When you are younger it is easy to fool yourself into believing that all those degenerative and life-threatening diseases will only happen to other people. But are you really immune to both minor and major infections and will cancer pass you by? Are you free from allergies and do you rarely suffer from a cold? If you want to answer yes, then you’re on the right track.
The concept that germs cause disease, proven by Louis Pasteur in the nineteenth century, generated the idea that disease could be beaten and health restored by destroying the outside agent. And so we entered the era of ‘drug for a bug’ – based on the approach that disease is a spanner in the works, caused by something that needs destroying, usually by drugs. While this approach has produced some very positive results, the concept of ‘combat medicine’ is failing to provide much needed new breakthroughs for most of the health problems we face today. The alternative is to boost your immune system.
Think of your immune system as your own personal medical team, skilled in the art of healing, always on call, and always there to take preventative measures to avert a battle. Whether you are trying to prevent or cure an illness, your immune system is your main line of defence. It is worth looking after it so that it can serve reliably, allowing you to enjoy a happy, healthy life. Modern living, however, tends to do just the opposite – stressing, rather than strengthening, the immune army.
Enemies of the Immune system:
- Smoke (tobacco and other, chimneys, incinerators etc)
- Pollution (busy road, aeroplane flight path, industry etc)
- Incorrect balance of food (eg. too much salt, fat or sugar)
- Obesity or starvation
- Carcinogenic chemicals (industrial or domestic)
- Drugs (legal, illegal, medical)
- Food additives (especially colours and flavours)
- Poor mineral balance
- Poor vitamin balance
- Inappropriate exercise
- Genetic defect
- Infections (from bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, worms etc.)
- Negative attitude to life
Why Your Immune System Needs Boosting
Here are a few good reasons for boosting your immune system:
- Your immune system determines how fast you age.
- Your immune system fights off the viruses, bacteria and other organisms which try to attack you and cause illness, from the common ones that cause colds and thrush, to the more rare but often deadly ones like meningitis, Legionnaire’s disease and AIDS.
- Your immune system has the power to destroy cancer cells as they are formed.
- Your immune system empties your body’s dustbin every day, getting rid of dead cells, dead invaders, and toxic chemicals.
- Your immune system offers protection from radiation and chemical pollutants.
- Left to deteriorate, your immune system could lose control and cause allergy problems or autoimmune diseases like arthritis.
- With a struggling immune system you are ill more often, more seriously and for longer.
- With a strong immune system you are almost invincible and should be able to lead a long, healthy and active life.
Immune Boosting Nutrients
These nutrients perform a vital role in helping our immune system to cope with the daily attacks on it.
This is responsible for maintaining an active thymus – the master gland of the immune system. Vitamin A is a powerful antiviral vitamin, mainly because it’s inclusion in cell membranes makes them stronger and more resistant to viral attack. It is particularly important for areas with a high risk of infection, such as the respiratory system, the gut and the genito-urinary tract.
This family of essential nutrients is important for every single cell of the body., including those of the immune system. Folic acid and pyridoxine (B6) probably have the most effect on the immune function. It has been found that a baby’s thymus is larger and it’s immune system stronger if the mother has had a good supply of folic acid, choline, B12 and methionine. A B6 deficiency causes a decrease in the activity of the phagocytic cells so that we cannot clean up inside as effectively as we should. Phagocytes get rid of ‘invaders’, dead cells and any other unwanted matter.
In truth a whole book could be written about vitamin C and it’s effects on the immune system. There is no question that more vitamin C means better immune function. Here are some of it’s key roles in boosting your immunity:
- Vitamin C is strongly antiviral and has proved successful against every virus tested so far, from HIV to the common cold.
- Vitamin C can be bacteriostatic or bactericidal i.e. it can hinder the growth of bacteria or kill them, depending on the bug.
- Vitamin C also helps sore eyes and runny nose, as it is a natural antihistamine.
Most animals are able to make vitamin C in the body from glucose. Humans, other primates, guinea pigs, the Indian fruit-eating bat and the red-vented bulbul bird do not. All these rely on vitamin C in their diet and would die or scurvy without it.
Vitamin E is necessary for a normal antibody response and works with other nutrients to improve our resistance to infection. It is very effective in protecting us from air pollution, particularly that due to exhausts, air purifiers or deodorisers which generate ozone.
Calcium and Magnesium
The mineral calcium is vital for the immune system. It is needed by all phagocytic cells in order to attach to and ingest foreign material. It is needed to destroy viruses and for fever production, which enhances the role of immune cells. Calcium works with magnesium, which is no less important for immunity: it is vital for antibody production, the thymus and much more. Deficiency can cause a rise in histamine levels and hence cause allergic reactions.
Iron is essential for the production of antibodies, white blood cells and enzymes made by immune cells. However, bacteria need iron for reproduction, so it is wise to avoid iron in supplements or iron rich foods when suffering from a bacterial infection.
Research on animals has shown that there is no antibody production at all when they are deprived of vitamin E and selenium. White blood cells also lose their efficiency in recognizing invaders without it. Deficiency is associated with cancer. British soil is very low in selenium, so food grown in it is too: Britain has one of the highest cancer rates.
Zinc is a very versatile mineral, involved in over 200 of the body’s known enzymes, and it is crucial for immune health. Deficiency causes shrinking of the thymus – the master immune gland. It is also needed to produce enzymes needed for the elimination of routinely produced cancer cells (not for the large amounts once cancer is established). The mineral zinc has also proved to be anti-viral and is available in lozenges for coughs and colds. There is a high level of zinc in seminal fluid, so men with high sexual activity need more zinc.
Article taken from the book “6 Weeks to Super Health” by Patrick Holford