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Diet and Lifestyle

Top 15 Immune System Boosters

Prepare to Strengthen Your Immune System

A strong and health immune system can help you fight viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.

With the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many people are concerned about staying healthy and maintaining a healthy immune system. Doing so can benefit your body and boost your defenses against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. On the following slides, we’ll cover the top immunity boosters tips to help you and your body stay strong to fight off infections.

Is Stress Bad for You?

Stress is an enemy of your immune system.

Chronic stress depresses the immune system and increases the risk of several types of illnesses. It raises the level of hormones called catecholamines. Being stressed out leads to increased levels of suppressor T cells, which suppress the immune system. When this branch of the immune system is impaired, you are more susceptible to viral illnesses including respiratory conditions like colds, flu, and the novel coronavirus infection. Stress leads to the release of histamine, a molecule involved in allergies. Combat stress with strategies like deep breathing, meditation, exercise, and relaxation.

Can Sex Boost Your Immune System?

Regular sex improves immune function.

Regular Sexual Activity Is Helpful

In a study of college students, those who had sex once or twice per week had the highest levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in their saliva. IgA is an immune molecule that helps protect us against illnesses like the common cold. Students who had sex once or twice per week had more salivary IgA than students who were not sexually active, infrequently sexually active (less than once a week), or who were very sexually active (three or more times per week). Enjoying sex up to a couple of times per week seems to be the sweet spot for promoting optimal IgA levels.

Do Pets Help Immune System Function?

Exposure to pets in childhood decreases the risk of allergies.

Companion Animals Are a Boon to Immunity

Results of studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels compared to those who do not own pets. Pet owners had lower total cholesterol and triglycerides compared to non-pet owners. This may translate to better overall heart health and reduced risk of heart disease. Dog owners may enjoy improved heart health in part because they are more likely to engage in physical activity because they walk their dogs regularly. Pet ownership in childhood is linked to decreased susceptibility to allergies.

Do Social Ties Influence Immunity?

Strong social ties help you fight infections.

Your Social Network Can Make You Stronger

Mounting evidence from many studies suggests loneliness and social isolation are very detrimental to health. In one study, those with the strongest social relationships were most likely to live longer than those with poor social connections. There are lots of ways to develop and strengthen social ties. Pick up the phone and call friends regularly. Make plans to get together in person. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Join a class or join a group related to an interest or hobby you have. Keep up with old friends and make new ones to strengthen and expand your social circle.

Attitude Is Everything

A positive attitude can help you ward off infections.

Be Positive to Boost Immune Response

Expect good things and your immune system will follow. A study of law students found that their immune systems were stronger when they felt optimistic. Make optimism work for you. Try to see the glass as half full, not half empty. Practice gratitude and think of at least three things that you are grateful for every day. Imagine the best outcome for situations, even difficult ones. You may not always be able to control events around you, but you can always decide how to respond to them. Respond with a good attitude to increase the chances of the best outcome and to strengthen your immunity.

Laugh It Up!

Fight disease with laughter.

Belly Laughs Are Good for You

Can laughter really boost your immune system? Results of some studies suggest it can. In a study of healthy males, watching a funny movie boosted natural killer cell activity while watching an emotionally neutral movie did not boost immune system function. While more research is necessary to establish a conclusive link between laughter and improved immunity, go ahead and have a good chuckle. Belly laughs feel great. They can’t hurt and they might help boost your immune system and reduce the likelihood of illness.

What About Antioxidants?

Optimize your diet for optimal immune function.

They Protect Your Cells


What About Antioxidants?

Optimize your diet for optimal immune function.

They Protect Your Cells

Antioxidants are compounds in colorful fruits and vegetables that protect against free radicals. Free radicals can damage DNA and other cell components. Fruits and vegetables in a wide array of colors provide the best mix of protective antioxidants to boost overall health and immunity. Eat leafy greens, watermelon, carrots, berries, broccoli, oranges, kiwi, cantaloupe, and other brightly colored produce to give your cells and immune system all the natural protection they need to function at their best. Homemade chicken soup with carrots, celery, and other veggies can also be a boon to your immune system.

Does Vitamin Status Matter?

Fill in nutrition gaps in your diet with a multivitamin.

A Multivitamin May Help

Some experts believe that taking a daily multivitamin can help ensure you’re meeting at least your daily minimum requirement for certain nutrients. Vitamins that are critical for immune function include vitamins A, C, D, and E. Zinc, selenium, and magnesium are minerals that your immune system needs to function at its best. These minerals are also critical for the function of many enzyme reactions in the body. Your immune system and body can’t function at their best without the basic building blocks they need to work properly.

What About Empty Calories?

A junk food diet deprives your body of nutrients.

Steer Clear of Them

Processed foods including candy, soda, fast food, and snack foods contain empty calories that do not provide your body with vitamins, nutrients, or fiber. They often also contain chemicals and preservatives that are not good for your body. If you eat processed foods and instead of foods in their natural, unprocessed form, your body will be deprived of vitamins and nutrients that it needs to thrive. Ditch processed foods in favor of fruit, vegetables, lean meat, healthy fats, and whole grains to give your body and immune system everything they need to function at their best. Optimize your dietary habits to support your health.

Herb and Supplement Immune Boosters

Some herbs may help ward off viruses and bacteria.

Healing Plants

Some research has suggested that compounds in herbs and supplements can enhance immunity. Garlic, astragalus, milk thistle, ginseng, green tea, black cumin, and licorice are just a few herbs that have been reported to have immune boosting benefits. Talk to your doctor of pharmacist before including herbs and supplements into your regimen. They may produce side effects, especially when combined with other herbs, supplements, or medications. Probiotics are beneficial strains of bacteria that have also been described as immune boosters. Look for probiotic supplements with lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Probiotics can also help improve digestive health.

Does Exercise Boost Immunity?

Exercise improves the function of protective white blood cells.

Move Your Body

Exercise has numerous health benefits including protecting you against heart disease, osteoporosis, and even certain types of cancer. Exercise is also an immune booster. To reap maximum benefits, try to be moderately physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Walking is one of the simplest ways to exercise. If you’re not excited about walking, try yoga, swimming, cycling, or golf. Gardening is also a good way to get some outdoor activity.

Sleep Your Way to a Better Immune System

Get enough sleep to stay healthy in cold and flu season.

Make Sleep a Priority

Several studies confirm the link between sleep and a healthy immune system. Most people need between 7 to 9 hours to feel adequately rested. Being well rested improves the function of white blood cells, so you’re less likely to get illnesses like respiratory infections, colds, and the flu. Practice good sleep hygiene to optimize sleep. That means waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. Avoid substances that can interfere with sleep, like caffeine and alcohol, for several hours before bedtime. You’re more likely to sleep well if your bedroom is cooler. Establish a relaxing evening routine before bedtime. Enjoy a warm bath, relaxing music, or a cup of tea to help you drift off to sleep more easily.

Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol is an immune suppressor.

It Is Best to Limit It

Alcohol depresses the immune system so it’s best to drink it in moderation or not at all. Men may be able to consume up to two alcoholic drinks per day. Women should have no more than one. Whether or not one can safely consume some alcohol has to do with many factors including overall health status, risk factors for disease, and any medications you may be taking. Ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to indulge in an occasional alcoholic drink and if so, how much is safe for you to consume.


Nicotine Is Immunosuppressive

Nicotine increases the risk of many diseases.

A Dangerous Substance

Smoking and nicotine use are bad for the immune system. People who use tobacco are also at increased risk of health problems like lung cancer, asthma, stroke, and heart attack. Any substance that depresses your immune system is not something that you want to use. There are many different strategies to help you quit. Your doctor may recommend nicotine patches, antidepressants, or other treatments to help you stop smoking. Reach out for help if you need it.

Can Handwashing Keep You Healthy?

Handwashing helps protect against viruses and bacterial infections.

Suds Up to Protect Your Health

Suds Up to Protect Your Health

Frequent handwashing is a simple and effective way to prevent the spread of respiratory infections like colds, flu, coronavirus, diarrheal illnesses, and other infectious conditions. Some germs are easily transmissible from person to person when we come into contact with one another. It’s easy to transfer germs from your hands to your nose, eyes, and mouth, if you touch them. This can get you sick. Wash your hands with soap under running water. Scrub the fronts and backs of your hands as well as in between fingers. Antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer may confer additional protection against microorganisms. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol for times when you don’t have access to soap and water.

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Diet and Lifestyle

Get Your Gut Back On Track!

An estimated 110,000 people consume antibiotics daily in Ireland, between December/March. (Source: Health Protection Surveillance Centre).

We asked Nutritional Therapist Rosanna Davison for her Top Tips to get your gut back on track after an illness.

1. Take time out

Don’t push yourself too quickly.  Remember your body needs time to rebuild its reserves and regain strength.

Take more rest than usual.  If you need to sleep longer, go to bed earlier.

Cut back on non-essential activities; they can wait until you are feeling 100%.

  1. Embrace fibre-rich foods full of protective nutrients

Fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and antioxidants.  Try eating seven to nine portions over the course of each day. Choose different colours so that you nourish your body with a variety of phytonutrients.

Eat a portion of complete protein at each meal, such as poultry, fish, eggs, beans, pulses or tofu.

Consume essential omega-3 fatty acids daily.  Avocados, seeds (flax, chia) and oily fish (mackerel, wild and organic salmon), are naturally rich in anti-inflammatory fats.

  1. Go ‘fermented’

Fermented foods are rich in ‘friendly’ bacteria.  Sauerkraut is simple to make at home or buy kefir or kimchi in your local health store.

  1. Reduce or eliminate sugary foods

Processed foods often contain refined sugars to enhance taste. Excess refined sugar and processed foods may encourage the growth of ‘unfriendly’ bacteria, so aim to buy and eat fresh food.

If you have a sweet tooth, try eating berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries).  They are rich in antioxidants and naturally low in sugar.

If you need a sweetener, try Stevia which is extracted from plant leaves and doesn’t impact blood sugar levels.

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Diet and Lifestyle

Do vegans need to take supplements?

Do vegans need to take supplements

A varied, wholesome vegan diet provides almost all essential nutrients in sufficient quantities. I hear you shouting ‘Noooo! It provides absolutely everything we need!’ and you may be right, but only if you regularly eat certain fortified foods. The sad truth is that modern food production systems and lifestyles make it more difficult for everyone – vegans or not – to get all they need from diet alone. It doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unnatural or unhealthy, in fact the opposite is true. It means that how we grow, produce and consume food has changed and, with an ever-growing population, the demands on the systems that produce our food are so high that certain nutrients become harder to obtain.

Confusion, confusion

I get a lot of questions about supplements and understand why people are confused. Over the years, I’ve worked on many vegan research projects and as science and population studies reveal ever more data, the guidelines and recommendations change and evolve. Hence, what we were told 10 years ago may no longer be up-to-date and that’s why different opinions arise, depending on where and when we got our information. It’s my job to keep up-to-date, so hopefully I can bring some clarity to the supplement discussion!

So what’s needed? The trio of nutrients to keep a close eye on are vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine. You may not need to supplement with all these, all year long, but it depends on several factors. Read on…

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 naturally comes from bacteria in the soil and both people and animals would traditionally have got it from eating unwashed plants. However, we not only wash vegetables before we eat them (and for good reasons), but food production is now so sanitised that most vegetables are washed in chlorine, or other sterilising solutions, so there’s not a trace of B12 left.

People are not generally aware that most farmed animals are given B12 supplements and this is how the vitamin eventually ends up in their flesh. So, the argument that meat is a natural source of B12 doesn’t really stack up as meat-eaters essentially consume B12 supplements recycled by the animals that were given them!

It is absolutely necessary that we have a reliable source of vitamin B12 for our bodies. We need it to make red blood cells, for a healthy heart and circulation, and it’s essential for the nervous system. It takes years to develop a B12 deficiency, so on one hand, you don’t need to worry about not having taken B12 for a while. On the other hand, you do need to pay attention, as when symptoms develop, it’s usually serious.

Do vegans need to take supplements

To ensure adequate intake, you should have at least 5µg (micrograms) daily from supplements or fortified foods. The B12 used in both foods and supplements is produced commercially by growing bacterial cultures in large vats – and it’s always suitable for vegans.

There are two forms of B12 in supplements – cyanocobalamin (cheap) and methylcobalamin (expensive). Cyanocobalamin is the stable ‘inactive,’ form of B12 and is used in supplements and to fortify foods and drinks. Once ingested, it’s activated by your body so it can be used. Methylcobalamin is the ‘active’ form of vitamin B12 as it does not require any metabolic reactions to be activated. It costs more and is not so stable.

So which one to choose? Unless you’re a heavy smoker, have kidney failure or any other serious condition affecting your metabolism, cyanocobalamin – the cheap form of B12 – is perfectly fine. Intakes up to 2,000µg a day are safe and you can take either a lower dose daily or a higher dose a couple of times a week.

Vitamin D

We need vitamin D for healthy bones, teeth and muscles and it also performs other essential functions in our metabolism. It is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight and this is the main source of vitamin D for most people. However, if you always use sun-block, cover most of your skin or live in a country, like the UK, where we don’t get enough sunlight over the winter, you need a supplement, whether you’re vegan or not.

The UK Government now recommends that we all take a supplement from October to April and, if you protect your skin ferociously over the sunnier spring and summer months, you should take a supplement all year long. Otherwise, just 20 minutes of sunlight on the face and arms is all that is required by the body to manufacture sufficient vitamin D.

Do vegans need to take supplements

Fortified breakfast cereals, bread, plant milks and vegan margarines can be useful sources if exposure to sunlight is not practicable, but may not be enough. When it comes to supplements, there are two types and your body can use both, but it’s advisable to check the source – vitamin D2 is always vegan, but vitamin D3 can be of animal origin. Many vegan foods are fortified with vitamin D2 and labelled so, but if not specified, especially on cereal products, vitamin D tends to be of animal origin. If you choose to supplement your diet, there’s a range of quality and affordable vegan supplements with vitamin D2. There are also those made from algae or mushrooms that contain D3 and these are recommended if you need a higher dose. When deciding on your dosage, 10µg per day is enough and you shouldn’t go above 25µg.

Iodine

Iodine has been a hot topic lately, especially with plenty of tabloid ‘experts’ warning that vegans are missing out. This mineral is necessary for thyroid function and helps to regulate how energy is produced and used in the body.

The amount of iodine in plants depends upon the iodine content of the soil in/on which they are grown. The closer to the sea, the more iodine and therefore vegans can get enough from plant foods, but there’s no guarantee. Seaweed, which of course grows in seawater, is always a good source and includes nori, laver, dulse and the kelp family (kombu, arame, wakame). But be warned – kelp absorbs far more than other seaweeds and you can get too much iodine from it. So, while seaweed consumption is encouraged, kelp should be used only sparingly.

Do vegans need to take supplements

It’s best to use a kelp supplement so you know exactly how much iodine you’re taking – it’s cheap, reliable and you don’t have to worry about taking too much. The recommended daily intake is 140µg and intakes up to 500µg are considered safe. In many countries, iodised salt is commonly used to ensure iodine intake, but it’s not the norm in the UK.

The dairy industry has been boasting about the iodine content of cow’s milk. What they don’t tell you is that it’s not a natural component of milk, but comes from iodinated cattle feed, supplements, iodophor medication, iodine-containing sterilisers of milking equipment, teat dips and udder washes. Cow’s milk is neither a natural nor the best source of iodine, so we can happily leave all that dairy out of our diet.

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Diet and Lifestyle

One Nutrition Revive & Go Ester-C

> Gentle on the stomach
> Supports the immune system
> Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism, and to the reduction of tiredness

One Nutrition Revive & Go Immunity has been specially formulated to increase vitamin C levels to support both to support energy and the immune system. Ester-C
is a non-acidic form of vitamin C that has been designed to be gentle on the stomach. It provides 500mg of vitamin C (625% RDI) in just one easy to take, daily capsule.

How to take: Take 1 capsule daily.

Available as 30 capsules.

Vegan – Gluten Free – Soy Free – Dairy Free

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