Six Ways To Boost Your Immune System
By Robin Westen
Winter isn’t the only time we get the sniffles. Summer and spring colds are just as common and often linger longer. The absolute best way to stop a cold before it starts is by having a strong immune system. Here are some steps you can take:
Eat Lots of Lean Protein
Have a serving at every meal. Protein can help protect your body from billions of bacteria, viruses, and other germs. Foods high in protein (lean cuts of beef and pork, as well as protein from beans, soy, and seafood particularly oysters and crab) contain zinc—a mineral that helps boost the production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Nuts, especially almonds and cashews, are also good sources of protein, as well as magnesium, both of which help
Exercise 30 Minutes a Day Exercise gets antibodies and white blood cells moving through the body faster, so they detect illnesses sooner; plus, an increase in circulation may also trigger the release of hormones that “warn” immune cells of intruding pathogens. But you don’t want to exhaust yourself and get run-down in warm weather. Moderate workouts are just as powerful. Just taking a 10-minute walk a few times a day will boost your immune system.
Pay Attention to Your "D" Levels Medical experts suspect low levels of vitamin D may be linked to an increase in seasonal colds and flu but many of us are deficient in it. That’s because we can only get vitamin D from the sun and very few foods. A simple blood test will let you know your D level. If you’re low, you can always take supplements.
Go for "A," "E" and "C" Fruits and Veggies Opt for sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy greens which are high in vitamin A. Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, as well as bell peppers, papayas, and broccoli, all contain vitamin C, which is known to help the immune system protect against disease. Vitamin E found in nuts, seeds, and turnip greens, has been shown in scientific studies to combat flu and upper respiratory infections.
Lower Your Stress There are countless studies supporting the link between heightened stress and a lowered immune system. Effective techniques to reduce stress include, yoga, walking, meditation, working in the garden, swimming, or just sitting by the sea, even owning a pet.
Drink Moderately One or two drinks a day is okay, but according to a Brown University study any more hurts immune system cells called dendritics. These cells play an important role in helping destroy invading microbes; thus, overdoing alcohol can increase your vulnerability to colds and flu.
About the Author
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's medical reporter. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."