Immunity & Preventive Health
What is Immunity?
Immunity refers to the function of the immune system. Support and enhancement of the immune system is perhaps the most important step in achieving resistance and reducing susceptibility to colds, flus, and other infections. Supporting the immune system involves a health-promoting lifestyle, stress management, exercise, diet, and the appropriate use of nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, it is a sign that your immune system needs support:
• Do you catch colds easily?
• Do you get more than two colds a year?
• Are you suffering chronic infection?
• Do you get frequent cold sores or have genital herpes?
• Are your lymph glands sore and swollen at times?
• Do you have now or have you ever had cancer?
What causes low Immunity?
The health of the immune system is greatly impacted by a person’s emotional state, level of stress, lifestyle, dietary habits and nutritional status. Nutrient deficiency is the most frequent cause of a depressed immune system. An overwhelming number of clinical and experimental studies indicate that any single nutrient deficiency can profoundly impair the immune system.
Stress also lowers immunity. Take steps to manage stress effectively, see Stress.
What dietary factors are important in low immune function?
Optimal immune function requires a healthy diet that is
(1) rich in whole, natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts,
(2) low in fats and refined sugars, and
(3) contains adequate, but not excessive, amounts of protein. On top of this, for optimal immune function, an individual should drink five or six 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
One of the more damaging food components to our immune system is sugar. In one study, the ingestion of 100 gram (roughly 3-1/2 ounces) portions of carbohydrate as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and pasteurized orange juice all significantly reduced the ability of white blood cells (neutrophils) to engulf and destroy bacteria.
Some of the most important food components to enhance immune function are the carotenes. Foods high in carotenes include colored vegetables, such as dark greens; yellow and orange squash, carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes; and red peppers and tomatoes.
Other foods useful for proper immune function include cabbage family vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collards, kale, and greens from mustard, radish and turnip), flavonoid rich berries, garlic and onions.