The immune system is the body’s self-defense mechanism. It’s on constant alert for foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. If the immune system detects these intruders, it attacks them or removes them in more indirect ways.
How the Immune System Works
The immune system includes soldier-like T cells, the critical antibodies IgA, IgM and IgG, and a group of proteins called the complement system.
IgA are antibodies that are found mainly at the openings of the body, such as the mouth, to act as sort of the front door guard. They attack the offending viruses or bacteria before they can enter our system. IgM antibodies are the first responders to any enemy cells found within the body. They activate other parts of the immune system to join the fight. IgG antibodies, the largest “army” in the body, protect the body from viral infections.
The complement system, which includes the important C3 component, kicks in when it detects other antibodies. The complement system then helps destroy the bacteria, viruses or infected cells.
A Healthy Recipe for a Stronger Immune System
Many factors are responsible for a strong immune system, but your diet is one of the biggest. Certain nutrients are known immunity builders. Here are just a few of the most potent:
Harmful oxidants, or free radicals, can damage DNA and suppress the body’s immune system. Antioxidants help remove these dangerous free radicals from the bloodstream. As a result they can strengthen your immune system to help you fend off colds, flu, and other infections.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is beneficial in keeping the immune system strong, and some studies show the duration of a cold can be shortened when people increase vitamin C intake when they first feel a cold coming on. New research indicates supplementing with vitamin C raises the concentration of three key parts of the immune system: IgA, IgM and the C3 complement component. Several studies have also found supplementing with vitamin C improves antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities and overall immune response to reduce the risk, severity and duration of respiratory tract infections such as the common cold.
Vitamin E: Research shows vitamin E can significantly cut the risk of colds and other infections, especially among the elderly. One study showed those who took daily vitamin E supplements had fewer common colds and a 20 percent lower risk of acquiring a cold. Vitamin E also helped protect against other upper respiratory infections.
Beta Carotene: Beta carotene protects your body from oxidative stress that can suppress your immune system. Your body also converts beta carotene, a carotenoid, into vitamin A, which regulates the immune system to help fight infections.
Research shows people with low levels of vitamin D have an increased risk for cold and flu — in fact, they are 40 percent more likely to get a respiratory infection than those who have higher levels of vitamin D. Scientists also have found vitamin D is critical to activating our immune defenses. The killer cells of the immune system called T cells rely on vitamin D to kick them into gear and transform themselves from harmless cells into killer cells to attack foreign invaders. In addition, researchers found that daily supplements of vitamin D reduced seasonal flu by more than 40 percent.
Probiotics go beyond helping with digestion. These “good bacteria ” are vital to proper development of the immune system and also stimulate the immune system to help your body protect itself from colds and flu. Probiotics increase the percentage of different types of immune cells. More than 70 percent of immune cells that produce illness-fighting antibodies live in your digestive tract lining. So caring for these immune cells with probiotics may help you better battle winter’s colds and flu.
In a Swedish study, a group of employees given a probiotic missed less work due to respiratory or gastrointestinal illness than did employees who didn’t receive the probiotic. Another study showed people taking a probiotic plus vitamins and minerals daily for three months had reduced frequency, duration and severity of symptoms of colds.
To optimize your intake of antioxidants and vitamin D, turn to Reliv’s essential nutrition products, Reliv Classic® and Reliv Now®. Probiotics can be found in Reliv’s ReversAge® and SoySentials® nutritional formulas.
Give Your Immune System the Gift of Good Nutrition
‘Tis the season for colds and flu. With all the family gatherings and indoor activities, viruses have more opportunities to be passed around. Taking care of yourself can make the difference between enjoying the festivities or simply enduring them.
A strong immune system is the key. Yet your immune system can get tired from overworking to make up for poor health habits and lack of good nutrition. As a result, immune cells can lose some of their protective effects.
Even marginal nutrient (and micronutrient) deficiencies can weaken your immune system. You may not have obvious symptoms when you’re deficient, but a deficiency can affect your body’s ability to ward off disease and infections.
Start this cold and flu season off strong. Research shows physical activity can protect against colds. One study found people who exercised five or more days per week were about half as likely to get a cold as those who exercised less.
Other lifestyle factors are essential to staying healthy this winter too. Get enough sleep. Enrich your diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber. Seek comfort in immune boosters like mushrooms, garlic and warm chicken soup — which scientists have proven really does work against cold and flu.
Then ramp up your protection even more with Reliv. Our products offer balanced nutrition with antioxidants and other nutrients to support your immune system so you can stay healthier this winter.
Because the gift of good health is the best gift of all.
To Your Health,
Dr. Carl W. Hastings, Reliv Vice Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer