summer's over and healthcare professionals are already gearing up for cold and flu season. Don't rely solely on that flu vaccine to keep you protected; in many cases, the vaccines tend to make people sick. And while no single food or supplement can keep the flu at bay, there are a half-dozen ways to boost your immune system naturally, thereby giving you a much better chance to stay flu-free this coming winter:
Boost your intake of vitamin A. "Experts have long known that vitamin A plays a role in infection and maintaining mucosal surfaces by influencing certain subcategories of T cells and B cells and cytokines," says a Harvard Medical School publication, Harvard Health News. "Vitamin A deficiency is associated with impaired immunity and increased risk of infectious disease."
Have some zinc! In addition to vitamin A, zinc has also been found to help ward off sickness by boosting the immune system. In fact, experts note that one of the most common immune deficiencies are lowered levels of zinc. "Pumpkin seeds and lean beef are both a rich source of zinc, while oysters are an excellent source. A recent study among elderly people showed that a multivitamin and mineral supplement improved their immune responses," says Women's Fitness magazine, which also recommended taking magnesium daily - about 400 mg/day - because it "is involved in transmission of nerve impulses within the body." According to Discovery Health, zinc is "involved in the production of at least 300 enzymes and lends a hand in hundreds of body processes, from producing DNA to repairing cells. The mineral can even help us sleep better at night, which provides a host of additional benefits."
Foods containing magnesium include legumes, grains, dark green vegetables, and nuts.
Vitamin C is proven effective. For years, dieticians and nutritionists have been well aware of the immune-boosting qualities extra vitamin C can provide. "Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its ability to strengthen the immune system. But this potent nutrient also has many other important roles that control significant aspects of our health," writes Melissa Makris for NaturalNews. Additionally, vitamin C helps manufacture collagen, which is used by the body as connective tissue to heal wounds more quickly and support the walls of blood vessels, lessening your risk of stroke and heart disease. Vitamin C is also an excellent anti-oxidant, which can neutralize unstable molecules that damage cell walls. You can find vitamin C in lots of good foods - citrus fruits and juices, broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach.
Build up with B6. The B vitamins - B6 and B12 - "do a lot to strengthen and boost the immune system," writes Tommy Fassbender at Yahoo! Voices, noting that a study by the Department of Nutrition and Food Management at Oregon State University recently "found that when women increased their B6 intake from 1.5 milligrams to 2.1 milligrams, their white blood cell count increased by 35 percent."
Men, too, obviously benefit from increased B vitamin intake. "Several studies have suggested that a vitamin B6 deficiency can depress aspects of the immune response, such as lymphocytes' ability to mature and spin off into various types of T and B cells. Supplementing with moderate doses to address the deficiency restores immune function, but mega-doses don't produce additional benefits," says Harvard Medical School.
Adds SteadyHealth.com, "Vitamin B6 works along with other vitamins and micro-nutrients to support the protective activities being undertaken by the immune cells. Deficiency of essential vitamins such as B6 has been associated with suppression of the immunity function which predisposes individuals to infectious disorders."
What about Echinacea? Well, that's a good question. Researchers have long linked the herb to a boost in immune system function. According to the National Institutes of Health, "Echinacea has traditionally been used to treat or prevent colds, flu, and other infections," and "is believed to stimulate the immune system to help fight infections."
The Herb Research Foundation notes: "Echinacea, the purple coneflower, is the best known and researched herb for stimulating the immune system. Thousands of Europeans and Americans use echinacea preparations against colds and flu, minor infections, and a host of other major and minor ailments. This native American herb has an impressive record of laboratory and clinical research. Thousands of doctors currently use echinacea for treating infectious diseases."
And finally, just eat well. A good, balanced diet goes a long way to helping boost your immune system, if for no other reason than to provide many of the very vitamins, minerals and supplements recommended here.
"Our immune systems are being challenged more than ever. The modern lifestyle is, let's just say, not very healthy," says Women's Fitness. "We have some of the poorest eating habits on the planet, we're stressed out, and our environmental pollution is growing on a daily basis. It's no wonder we're seeing more and more allergies, recurrent colds and flus."
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