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How to Keep Your Immune System Healthy

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Keep up with your vaccinations. Almost everyone who’s at least 6 months old should get a flu vaccine every year.
  • Keep your weight healthy. 
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.

Get the Nutrients You Need

Food is your best source. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, and split the other half between lean protein and grains.

Not sure if you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals? Ask your doctor or a nutritionist about that. 

Don’t overdo supplements. Taking too much can be bad for you. Your doctor can let you know what you need.

Manage Your Stress

Everyone gets stressed. Short bursts of stress may help your immune system. But lasting stress is a problem. It can hamper your immune system.

You can take action to tame stress. Make these steps part of your stress management plan:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Learn and use relaxation techniques.
  • Evercise
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Build your support network of people you can talk to.
  • Consider counselling, especially when you’re going through a very stressful time.
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Myths and Facts About Your Immune System

 

What works and what doesn’t? How can you keep your immune system in top shape? Let’s separate myth from fact.

Fact: Lasting stress is bad for you.

Ongoing stress, such as being in a difficult relationship, living with a chronic disease, or being a caregiver can take its toll on your immune system. Over time, it can make you more vulnerable to illnesses, from colds and flu to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Chronic stress seems to age the immune system, studies show, making you more likely to get a cold or the flu, chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.

Everyone goes through stress. What matters is how you handle it. Getting better at managing stress can help. Even something as simple as deep breathing can lessen the effects of stress. Or try other relaxation techniques, such as:

  • Meditation
  • yoga
  • Other types of exercise

Counselling can make a big difference, too.  

Myth: Getting a flu shot weakens your immune system and makes you more likely to get the flu.

Totally untrue. Getting a flu vaccine prepares your immune system for the flu.

A flu vaccine teaches your immune system to recognize that virus as a threat. While some people may still get the flu after having a flu shot, they’ll probably have a milder form of the illness — and it’s not because they got the vaccine. A milder form of the flu is still possible despite getting vaccinated because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can still provide some protection.

So why do people swear a flu vaccine gave them the flu? Some may mistake the occasional side effects of the vaccine (fever, aches) for flu symptoms. And the time of year people are most likely to get the vaccine is when colds and other respiratory illnesses are common. If you get the vaccine and then get sick with an unrelated bug, you may assume, incorrectly, that the vaccine caused the illness.

Fact: What you eat has an effect on your immune system.

While no single food will upgrade your immune system, poor nutrition can have a negative effect on the immune system. What counts is having a balanced diet.

Just about everyone could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals that are good for you. If you’re thinking about getting supplements to cover your nutritional needs, check with your doctor or a dietician. Chances are, you’re getting what you need from food, unless you’re on a strict diet, are pregnant, or have certain medical conditions.

Fact: Your immune system probably gets weaker as you grow older.

As you age, your body has a harder time fighting off infections. Older adults are more likely to get sick from infections. And those infections, especially flu and pneumonia, are more likely to be fatal, compared with younger people.

Why it happens isn’t clear. It may be about your immune system slowing down. Or it could be partly linked to nutrition, since seniors often eat less and don’t always get the nutrients they need to keep their immune systems strong. So eat lots of fruits and vegetables. It’s good for you at any age.

Myth: Running a fever when you’re sick weakens your immune system.

A fever can help your immune system fight infections in two ways. A higher temperature in the body speeds up the functioning of cells, including the ones that fight illness. They can respond to invading germs faster.

If you’ve had a fever for more than several days, or if you have fever and other symptoms such as severe vomiting, diarrhoea or confusion, it’s a good idea to call your doctor.

Always call a doctor for unexplained fever in infants and children, and in people with a suppressed immune system (such as those with HIV, organ transplants, or certain medications or chemotherapy).

Fact: Seasonal Allergies are caused by an abnormal response by the immune system.

Allergy symptoms happen when your immune system reacts to something harmless, like pollen, pet dander, or mould. Your body sees the allergen as an invader and attacks it, giving you a runny nose and itchy eyes.

People can inherit a tendency toward allergies; if you have allergies, your children have a greater chance of also having allergies, although they may be allergic to different things.

Allergies are treated by avoiding your allergy triggers and taking medication to control symptoms. For some people, allergy shots may be an option. Over a period of time, usually several years, allergy shots may help your immune system get used to the allergen, so that it doesn’t produce the bothersome allergy symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

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The Germiest Places in Your Community

we’re mostly talking about viruses like the flu and the common cold — is other people,” says E. Neil Schachter, MD, author ofThe Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu.

These five places are the germiest you’re likely to visit, Schachter says.

    1.Public restrooms.Bacteria and viruses thrive in a moist place. So sinks, soap dispensers, and toilet seats can host germs.

    2.Your child’s school or day care.In a school or day care, lots of kids are together. There will be lots of opportunities for germs to spread.

    3.Public transportation.“The closer you are packed together with other people, the more likely you are to spread germs to one another,” Schachter says. So subways, buses, trains, and airplanes are likely spots to pick up germs.

    4.Your doctor’s office.Some people in the waiting room may have a cold or the flu. Some pediatricians’ offices have separate waiting rooms for “well” and “not so well” kids. But others don’t, and you rarely see separate waiting rooms in         doctors’ offices for adults.

    5.Other public places.“Places like malls, food courts, museums, sporting events, and concerts — anywhere big crowds of people gather — are prime sources of germs, particularly if the space is limited and there are lots of people pushed         together,” Schachter says.

Of course, you should still be out and about, living your life. You can take steps to keep germs at bay, wherever you go.

5 Ways to Defend Yourself

1.Wash your hands often.Use soap and warm water. It can dislodge germs and send them down the drain.

2.Carry hand sanitizer.It’s handy if you can’t wash your hands, especially if you’re touching surfaces that other people use, like ATM keyboards, elevator buttons, and door handles.

3.Let something else do the touching.If you’re in a germy place, like a doctor’s office building or your child’s day care, press elevator buttons with your elbow, and use a paper towel to open bathroom doors and flush toilets. Only use banisters or escalator handrails if you need to for balance.  Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, so that germs on your hands don’t enter your body.   

4.Wipe down shared surfaces.Use your hand sanitizer or a package of sanitizing wipes to clean off spots such as food court tables (they’re often just wiped down with a rag that only spreads germs around) or the desk or phones in shared office spaces.

5.Leave the germs outside.When you come home, take off your shoes and wash your hands. That’s a family rule for Bridget Boyd, MD, director of the newborn nursery at Chicago’s Loyola University Health Center. “My husband and I are both in the health care field, and my son goes to day care, so who knows what’s on our shoes?” she says. “But it makes sense for anyone. It’s a good idea to wash off germs and dirt when you come home.”

WebMD Feature

Reviewed ByArefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

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Sleep and Immunity- Understanding the Link

Our immune system is designed to protect us from colds, flu, and other ailments, but when it is not functioning properly, it fails to do its job. The consequences can include more sick days.

The relationship between lack of sleep and our immune systems is not quite as straightforward as mom made it out to be, however. The immune system is pretty complex. It is made up of several types of cells and proteins that are charged with keeping foreign invaders such as colds or flu at bay.

A lot of studies show our T-cells go down if we are sleep deprived .And inflammatory cytokines go up. … This could potentially lead to the greater risk of developing a cold or flu.

In simple terms, sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. The more all-nighters you pull, the more likely you are to decrease your body’s ability to respond to colds or bacterial infections.

Lack of Sleep and Fevers

Sleep loss not only plays a role in whether we come down with a cold or flu. It also influences how we fight illnesses once we come down with them.

For example, our bodies fight infection with fevers. “One of the things that happens when we sleep is that we can get a better fever response, This is why fevers tend to rise at night. But if we are not sleeping, our fever reaction is not primed, so we may not be waging war on infection as best we can.

Lack of Sleep and Vaccines

Studies have shown that people who are sleep deprived also get less protection from flu vaccines than those who are getting adequate sleep.

Article Derived from WedMD

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10 Immune system Boosters

 

Antioxidants directly boost the performance of the immune system. Increase your intake of the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin A, beta and mixed carotenes, vitamin E and selenium. But rather eat the foods containing these antioxidants than going for supplements – studies have shown that these can be detrimental to your health.

Fruit and veg daily. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and drink a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice every day (with 250mg of vitamin C per glass, it is enough for a child’s daily needs in winter, but an adult needs a little more).

De-stress. Control your stress levels with daily relaxation techniques. Ongoing stress places a tremendous strain on your immune system, and this makes you susceptible to viruses that are doing the rounds.

Drink lots of tea. Researchers in Boston found people who drank five to six cups of black tea each day seemed to get a boost in that part of the immune system that acts as a first line of defence against infection.

More than just cereal. French and Spanish researchers found that cereal rich in polyphenols could restore the immune system and extend your lifespan.

Unique soya. Prebiotics, such as the oligosaccharides (which are fermented and not digested) in soya make the immunity-boosting organisms grow more rapidly and enhance their positive effect.

Pre- and probiotics. Pre- and probiotics are powerful immunity boosters. Prebiotics are food components that improve the food supply of the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, so that the beneficial bacteria can grow and flourish. Probiotics are cultures of the beneficial bacteria that occur in the intestinal tract of healthy human beings. Probiotics increase the uptake of important minerals from the GI tract thus preventing deficiencies, which lower immunity.

Essential nutrients. Micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc improve immunity in both old and young. Vitamin A reduces the risk of infection. Iron boosts immunity via a number of important enzymes and immunity factors. Zinc plays an important role in normal growth and increases antibody production.

Cut down on kilojoules. Limiting consumption of kilojoules seems to boost key infection-fighting cells in the immune system, researchers say. In a study done with rhesus monkeys it was found that kilojoule restriction improved the maintenance and production of T cells.

Marcus Low