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Immune system

Ten Steps to a Top Notch Immune System

Thursday, December 18, 2008 by: Barbara L. Minton
Tags: immune system, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) This is the time of year when people want a fully functioning immune system to keep away colds and flu and see them through the winter in good health. How they go about achieving this goal can determine whether it becomes a reality. There are so many products on the market that claim they can protect people from germs that consumers wonder which magic bullet to choose. But the reality is that having a healthy immune system doesn't mean just buying products. It means having a healthy body. Immune health and overall health go hand in hand.

The immune system is vital to existence

The immune system, including its inflammatory components, is the basis of defense against pathogenic invaders like germs, bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus, and parasites. It is a complex system involving interactions among many different cell types dispersed throughout the body. Central to the actions of the system are phagocytosis of bacteria, processing of antigens derived from intracellular and extracellular pathogens, activation and proliferation of T cells, and production of cytokines that elicit antibody production and killing cell activity.

The immune system also is the guardian of the cells in the body and the watchdog for abnormal, damaged or degenerating cells. There are always somewhere between 100 and 10,000 abnormal cells floating around in the body at any one time, produced as byproducts of the normal metabolic process. These numbers include hundreds or thousands of cancerous cells produced by the normal body in the course of the day.

Keeping the immune system functioning at its best is critical. When the system becomes weakened it's unable to fight off invaders and deal effectively with defective cells. Anything from a cold to cancer or the development of autoimmune diseases can be the result of an immune system that is not functioning at its best.

The immune system is a complex, subtle, ever changing and ever renewing system. In many ways, it is the key to your very existence.

What you can do to keep your immune system and yourself strong and healthy

Eliminate toxic food and drink from your diet The standard American diet of today relies more and more on chemicals and preservatives. Reading the ingredient list for a packaged meal, a can of soup or a bakery product in a grocery store 20 years ago revealed a list primarily composed of recognizable food substances. Today these food products contain hundreds of chemicals that are not recognizable to the body as food. This means that they are perceived by the immune system as foreign invaders that must be dealt with. When the immune system is tied up battling the invaders you have willingly put into your body, it is not available to do the job it was created to do. Read the labels on the products you buy to make sure they are free of such toxins. Shop for organic foods when possible, and eat whole foods that are raw or cooked at home.

Get rid of personal care products containing toxic chemicals Personal care products have been chemicalized to the same extent as the food supply. Look at the labels. Most personal care products sold at traditional supermarkets, drug stores, and discount outlets contain toxic ingredients that threaten your health by absorbing the attention of your immune system. When these products are rubbed into the skin they enter the bloodstream as surely as if they had been eaten. Replace these with products that contain only naturally occurring ingredients that your immune system will recognize as belonging in your body. It is not easy to find toxic-free natural personal care products, but once you do the work and see how good you feel using them, it will seem well worth the effort. The online retailers like Vitacost and Lucky Vitamin are excellent sources of natural personal care products, but be sure to read the labels. Many products sold as natural contain highly toxic ingredients.

Get the toxins out of your home and workplace The cleaning products in a typical house are filled with toxic chemicals that will occupy the attention of your immune system and keep it from doing its job. Replace these with toxin-free products from a store like Whole Foods or order them online, or simply switch to baking soda and vinegar for all your cleaning needs. Throw out that antibacterial soap and those hand wipes. The bacteria killing agents they contain create havoc with your immune system and actually make you more susceptible to infectious diseases. Get rid of the stored paint cans and other chemicals in the basement or garage that allow toxic gas to escape into your home.

Add fresh, clean air to your environment whenever possible Even in the dead of winter, open your windows for a period of time and let fresh air into your home or workplace. Go out for a walk or sit in the sun and breathe fresh air. When you do this, you are giving your immune system a chance to focus its full attention where it is needed. Add plants to your home or work setting. One medium sized houseplant for every 100 square feet of home or office space will drastically change the air quality for the better. Plants are nature's air cleaners.

Eat healthy fats Research has shown that omega-3 fats have the ability to reduce inflammation and regulate the T and B lymphocyte functions. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil give rise to newly discovered resolvins which are capable of resolving inflammation. Adding omega-3 fats to the diet changes the composition of immune cells and affects phagocytosis, T cell signaling and antigen presentation capability. These effects appear to mediate at the membrane level suggesting important roles for fatty acids in cell membrane order and trafficking. The fatty acid composition of human immune cells influences their function and the cell membrane contents of these fats are important.

Detoxify your body Heavy metals and toxins in the body are a drag on the immune system. This is one reason why health experts recommend frequent body detoxification. There are many ways to go about detoxifying the body. One of the best is the use of chlorella for three weeks out of every month. This nutritional powerhouse will bind with heavy metals in your body and escort them out. For accumulated heavy metals, a quarter cup of cilantro juice works well to flush toxins out that can then be bound with chlorella. Chlorella's high level of chlorophyll makes it a highly effective blood and organ cleanser. Doing yoga will loosen and release toxic build ups in your muscles and joints, The slow, deep breaths that are part of yoga help the body expel these released toxins.

Strengthen your digestive/elimination system Those bacteria residing in your gut are there to help with digestion and protect you against invaders. If the bacteria population becomes thinned from the use of antibiotics, chlorinated water or pesticides in food, there will not be enough friendly bacteria on the job to keep you healthy. Beneficial bacteria manufacture potent immune boosters such as transfer factor and lactoferrin right in the intestinal tract, so the proper balance of bacteria in the gut can substantially boost the immune system. Replace friendly bacteria daily with the use of a probiotic supplement such as PB 8 from NOW nutrition, or drink some kefir everyday. Kefir is a delicious fermented milk that is loaded with friendly bacteria. It is available in health good stores or can be made at home with a culture available online. Take care of your friendly bacteria, and they will take care of you. Problems with elimination tend to disappear with regular use of chlorella and probiotics.

Ensure optimal immune system functioning The immune system needs to respond strongly to pathogens, but not too strongly. If it responds too strongly the result can be systemic inflammation, allergies, or autoimmune disorders. Adaptogens work to normalize physiological responses and keep them at optimal levels. They are agents that allow the body to counter adverse physical, chemical or biological stressors while maintaining equilibrium. There are many adaptogens that have been used for thousands of years. The list includes medicinal mushrooms, garlic, eleuthero, maca and licorice root. Two of the best are astragalus and schisandra. These herbs are sold together as a single capsule by Gaia Herbs.

Keep your body well mineralized Minerals are essential for maintaining your body's pH in an optimal range. Deficiencies of minerals such as selenium, magnesium, iron, and zinc among others have been shown to impair the immune system. A diet rich in raw organic fruits and vegetables, or freshly juiced organic produce will probably provide a wealth of minerals. People who do not have access to a constant supply of fresh organic produce can supplement their minerals with spriulina, chlorella, alfalfa, or bee pollen. Each of these provides an abundance of minerals in a whole food form for easy absorption and use by the body.

Get a good night's sleep To a large degree sleep is your immune system. A full night's sleep of 8 hours or more will allow the body to complete the cycle that begins with melatonin production and continues with prolactin production. These two hormones promote white cells known as macrophages and leukocytes, critical components of the immune system. Sleeping less than a full 8 hours will not allow the cycle to be completed resulting in your first line of immune defense being depleted. To ensure adequate melatonin and prolactin production, sleep in a room that is as dark as you can make it. Remember that the huge increase in degenerative diseases coincides with the invention of the electric light bulb.

Sources:

P.C. Calder, "The relationship between the fatty acid composition of immune cells and their function", Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, Oct. 22, 2008.

Jon Barron, "Strengthen Your Immune System with Natural Immune Boosters", jonbarron.org.

About the author

Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.

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