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08 Dec 2016

Improving your Immune System

Looking after your immune system is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Made from a variety of physical structures and chemical processes, the immune system is a biological defence mechanism capable of protecting the body against a range of harmful pathogens. While direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function are hard to quantify scientifically, immune-boosting foods, regular exercise, and reduced stress levels do help the immune system to function in harmony with the rest of the body.

Most of the time, the immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing micro-organisms. From viruses and toxins through to parasitic worms, the immune system fights against infection and remembers particular microbes in case of future contact. Despite its best efforts, however, sometimes germs do manage to invade our bodies and make us sick. While the immune system is not a single entity that can be boosted or upgraded easily, we can help it to function more effectively by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy immune system is all about balance. According to Dr Penny Burns, a GP from Sydney, getting sick does not mean your immune system is broken: "Because you get coughs, colds and flu, it doesn't mean your immune system is not working.  Every time you recover your immune system has done a great job. It's recovery that shows the immune system is working well ... You don't want your immune system to be too good because it can kill ... We need a good enough immune system to keep us well in the environment we live in."

Attempting to boost the cells of the immune system can be especially complicated, with direct links between specific supplements and healthy immune function largely over-exaggerated. According to Harvard Medical School, the most important line of defence doesn't involve specific supplements but a simple and healthy lifestyle. You can keep your immune system strong and healthy by following general nutritional and good-health guidelines, including a diet that's high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Foods known to help with immune system function include citrus fruits, broccoli, garlic, ginger, almonds, turmeric, and green tea. While specific supplements such as zinc and vitamin C can also be beneficial to the immune system, having access to a well-balanced diet full of unprocessed and natural foods is the most important thing of all. Because the aging process is known to reduce immune response capability, paying close attention to your diet is even more crucial as you get older. 

Other than nutrition, it's also important to take care of your overall health by ensuring adequate rest, getting regular exercise, and avoiding stress as much as possible. Stress comes in many forms, with alcohol and smoking capable of stressing the body on a physical level and emotional stress also known to have a profound impact on overall health. Exercise is also crucial, with regular physical activity helping to balance and improve the physical systems that support immune function. 

Image Source: Marilyn Barbone/