by Dr. Suzanne Bober
Stress can be high this time of year, which means your body is particularly vulnerable to common viruses. Adequately feeding your immune system boosts its fighting power. There are a number of nutrients to add to your diet now to cut down on missed time from work due to illness.
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and increases interferon levels, which prevent viruses from entering cells in the body. It is important to know that you don’t need massive amounts of vitamin C, as any excess just gets excreted from the body. Therefore you just end up with very expensive urine. You can obtain the necessary amount by eating six servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
2. Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps to stimulate the production of natural killer cells, which seek out and destroy viruses, bacteria and cancer cells. It may also reverse the decline in the immune system seen with aging. Seeds, vegetable oils, and grains are good sources, but supplementation may be needed to reach the recommended 100-400mg per day.
Carotenoids increase the number of infection-fighting cells as well as mop up excess free radicals that accelerate aging. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A to boost immune function.
Bioflavinoids help to protect the body’s cells against environmental pollutants. A diet that contains a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will help you get the bioflavinoids needed to help increase your immunity.
Zinc increases the production of white blood cells and helps them to fight infection more aggressively. It also increases the number of T-cells that fight against viruses, especially in the elderly who are often deficient in zinc, and whose immune system often weakens with age. Be careful with zinc supplements however, as too much zinc can actually lead to reduced immunity. Generally 15-25mg per day is adequate.
Garlic is a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal nutrient that is also rich in antioxidants. It also helps to lower blood-cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids increase the activity of phagocytes, which are the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. They also protect the body against damage from over-reaction to infection. Always ensure that you are taking additional vitamin E when taking omega-3 supplements for antioxidant protection, as they act together to boost the immune system. Add one or two teaspoons of flax oil to a fruit and yogurt smoothie.
If you do happen to fall ill with a cold, stay away from drinking milk as this will increase the production of mucous in the nasal passages. Hot foods such as chili peppers and onions contain ‘mucolytics’ which break up the mucous that accumulates in the nasal passages.
Arm yourself with these nutrients now, to prevent a cold or flu from overcoming you over this season; your immune system will thank you.