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Claiming immunity

How do you stay well? Think about how many germ-covered surfaces you touch each day. What dirty hand last touched the steering wheel in your rig; the truck stop bathroom door; the money with which you paid for your meal; the pen you used to...

How do you stay well? Think about how many germ-covered surfaces you touch each day. What dirty hand last touched the steering wheel in your rig; the truck stop bathroom door; the money with which you paid for your meal; the pen you used to sign the bill of lading; or the computer keyboard you used? Certainly, your immune system fights hard every day to help your body stay on top of sickness.

Your immune system, your main defense against disease-causing micro-organisms, is made up of a number of different components, including your: bone marrow; thymus gland; lymph nodes; mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT); gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT); and spleen.

Your bone marrow is responsible for developing all the cells in your immune system through the stem cells, including red blood cells, white cells (including lymphocytes and macrophages) and platelets.

Then, your thymus gland matures these lymphoid cells before releasing them into circulation to attack invaders. This process allows the matured lymphoid cells (T cells) to develop ‘self tolerance,’ which prevents them from attacking themselves or other healthy cells.

Lymph nodes, small bean-shaped structures distributed along the course of the lymphatic system, both filter particulate matter and micro-organisms and introduce antigens into the immune system. Lymph nodes are found in the neck, groin and para-aortic region.

Lymphoid tissue, although especially concentrated within the lymph nodes and spleen, its mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) is also found in the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract and the uro-genital tract. Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is found in the tonsils, adenoids, appendix, large intestine, esophagus, and the stomach. Painful, swollen glands in one of these areas let you know that you are fighting an infection.

The spleen, the largest secondary immune organ in the body, is another vital component of your immune system because your spleen instigates immune reactions to blood-borne antigens, while at the same times filters foreign material and old or damaged red blood cells out of your blood.

Considering the germs all around you, your immune system usually does a remarkable job of keeping you well.

However, could you intervene in the process and make your immune system even stronger?

Could improving your diet and lifestyle give your body’s immune system a boost? According to current research, some general healthy-living strategies could.

First, take these steps towards a healthy lifestyle: Avoid smoking. Eat a balanced diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low in saturated fats.

Exercise regularly. Maintain a healthy weight. Control your blood pressure. Get enough sleep. Avoid contact with possible infected areas by washing your hands frequently and cooking your meat thoroughly.

Participate in regular medical screening as appropriate for people in your risk category and age group. Unfortunately, aging – one aspect totally out of your control – does reduce the effectiveness of your immune system.

So over time, you will become prone to more infections, more inflammatory diseases and more cancers. Let’s face it, healthy older people are not as healthy as healthy young people.

We become more susceptible to respiratory infections, influenza and particularly pneumonia, which is the worldwide leading cause of death for people over 65.

Many researchers feel that this is the result of older people not paying enough attention to their diets. Historians have said that an army marches on its stomach. Well, so does an immune system. Since malnourished people cannot fight infectious diseases, consider these particular nutrients, which can be immunity boosters:

Selenium, found in seafood, meat and grains, can reduce your risk of risk of bladder, breast, colon, rectum, lung, and prostate cancers.

Vitamin A, found in fortified dairy products, dark leafy vegetables and deep orange fruits,  maintains vital mucosal-lymphoid surfaces.

Vitamin B6, found in spinach, broccoli, banana and chicken breast, improves the development of disease-fighting ‘T’ cells.

Vitamin D, found in fortified dairy products, beef, and fatty fishes, has been shown to specifically fight tuberculosis and may also fight other diseases.

Zinc, found in meats, fish, and whole grains, is essential for immune system cells. However, because zinc is a trace element, only 15-25 mg per day is required. (Too much zinc can inhibit the function of your immune system).

These following herbs have also been recognized as health boosters in recent research:

Garlic appears to help fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi; Aloe Vera, used topically, helps heal minor burns, wounds, or frostbite, and skin inflammations when mixed with hydrocortisone. However, it does not improve any other immune response.

Since we’ve already considered diet, let’s think about exercise.

Could regular exercise help maintain a healthy immune system? Certainly, exercise contributes to general good health.
Additionally by promoting good circulation, exercise improves the flow of cells and liquids throughout the body, which improves the efficiency of your immune system for flushing out germs. When confronted with sickness – claim immunity!

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