Simple Steps to Boost your Immune System

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February 4, 2013 by Leslie Phillips, RD, LD

Have you ever seen someone cough or sneeze in their hand, then moments later extend that same hand to shake YOURS? What do you do ….you want to smile, nod and be on your way but that hand is still reached out, awaiting your firm grip. Stay strong, my health conscious friend and decline that germ infested playground of a hand.

We are in the midst of flu season…. and a very productive flu season it has become! Every hand could be a possible breeding ground for influenza. As we know, there is no cure for the common cold…. prevention is the key in avoiding airborne viruses. There is no better way to prevent catching the flu than by having a healthy immune system to begin with. There is no substitute for washing your hands and using a tissue but a strong immune system is your first defense.

It is estimated that each year in the United States more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications and more than 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. Each year those numbers increase as the effects of each new strand of the virus gets worse.

Obtaining immune system health starts with proper nutrition. This can be achieved by incorporating immune strengthening vitamins and minerals into your diet. In an effort to keep your kids in school and your sick days at bay, try to increase the following nutrients in your family’s diet.

Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is one of the strongest immune enhancing nutrients out there. Its hero like function is to increase production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies that prevent entry of viruses. Oranges, berries, cantaloupe and grapefruit have a high content of Vitamin C. Because Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, it isn’t necessary to have excessive amounts of Vitamin C intake, as this may only produce “expensive urine”.

Vitamin E:
Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant. It is believed that ensuring adequate intake of antioxidants, which counter the activity of free radicals in your body, could prevent diseases and damage to your body cells, therefore improve your overall health. Vitamins E and C work together. Vitamin C spares Vitamin E therefore further protecting the immune cells against oxidation. It's recommended that you consume at least 30 milligrams of Vitamin E every day for immune health. Vitamin E is found in a diet rich in seeds, vegetable oils, broccoli and grains.

Selenium works with Vitamin C to assist in boosting your immune defense. Good food sources of selenium are tuna, red snapper, lobster, shrimp and whole grains.

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which has shown a remarkable ability to fight disease. Lycopene is not produced in the body so you can only obtain its benefits by a supplement or eating many foods rich in Lycopene, such as tomatoes, grapefruit and watermelon.

Consuming foods rich in these nutrients is recommended to assist in protecting yourself from the Flu. Make efforts to insure your immune health throughout the year and don’t become a part of the vicious cycle of one person after another, at home, school or in the office spreading germs until almost everyone gets sick. And remember, just because you may be in contact with someone who has the flu, Does not mean you have to catch it!
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