7 ways to boost your immune system

The immune system is our body’s way of protecting itself from diseases and infections. A healthy immune system can help our body fight bacteria and maintain our health.

So what exactly is the immune system?
It’s a system that works via different cells throughout the body. It knows the difference between our own cells and potentially harmful invaders, or antigens. It also clears away dead and damaged cells. If it recognises a virus, bacterium, fungus, toxin, foreign body or parasite, it causes an immune response to attack it.

How good is my immune system?
That depends on several factors, including your age. You’re born with a certain amount of immunity and babies get some from their mother and from breast milk. You then develop more resistance as you go through childhood. It may come from having vaccinations or being gradually exposed to more pathogens which causes your body to develop antibodies. In most cases, once your body has produced an antibody, it remains in the body so it can deal with a second attack faster. So, with many diseases, including chickenpox, you’ll only get it once. However, as you get older, your immune system may get less efficient, meaning you’re more prone to infection and disease.

How can I improve my immune system?
Along with quitting smoking, taking regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight, getting a good night’s sleep and reducing stress can all help.

Foods that boost your immune system
We’ve all heard the old saying that ‘you are what you eat’. As well as eating for health, there are some foods that actually boost the immune system. They include:

  • Vitamin C: that’s because it can help boost the production of white blood cells which are essential in fighting infection. You can’t store vitamin C in your body, so you need some every day. Peppers are a great source, and you can add citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwis, papayas, or tangerines to your diet. Even a squeeze of lemon or lime can help!
  • Broccoli: well-known as a ‘superfood’, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as B vitamins including folic acid and antioxidants. Just be careful not to overcook it, or much of its goodness will be lost.
  • Spinach: packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and beta-carotene, spinach is thought to be a great immune system booster. Again, it’s important not to overcook it, so try eating it raw or steaming rather than boiling.
  • Almonds: just half a cup will provide you with 100% of the vitamin E you need, which is essential for regulating and maintaining the immune system.
  • Yoghurt: it’s thought that ‘live’ yoghurt can help the immune system to fight disease. Stick to the plain version, though, and avoid high-sugar varieties.
  • Garlic: it’s been used for thousands of years, across the world, and it’s believed to have many health benefits, including fighting infection, as well as lowering blood pressure.
  • Green tea: high in antioxidants, green tea is high in a substance known as epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which can help the immune system.

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