20 IMMUNE BOOSTERS; Beat Bugs with Our Guide to Staying Healthy
Byline: LISA MURPHY/CHATELAINE OCTOBER/PLANET SYNDICATION
THE simplest things may strengthen your body's self-defence system, from a hearty belly laugh to eating a peach in bed.
With winter approaching, the chances are you haven't given much thought to fortifying your body's inner defences against viruses, bacteria and toxins.
However, getting your immune system - an intricate collaboration of organs, cells and chemical messengers - into shape can be easy, energising and fun.
Eating the right foods, for example, may help restore the disease-busting tools nature already gave you.
And you're getting a boost from researchers who are trying to unravel the complexities of your immune system.
The basics are understood well enough: imagine someone with the flu sneezes in your direction. Anti- germ substances in your skin, mouth and nose go to work right away to keep the flu virus from entering your body.
If they fail, the virus may make its way into your body. There, it hijacks your cells in order to reproduce itself.
Now your inner defences kick in. Your spleen and lymph nodes detect the invaders. White blood cells known as T-cells hunt down the virus and kill it if they can.
As backup, B-cells offer the next level of defence. These white blood cells develop and secrete custom- designed antibodies, known as immunoglobins, which bind to and disable intruders.
If you got your flu shot this year, your B-cells will be already programmed to recognise the virus and swiftly incapacitate it, keeping you healthy.
But what else can you do to keep healthy? We asked the experts to interpret the research and offer advice on boosting your system.
1. Call a friend. Chatting with a pal may trigger positive emotions. When you laugh and confide, you reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, a hormone known to suppress the immune system.
2. Cook some liver and onions. Liver brims with immune-boosting selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, folic acid and B vitamins.
3. Relax with a crossword puzzle. Activities that stimulate the parts of the brain that handle working memory, judgment and abstract thought may elevate disease-fighting T- cell levels, according to research by Marian Cleeves Diamond of the University of California.
4. Sprinkle flaxseed (linseed) on your cereal or salad. A good source of omega- 3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens, associated with lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Research from the University of Toronto suggests flaxseed may inhibit the growth of breast tumours.
5. Research before you renovate. Harmful chemicals from damp carpets and old lead-based paints may affect immune function.
6. Feed your lover strawberries, raspberries or grapes. Antioxidant vitamins in fruit and vegetables may boost immune function. It works in the lining of the lungs and bolsters immunity by neutralising the chemical cocktail inhaled from exhaust fumes. Just 20 strawberries a day will produce a measurable increase in ellagic acid.
7. Get lots of shut-eye. Your body produces more immune enhancing T-cells when you sleep. If you're not getting eight hours a night, your chances of getting sick increase.
AT THE SHOPS... …