The Immune System protects your body from various diseases and represents a natural defense from bacteria and viruses. A healthy Immune System will destroy each pathogen in your body, whether it is a virus, fungus or an altered cell on its way to becoming carcinogenic. Our defense system functions by releasing 10 million proteins called antibodies. This kind of vigilant activity requires our system to have vast supplies of healthy substances at its disposal.
How to strengthen your Immune System?
A reduction of stress and regular physical activity help strengthen your Immune System, and the best effect is obtained by eating food which can protect the system from diseases. A varied diet, abounding in fruit and vegetables (vitamins and antioxidants) will contribute the most towards the efficiency of your Immune System. Free radicals are the biggest enemy of your Immune System because they damage healthy cells and cause mutations, which can lead to such serious diseases as cancer. Protective matter gained from food (antioxidants) can, however, stop free radicals from damaging your system.
One of the strongest antioxidants is vitamin C, found mostly in peppers, tomatoes, cabbage and lemon. Vitamin E is important for slowing down the symptoms of old age and strengthening the cells in charge of fighting off infections. good sources of this vitamin are herbal oils and wholegrain wheat. The immune system also draws strength from minerals. among these, the most important one is zinc, capable of causing the multiplication of defensive cells - lymphocytes. Among foods rich in zinc are pumpkin seed, red meat and cereals.
Some factors which can damage the immune system are frequent infections, smoking, lack of sleep, an unhealthy diet, prolonged use of antibiotics, stress, a polluted living environment, hard physical work and mental strain. If you are prone to frequent colds (more than four times a year) or a recurrent chronic disease, such as bronchitis or lip herpes, if you tire easily - these facts should sound the alarm for you. Allergies are also considered to be diseases of the immune system.
Antioxidants and free radicals
Free radicals may be created due to some exterior factors: air pollution, radiation, excessive sun exposure, the presence of toxins in the environment and manís poor treatment of his own body - smoking, eating too much processed or greasy food, stress. Modern research shows that stress is the most common cause of such diseases as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, malign diseases, heart attack, cerebral infarction and other serious and chronic diseases. The means needed to treat these diseases are antioxidants.
Free radicals are highly reactive and extremely unstable atoms or groups of atoms which are created in the body due to metabolic processes or stress, or their origins are external. They attack the protective membranes of cells and the genetic material within (DNA and RNA), causing great damage to the cell. Research shows that oxidation is partially to blame for many serious diseases, including ageing, cancer and arteriosclerosis.
Antioxidants work in three different ways: they can reduce the energy of free radicals, prevent their creation or stop the chain reaction of oxidation.
If we wish to raise the level of the bodyís enzymes which act as antioxidants, we should consume zinc, manganese, copper and selenium. Along with enzymes, many vitamins, minerals and coenzymes have antioxidant properties. These are vitamins C and E, beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, vitamin B3 in the form of niacin, vitamins B2, B6, coenzyme Q10, the amino acid cysteine and bioflavonoids.
Many herbal extracts like that of gingko biloba, green tea or grape seeds can also secure a strong antioxidant protection.
The proper functioning of your intestines is important for immunity
During an average lifetime, organs of the digestive system can process over 30 tons of food and 50,000 liters of fluids, but they also have another important task - to protect the body from harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and other harmful matter. Constipation and diarrhea disturb the functioning of the defensive systems inside the intestines. This is why digestion needs to be regulated, and this is achieved by physical activity and an intake of matters rich in fiber and lactic acid bacteria.
Doctors advise daily exercises for the abdomen, like cycling in the supine position, jogging, brisk walking, swimming - all these more times a week, where possible. A massage of the abdomen can also be effective against constipation: lie on your back and massage the abdomen with your palm in clockwise circular movements; do this for at least five minutes. The general rule is to take as many liquids as possible (2.5 l a day), e.g. natural mineral water or slightly sparkling water, diluted fruit juice, unsweetened fruit and herbal teas.
What are probiotics and how do they aid our health?
Probiotics are food products made with the help of bacteria or fungi. You can take in probiotics by consuming yogurt and cheeses, along with foods which amplify the effect of probiotics: spices, teas, red wine, apples and beans. Probiotics should be consumed when the body is exposed to stress or a disease (this is when the intestinal flora is out of balance because of the domination of pathogenic microorganisms), as well as after therapy with antibiotics. Stress may be dietary (an unbalanced daily diet, rigorous weight loss diets, eating disorders - anorexia and bulimia), external (extremely high or low temperatures, very dry or moist climate, exposure to air pollution) or psychological stress (at the office, home, school).
Probiotics can reverse the harmful effects of antibiotics and stop the formation of malevolent bacteria, as well as stimulating the production of immunoglobuline in the intestines, which intensifies the imuno response of the body. Bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidus can produce diverse antimicrobial agents which are effective against a great number of pathogens such as salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus and Escherichia coli. Probiotics are also helpful for: children and adults with diarrhea, people with unhealthy diets, patients who suffer recurrently from fungal infections such as Candida and sports players taking food supplements.
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