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BellaOnline's Holistic Health Editor

Boost Your Immune System

It is always important to keep our immune system in top condition. While we can’t help but be exposed to airborne viruses, as well as pollution and other harmful environmental factors, we can take steps to help our natural defences stay strong enough to see off all opposition.

At any time of year, if your immune system is low, the effects you may experience include:

colds and other viral infections
frequent sore throat
enlarged lymph glands in the neck, underarm or groin
digestive problems (often caused by constipation; more about that later)
unexplained fatigue and lethargy
allergic reactions (due to compromised protection against allergens).

A healthy immune system starts with good nutrition. Here are the main considerations for achieving strong immunity through diet.

Fruit and vegetables – we all know how important these are as part of our diet, largely because they are full of anti-oxidants which we need to strengthen immunity. The body needs a constant supply of anti-oxidants from food in order to fight free radicals, chemicals the body produces during metabolic activity and defence against viruses and bacteria. Free radicals can cause infection and even contribute to the growth of cancer cells. A wide variety of fruit and vegetables in the diet is an excellent source of anti-oxidants, and there are plenty of supplements available too if you feel you need an extra boost. It was recently reported that drinking two cups of black tea a day provides the same anti-oxidant benefit as five servings of fruit and vegetables – good news for those of us who love our cuppa!

Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, taken in warm water once or twice a day will maintain the body’s correct PH balance, which in turn will support beneficial bacteria in the system. Harmful bacteria multiply in a more acidic environment.

Protein, whether from animal or non-animal sources, is necessary to maintain immunity. A high carbohydrate diet that is deficient in protein places unnecessary stress on the pancreas and immune system.

Sugar, caffeine and alcohol do the immune system no favours. They prevent our defensive cells from functioning at full efficiency. Whilst it may not be practical for all of us to eliminate these items from our diet completely, it is advisable to cut down our consumption as far as possible.

Omega-3 oils, from oily fish or flaxseeds, help to prevent inflammation, which may otherwise distract our defensive cells from fighting free radicals.

Garlic is highly beneficial. Crushed, raw garlic stimulates white cell activity and increases the production of antibodies. Although not quite as effective as fresh garlic, supplements also supply an immunity boost.

Water is life, and a healthy gut is essential for a strong immune system. Not drinking enough water can cause constipation which allows toxins to build up and attack our defences. The liver, kidneys and spleen, which work to eliminate toxins, all need water to do their job, so make sure to drink your eight glasses a day.

Strong immunity involves all aspects of the self; the balance of physical, mental and emotional factors is needed to ensure our immune system works as hard as it can to protect us from harm.

These simple dietary measures are the easiest ways to give our body's defences a healthy boost.

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