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Boost Your Immune System

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We are on chicken pox alert for the 5th time.  In fact, we probably panic about it so many times in our household, that everyone else ignores me when the dreaded words leave my mouth - "I think Isla/Eloise has chickenpox".  When they do actually get it, no one is going to believe me.  We have avoided it so many times with direct contact that we must be due our turn.  It's not the illness that panics me, it  is how I will cope with the lack of childcare.  I am lucky enough to have plenty of family around me who help out far more than they should do already, allowing me to work the strange hours I do, but every new panic seems to come around a time we really can't afford to get it - parents away, or being on holiday waiting to fly back, or the latest is my Grandma's 90th is next week, and I don't think I would be very popular to go down, spread chickenpox and kill off a few OAPs, so we are crossing our fingers and have the camomile to hand.

I don't know about you, but as soon as school holidays hit, those pesky colds, stomach bugs and other germs rear their ugly heads.  Sometimes we take them in our stride, whilst at other times it just seems to be one thing after another.  Believe or not, there are many simple steps you can take to improve your immunity and help fight off those germs and feel energised once again.

I recently read some interesting research into stress and its affect on our immunity.  Stress is well known to have a detrimental affect on our immunity, but research into the science behind this claim is tricky as measuring stress and its outcomes is difficult to control in humans, due to the uncontrollable lives we live.  However studies on mice have found that social stress is worse than physical stress. Relatives caring for Alzheimer patients have a reduced immunity response compared to others, and the same is found with divorced or separated men compared to married men.  So, although the science is hard to measure, research is constantly evolving, supporting the link that increased stress levels = reduced immunity.

Sleep is another one that likes to play havoc with our immunity.  Too little sleep leads to higher levels of stress hormones in our bodies, and research is also starting to form a link with too little sleep leading to higher levels of inflammation within the body.  Sugar is another immunity baddie as it curbs the activity of the immune system's cells.

So what can you do to boost your immune system other than reducing stress, eating less sugar and getting more sleep?  Making some simple changes to what you eat can have a dramatic effect on your immunity.

Vitamin A
Plays a vital role in infection reduction and maintaining mucosal surfaces.
Butter, liver, red meat, whole milk, carrots, green leafy veg, mangoes, red peppers and sweet potatoes

Vitamin B2
Enhances resistance to bacterial infection
Almonds, liver, mushrooms and whole grains

Vitamin B6
Deficiencies can depress immune response, such as the lymphocytes' ability to mature
Think B - bananas, beans, brown rice and brussel sprouts

Vitamin D
TB patients responded well to sun because the skin makes vitamin D when exposed to sun which signalled an antimicrobial response to the TB bacterium.  More research is evolving around other diseases, so now that the sun is with us for longer, get out and enjoy the fresh air

Zinc
Deficiency affects cells' function especially around immunity, but levels have to be right as too much can also have a detrimental effect as well, so stick to 15-25mg a day!!
Beans, meats, nuts, oily fish, prawns and pumpkin seeds

Other great foods to include are - 

Garlic is thought to help reduce infection from bacteria 
Oats & barley boost immunity, speed up wound healing and may help antibodies work better
Salmon, mackerel and herring are high in Omega 3 which reduces inflammation and increases airflow whilst protecting the lungs from colds
Shellfish help white blood cells produce a protein called cytokines, which helps rid the body of the 'flu virus
Chicken soup has amazing healing properties due to the way the chicken is cooked with herbs and spices added as well as the salty broth thinning out the mucus.

That only leaves me with one other great suggestion - regular exercise - it wouldn't be right for me to leave a blog with out a little exercise nudge ;-)