Saturday, August 15, 2009

Your Body's Defense - Immunity

Find out how to keep your immune system fighting fit.
DO you remember when you were last ill? Our immune system is the body's defence mechanism against bacteria and viruses that lead to common illnesses like coughs, colds and infections. In order to guard you against every cold or flu that comes your way, the immune system needs to be well nourished.
"With proper food choices, one gets all of the essential vitamins and minerals to maintain your body's natural immunity. Just as important, you need to be looking at ways to fill any nutritional gaps that you may have," says Datin Farah Diba Khan, chief dietician of the Lifestyle Modification Centre at Prince Court Medical Centre.
As the main line of defence against infections, your immune system is made up of cells, proteins, tissues, and organs that protect you against germs, antigens and micro-organisms that "attack" the body. One of the most interesting aspects of your immune system is its "memory capability". There are cells which can recognise specific viruses or bacteria or foreign cells which have entered the body before. They are able to respond immediately to neutralise and eliminate these foreign objects.
Consumers with diabetes tend to have a compromised immune system. When the blood sugar is aggravated, one is more prone to infection. Some of the medications prescribed for diabetes treatment also affect the immune system. One of the most common drugs used is insulin sensitiser, and long term usage may cause reduced vitamin B12 absorption. Vitamin B12, along with folic acid, is essential for B-cell and T-cell functioning. B-cells produce antibodies which target invaders like dust-mite allergens while T-cells destroy cancer cells and viruses.
A flagging immune system may result in fatigue, lethargy, repeated infections, slow wound healing, allergies, thrush, colds and flu. A healthy immune system is also important for cancer patients or those recovering from surgery.
Boost your immune system
A deficiency of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, C and E suppresses immunity, as does a deficiency of iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Vitamin C increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies. It also raises interferon levels. This is an antibody that coats cells, stopping viruses from entering them.
Vitamin E stimulates the production of cells that search and destroy harmful cells. It also enhances the production of B-cells which destroy bacteria. Vitamin E can also slow down or reverse the effects commonly associated with ageing on the immune system. Beta carotene helps stimulate growth of infection-fighting cells and natural killer cells as well as supporting T-cells.
Selenium helps with the production of antibodies. Manganese possesses anti-oxidant properties and is a key component of an immune related enzyme.
Zinc and copper are also important factors in the development and maintenance of immune function. But wait. It's not just enough to consume large doses of these, but to consume them in the right combinations. Various clinical studies have shown that nutrients work best in combination with each other rather than individually in keeping your immune system operating at its best. One study conducted in the Unite States revealed that older people who consumed multi-vitamins consistently for six to 12 months showed substantial improvements in cellular immunity. This was followed by other clinical studies that showed that those who consumed supplements which had combined nutrients rather than individual nutrients saw an increase in the number of immunity cells in their body. In addition, consumption of antioxidants, either through foods or nutrient supplements offered further benefit to the immune system.
But with our busy and demanding lifestyles, eating right to get these vitamins and minerals is a challenge. This is where a complete multi-vitamin/mineral supplement makes a positive difference. Consuming a supplement regularly will boost our nutrient consumption and ensure that your immune system stays strong. Apart from supplements, you can also keep your immune system as its best with these simple tips:
>Exercise – Regular, moderate exercise three times a week can help the immune system.
>Sleep – Ensure you get sufficient sleep so the body may rest which is crucial to staying well.
>Don't smoke – Smoking suppresses immune cells. Quit smoking if you're a smoker.
>Limit alcohol consumption – Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.
How often do we think about our immune systems? Only after we've caught the flu bug? It's too late by then.
As a parent, you're the busy CFO – Chief Family Officer – who is constantly running around 24/7 looking after the kids, picking them up from school, going grocery shopping and basically running an active household. As a career person, you have meetings to attend, a work piling on your desk and a busy schedule. Can any of us afford to fall sick? It's not an option for anyone. But if you have a strong immune system, falling ill would be the last of your worries. – Article courtesy of Wyeth Consumer Healthcare

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