Your Immune System
New Scientist recently ran an article on how to recharge your immune system. The article was broken down into several sections, which I have taken the key points from and outlined below for your perusal. Hope you find it useful!
1. Go for a walk every day: “When 500 adults were tracked for 12 weeks, those who were the most physically active – five sessions or more of aerobic exercise a week – spent nearly half the number of days sick with an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold or tonsillitis (British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol 45, p 987).”
2. Spend plenty of time in the sun: “Vitamin D appears to play a key role in keeping the immune system in check so that it doesn’t react to things inappropriately. The first clue that this was the case was the higher rate of autoimmune disorders in parts of the world with less sunlight. Since then, researchers have found that vitamin D suppresses the immune system by inhibiting the proliferation of immune cells and the signalling factors that spur them into action. Vitamin D is also vital for calcium absorption and bone health. Vitamin D appears to protect against many other common types of cancer, including those of the breast, prostate and colon. One research group has calculated that in the US, more people die from internal cancers caused by lack of sun exposure than from skin cancer itself – possibly four times as many (New Scientist, 9 August 2003, p 30).
Michael Holick, a vitamin D researcher at Boston University in Massachusetts, reckons you should “expose your hands, arms and face for a quarter of the time it would take to cause reddening two to three times a week.”
3. Make sure you’re sleeping well: ”Even a moderate lack of sleep can put you at greater risk of catching a bug. In a seminal study, the sleeping habits of 153 healthy adults were recorded before they were given a sniff of a cold virus. It turned out that people who slept for less than 7 hours a night were almost three times as likely to catch a cold as the rest of the group (Archives of Internal Medicine, vol 169, p 62).”
4. Look after the natural bacteria already existing in your stomach: “That is the aim of probiotics, daily yogurt drinks designed to boost the number of good guys. After initial doubts that this approach would deliver enough microbes to do anything useful, studies now support the idea that probiotics can help treat gut infections, and even ward off coughs and colds (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006895.pub2).”
5. Eat well: “If you really want to support your immune system the best approach is simply to eat a plentiful supply of fruit and vegetables. They contain not just vitamins but thousands of other compounds called phytochemicals, which have numerous beneficial effects we are only just starting to understand. Out of the supplements, zinc supplements probably come out best, with evidence they can both prevent colds and shorten their duration if started within 24 hours of the symptoms first appearing (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub3). Zinc may work by stopping the cold virus from replicating or preventing it from gaining entry to cells lining the airways.”
“That old favourite vitamin C doesn’t seem to prevent colds, although as a treatment it might reduce symptoms slightly. The only other supplement with any credibility is echinacea, an extract of the purple coneflower – although again only as treatment, not prevention, and even then the evidence is mixed.”