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How to Boost Your Immune System

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March 1, 2008, last updated April 19, 2015
By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist


The immune system is  a powerful thing. It helps us to fight
off common maladies like colds. It may, according to
research, even help in our fight against serious diseases
like cancer.  The history of the world has in large part been
a history of which races and nations had better immune
systems when they first clashed.  Diseases introduced from
one culture have conquered more opposing cultures than
battle ships.

Even with serious illness, such as the Ebola viral contagion
making the news today which kills 70% of those infected,
scientists have struggled to explain why some people
survive. One theory is that the survivors are believed to
have had started out with stronger immune systems than
those who succumb.

But how do you boost your immune system? Are there any
practices or foods we can eat which will help us to be more
resistant to disease.

First, let's meet the enemy. Bacteria and viruses are
formidable enemies. They have been around on the earth
longer than we have, many millions of years longer. They
were among the first forms of life on Earth. They are living
organisms just as we are. They exist because they evolved
and survived against their natural predators. Your immune
system is a natural predator of bacteria and viruses.

Exercise seems to boost your immune system, according to
recent research. A 2013 study from the University of
California Irvine reports that your immune system's Natural
Killer (NK) cells increase by 5 times after you exercise even
briefly.

The scientists were able to stimulate this increase of NK
cells by having participants complete 10 sets of exercise ,
where each set consisted of just 2 minutes on a bicycle at
just 77% of their maximum capacity followed by 1 minute
of rest. So, all told, the participants only cycled for 20
minutes.

NK cells are responsible for recognizing pathogens that
enter your blood stream. They also conduct an on-going
surveillance of your blood to identify cancerous cells.

During moderate exercise, immune cells circulate more
rapidly and thoroughly through the body more quickly.  As
a result, they are more "on the scene" and available at the
sites where bacteria and viruses have invaded.

After you finish exercising, your immune system returns to
normal within a few hours.

But here's the good news.  If you exercise consistently, the
immune-boosting effects last longer.

However, consistent, regular exercise seems to make these
changes a bit more long-lasting. According to a
study led
by Professor David Nieman of Appalachian State University,
when moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis
there is a cumulative effect that leads to a long-term
immune response.

Start walking. His research showed that those who walk at
70-75 of their maximum heart rate for 40 minutes per day
had half as many sick days due to colds or sore throats as
those who don't exercise.

Bur be careful not to overdo. Other research has found
that those who exercise intensively for more than 90
minutes at a stretch actually lower their immunity for up to
72 hours afterwards.

Bottom line?  Put on your walking shoes to stay healthy
through the cold and flu season.

Vitamin D Supports Your Immune System

Over the last decade, several studies have suggested a
strong link between Vitamin D and your immune system.
Several of the studies found that people who are deficient
in Vitamin D, particularly those who live in the Northern
Hemisphere where sunlight is scare during the winters, may
need to supplement their diets with Vitamin D to maintain
healthy immune systems.

How do you insure that you are not Vitamin D deficient.
Experts suggest that you get at least 15 minutes of direct
sunlight a day. If that is not possible, consider taking a
Vitamin D supplement. (Read more about
how to combat
Vitamin D deficiency.)


Vitamin E Protects Your Aging Immune System

Numerous studies have found thattaking extra Vitamin E
helps to protect your immune system --specifically t-cells
-as you age, thus providing extra protection against
respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Read more about
Vitamin E's protective effect against pneumonia.

Other Foods That Boost Your Immune System

Are there foods which can help boost the immune system?
Yes, there are. The research studies in this area are sketchy
but growing. But here are the foods which have been
linked to immune boosting effects:

1. Garlic
2. Tumeric.
3. Red bell peppers and other fruits and vegetables with
high levels of Vitamin C
4. Yogurt/Kefir
5. Ginger.
6. Green tea.
7. Oregano.
8. Broccoli
9. Oysters
10. Pumpkin.

Related:
Appalachian State University Study on Exercise and
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