Immune System Risk Factors and Tips

The benefits of having a healthy immune system are absolutely essential to well-being. Without proper immune function, we quickly become the victims of disease-shortening our lives and impacting our capacity for happiness.

Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. When we sleep, the immune system is reinforced and replenished. Even one night’s sleep loss can significantly suppress the immune system.

Wash your hands

Many microorganisms are passed via skin contact with infected individuals or objects. Washing your hands before touching your face (rubbing your eyes, contacting your mouth or ears) can greatly reduce your exposure to harmful microbes in the environment; this lessens your chance of getting sick and of stressing your internal immune system.

Eat nutritious foods

“You are what you eat.” Making sure your body receives only wholesome, nutritious foods is essential for optimum immune function. Immune-boosting foods include organically grown fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, beans and other legumes, natural oils such as expeller-pressed olive oil, flax oil and butter, free range eggs and fish/meats that have been raised without the use of antibiotics and other medications.

  • Brazil nuts, a rich source of selenium, are particularly good for the immune system. Selenium enhances immunity by activating glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that inhibits the formation of free radicals and suppresses tumor growth.
  • Fresh Kiwis, red peppers and to a lesser extent oranges, are rich sources of vitamin C, which is required by the immune system. Vitamin C is required by immune cells to enable optimal functioning. Interestingly enough, most animals produce their own vitamin C, whereas humans do not. It has been observed by many researchers that animals produce higher levels of vitamin C when they are immune-provoked or stressed; Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Linus Pauling believed this to be a protective defensive mechanism.

Avoid “unhealthy” foods

Sugar and overly processed foods are foes of the healthy immune system. Sugar (including honey) suppresses many immune cells, particularly macrophages and NK cells. Other unhealthy foods include those containing hydrogenated oils (trans-fats), fried items, processed meats, baked goods made with white flour and foods that contain molds.

Stay as stress-free as possible

Although it’s easier said than done, keeping stress under control is essential for a healthy immune system. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands secrete a hormone known as cortisol. Although cortisol is in many ways good for our bodies (it helps keep inflammation in check, for example), too much of it on an ongoing basis can create havoc. For example, when cortisol output is high, the immune system secretes interleukin 6 (IL-6), which contributes to inflammation. IL-6 is also believed to cause autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia to worsen, to cause calcium to leave the bones, and to act as a growth factor for a number of tumors.

Get enough exercise

Exercise is a wonderful immune booster and good for virtually every part of you! A program of regular, moderate exercise relieves stress and makes it easier for you to sleep at night.

Avoid alcohol and cigarettes

Alcohol intake interferes with a variety of immune defenses. Research indicates that alcohol consumption is linked with certain types of cancers and infections. Cigarette smoke (inhaled or second hand) is saturated with toxic chemicals, most of which negatively impact immune response.

Avoid excessive sun exposure

Unprotected sun exposure for longer than 15 minutes is linked with immune suppression. (This is why cold sores often appear following time spent in the sun.) Always wear a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Be sensible though… a few minutes in the sun before 11:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. will help your body produce vitamin D and not expose you to the risk of burns or immune problems.

Avoid exposure to pollutants and toxic chemicals

Pollution is a major factor in immune suppression. Unfortunately, toxic chemicals are everywhere around us. Become informed! Learn to recognize harmful chemicals in the home and outside. Buy (or make) nontoxic cleaning fluids/sprays, and use natural cosmetics whenever possible.

Author: Life Enthusiast Staff