Why is boosting your immune system important?
You are exposed to thousands of germs everyday- bacteria and viruses that are dying to get inside you and take over. Your only defense against them is your immune system- a complex army of warriors that protects you. MOST of the time. When it breaks down, you get sick. Then, you come to see me in all your misery hoping I can give you something magical to make you feel better...
Here's the thing: it works way better to boost your immune system and keep it working at peak efficiency all the time to PREVENT infection than to try and take something to jumpstart it once you’ve already gotten sick.
A fringe benefit: Boosting your immune system isn't just for colds and flus. Not a lot of people know this, but boosting your immune system is one of the best ways to prevent cancer too. One of the major functions of some of your immune cells is to seek out and destroy cancer cells- that way the disease never really gets going.
Unfortunately, as you age, there is a noticeable drop in your immune function, especially by your 70’s & 80’s. You actually produce as many immune cells as you always have, they just don’t work as well anymore. (Kind of like everything else as you get older right?) The simple reason for this is that your immune system is also the victim of free radical damage.
Boosting your immune system is pretty tough when you have constant destruction from free radicals.
There are many ways the free radicals thwart your system:
So the best way of boosting your immune system is to load up on free radical fighters- antioxidants!
(Warning! This is pretty specific and somewhat technical. For techie-minded people like me only! If the last paragraph bored you, scroll down past point #4…)
Specifically, it increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies. It also increases interferon, which basically coats your cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses.
It boosts your immune system by increasing the production of natural killer cells- important for destroying germs AND cancer cells. It also increases B cells, which are responsible for making antibodies to fight specific germs. Supplementing with vitamin E has been shown in many studies to reverse some of the decline in immune response that is seen in aging.
These increase production of natural killer cells and helper T-cells
Your cells have receptor sites, which are like parking spaces that allow germs and other toxins into the cell. Bioflavonoids take up these “parking spaces” so the germs won’t have access to your cell.
And no, that's not a picture of me when I'm sick! Although I did feel like that sometimes...
I can give you a personal testimonial of how great antioxidants are at boosting your immunity. I started taking antioxidant supplements and giving them to my family because I wanted to take advantage of the health benefits. It was basically health insurance. I never expected to feel any different.
After 8 or 9 months, I realized that nobody had been sick since we started taking them. Wow! This is big news! As a pharmacist, I used to get 4 or 5 colds per year, being around all the sick people that I am everyday. And the year before we started, my daughter had been sick for basically 4 months straight with something or other that she had caught at school. (You think I'm exaggerating, but I swear I'm not. She was really only healthy for about 10 days altogether. Aaah, the joys of being 7...)
Now, my husband and I get only 1 cold a year and my kids get 2 or 3 (they're still quite young and in school after all). When we do get sick, it's barely noticeable and it only lasts 4 or 5 days maximum. I used to be stuffed up for at least a week and have a decent cough for a couple of weeks. Now, I don't even get stuffed up and I don't get a cough at all. It's really just a small annoyance for a couple of days.
And just so you know, we were a healthy family to begin with. We eat healthy and are active. I definitely practice what I preach when it comes to health. So it definitely wasn't due to the fact that we weren't healthy to start with...
For me, taking an antioxidant supplement is totally worth it for the lack of sickness alone. The fact that I am protecting myself from future health problems is an added bonus.
But you have to choose the right antioxidant supplement to actually get these benefits. Click here to get my recommendation of the best antioxidant supplement.
And so to summarize...
Antioxidants work by boosting your immune system ahead of time and PREVENTING disease from getting a foothold in the first place. Once you’re already feeling sick, it’s too late at that point. So loading up on orange juice at the start of a cold only helps increase your fluids. Sorry! But now you know what to do to prevent the next one.
Speaking of colds, go to my tips on cold prevention...