Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Immune System: Your Inner Balancing Act

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By Scarlett Hilton

Today we'll explore some of the things we can do with diet, lifestyle and mental attitude to positively support our immune defenses. We can literally eat our way into the first immune system supporter because it's good old fashioned FOOD! Two factors guide how we can eat for immunity; (1) Good variety, and (2) toxin-free, minimum chemical content foods.

To obtain the first factor of variety in foods, we should try to have as much fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables as we can find. It is suggested that 3/4s of our diet should be fruits and vegetables, but you don't have to suddenly turn into a "Vegetarian" overnight to do this.

It is a matter of getting more inventive with as wide a number of fruits and veggies as we can. Soups, salads, casseroles, stir-fries, juices and desserts are all acceptable ways to keep up the vegetable quota and the less processed (over-cooked) the food the better.

Plant Foods are Vitamin Rich

The reason fruits and vegetables figure so prominently in our immune support diet is largely due to their Vitamin and Mineral content, especially Vitamins C and A along with their helper nutrients, the bioflavonoids which we get when we eat whole fruits or vegetables.

Both Vitamin C and A are "antioxidant" nutrients that help protect body cells from damage by oxidation, environmental pollutants and invasion from various viruses, germs, bacteria or moulds.

Among the best food-based immune defence enhancers are the following veggies and fruits: Capsicum, parsley, sprouts, broccoli, watercress, blackcurrants, carrots, leafy-greens, pumpkin, squash, onions and garlic.

Garlic is perhaps the best body detoxification vegetable we can eat. Garlic contributes to our immune system by picking up toxic materials as it travels through our digestive systems and transporting the toxins out of the body.

Other food-based immune system helpers are whole grains, seeds and nuts (for the amino acids they contain), seafood and mushrooms (as sources of the trace element, selenium), wheat germ, brewer's yeast, pumpkin seeds, rye grain and egg yolks (as sources of zinc).

Making these foods a part of that 75% fruit/veg content of our daily diet will give us a good variety of the antioxidant vitamins and and minerals we need.

Foods Need to be "Clean"

Next to eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables, the second most important factor which should guide our choice of foods is that these foods be as toxin-free and non-chemically processed as possible. Our immune defences have enough work to do without having to further extend to cope with incoming contaminated foods.

The concept of "toxic overload" figures in determining how our immune systems will function effectively when facial with a challenge. We all know people who have the debilitating 20th Century disease called "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" that is characterised by exhaustion, muscle weakness from even the simplest tasks, foggy, thinking and repeated lapses into illness with flu-like symptoms.

It has been argued that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is worsened - if not promoted initially - by environmental toxins which the CFS sufferer is unable to avoid or cope with. Rather than an underactive immune defence response, CFS sufferers are thought to have over-active immune defences - like a water tap left running - that eventually exhaust the body's reserves.

Enjoyable Lifestyle Activities Promote Immunity

We've briefly scanned the food side of immune system strengthening. It is as important to review the lifestyle activities we can do to help ourselves be more able to resist infections. Dry skin-brushing helped stimulate the skin to be a more effective immune defence mechanism for us.

This would be an ideal practise to adopt 2-3 times a week before bathing. Dry skin brushing goes hand in hand with another excellent lifestyle immune system helper: relaxation. After a dry skin brush session, how about a lovely soak in a herbal bath?

Use essential oils like Lavender, Rose and Sandalwood for a delightful way to induce relaxation for mind and body. Listening to music and practising meditation are also good relaxers.

Next comes the active side of immune defence building: regular exercise. This does not have to be a two hour aerobics workout, a thirty minute brisk walk will do more for you, especially if it is done consistently three to four times a week.

The gentle exercise movements of Tai Chi and Yoga also stand in first place among the body activities that help boost the immune system. These two ancient exercise forms involve both the mind and the body, the very healthy partnership we are looking to stimulate!

If you are puzzled about how the immune system can be benefitted by relaxation and exercise both, remember that inner balancing act we need to control. The body produces its own "feel good" brain chemicals during both exercise and relaxation activities. Each body cell can receive these chemical messages and respond positively.

It is literally possible to create a healthier internal environment by working to stimulate the immune system through actively modifying your thoughts and images and then sending these strengthened images to various parts of your body.

Relax, Eat Well and Exercise Yourself to Health!

Author bio: Scarlett Hilton is a Dietitian and Health expert, having over 10 years of experience in the Healthcare industry and providing healthy diet tips. She is also passionate about yoga, fashion and more. Her most popular articles include Cardiac Diet, 15 Ways To Prevent Cardiac Disease, and 10 Ways to Get Healthy and Stay Healthy.

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