Tag Archives: Immune Functions

25 Unbeatable Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against diseases. Its functions range from fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses to destroying potentially cancerous cells. However, our immune systems are under attack in our daily lives from a variety of sources such as free radicals in the body, bacteria, UV radiation, environmental pollutants, and stress. It’s critical not only to ensure your immune system is always healthy but to maximize its natural defense function. Luckily, there are actions we can take to achieve this goal. This post shows you how.

1.  Eat a healthy diet. Mindfully include immune-boosting foods to everyday meals.
2.  Exercise and be physically active, from all-body workouts, running, walking, and dancing to gardening. The key is to keep moving.
3.  Cultivate a new hobby that’s physically demanding, makes your heart beat faster, and your blood circulate better. As a result, you’ll become more fit.
4.  Practice quietness. A quiet mind may promote inner peace and relaxation.
5.  Take a hot bath or shower. Soaking in a warm bath is another way of relaxation.
6.  Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can impair immune system function.
7.  Reduce stress. Everybody gets stress from different areas of life. There can be a long list of stress management tips, but not all work for everyone. Have fun discovering and developing whatever works for you.
8.  Be kind. According to a good friend of mine who is an experienced oncologist, my dad’s prolonged life was certainly attributed to his extraordinary kindness, which made this doctor want to learn more about my dad’s kindness.
9.  Appreciate the “little things” in life and always maintain a positive and grateful attitude. Research found that individuals who have a negative frame of mind have difficulty properly recruiting their immune response and thereby pose a higher risk for illness compared with those with a positive attitude.
10.  Get outdoors. Whether you walk, ski, bike or hike, the combination of enjoying the beauty of nature and a dose of exercise boosts the immune system.
11.  Maintain a clutter-free home and workplace, because clutter is a stress-trigger. Clear those mental clutters, too.
12.  Laugh and smile often. Laughter boosts your immune system at no cost. The more folks laugh, the less depression they experience. If you have any difficulty laughing, seek “Laughter Yoga”, by checking out a local group that practices it.
13.  Have a sense of humor. Yes, some people have more of a funny bone than others. Yet, many people just don’t foster their funny side, a dimension that almost everyone possesses in some ways.
14.  Practice deep breathing and stay calm. Count 1,2, 3… before any anger takes over.
15.  Nurture your emotional well-being and be happy. If you don’t promote emotional health, your physical body will pay the price. Emotions are intimately involved in the initiation and progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and HIV.
16.  Take time off, and take breaks during the day.
17.  Eat a healthy breakfast, not just any breakfast. Skipping breakfast is even worse.
18.  Take whatever it takes to maintain a healthy weight. Remember, it could be a fun marathon, rather than an overnight remedy.
19.  Stop eating sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system; even a teaspoon of sugar can reduce the activity of your body’s natural killer cells for hours. There are many wonderful foods that help boost your immune function, explore them and replace sugar.
20.  Eat more soups, especially chicken soup.
21.  Drink a lot of water. If possible, filter your drinking/cooking water.
22.  Drink more tea, especially green tea.
23.  Get plenty of fresh air; in particular, keep your indoor air clean and fresh.
24.  Deal with any health concern even a pain or an unusual spot as soon as possible. Fix any small problem for the optimal function of the big machine – your body.
25.  Develop good relationships around you. A strong family bond, a happy marriage, and good friendships can help you during good and tough times.

Bonus: Take multivitamin and mineral supplements to ensure an adequate supply of the essential nutrients that are needed by your body yet lacking from your diet. However, make sure you take a quality-controlled supplement rather than “just another supplement” or “cheap supplement” (see the tips on our website).

Our immune system is effective most of the time. Following the above tips will remarkably boost your immune system and promote your happiness.

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Photo credit: By thephotographymuse

Garlic—Its Healing and Preventative Properties and How to Reap Maximal Benefits for Your Immunity

Garlic (allium sativum) is a spice, a medicinal herb, one which is becoming popular as a natural product against health problems such as cardiovascular disorders, immune dysfunctions, and cancer. In particular, both epidemiological and laboratory findings have demonstrated that garlic consumption reduces cancer incidences of the stomach, colon, breast and cervix.

What is the science behind the wonders and mystery of garlic’s properties? Here I sum up how it may boost the immune system and lower cancer risks.

1. Anti-microbial: Garlic protects effectively against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, without damaging your normal cells. This natural antibiotic, unlike synthetic ones, has an affect on a broad spectrum of microorganisms with little or no resistance from the body. So it can work as your long-lasting agent for preventing and fighting infections.

2. Anti-inflammatory: Garlic acts as an antioxidant, inhibiting the secretion of inflammatory mediators/factors, reducing the migration of neutrophils, antagonizing the oxidation by free radicals, and stimulating immune response.

3. Anti-carcinogenic: Its anticancer properties are rather complex, and have been proposed to function through a number mechanisms that include scavenging of free radicals, increasing availability of substance(s) and enzymes that detoxify genetic damaging chemicals, assisting with DNA repair, and inhibiting tumor cell proliferation.

Furthermore, research suggests the anticancer effect of Allicin, a major component of garlic, is associated with its immune stimulatory properties. It’s of interest that garlic can be useful as a natural remedy against immune suppression. Apparently, suppression of immune response is linked with increased risk of cancer or other malignancies.

The next question is how you can turn scientific knowledge into a practical aide for your own health. Incorporating garlic into your diet requires a few guidelines to gain most of benefits from it. Things to consider are:

The amount—How much is enough? How many cloves a day?
Although accumulated evidence supports the health benefits of garlic, additional studies are needed to determine the quantity required by humans to minimize cancer risk. The current suggestion is to eat a minimum of two medium-sized cloves daily, based on a recent study that used garlic extract concentration equivalent to an adult’s intake. This amount can be increased to five cloves, again based on consumption of Asian adults.

Preparation—Should it be cooked or not?
The best way to consume garlic is to eat in raw (i.e. in its natural form). However, cooked ones are fine except for microwaving, which destroys much of the effective components. Some scientists claim that lightly cooked, crushed garlic provides similar health benefits found in raw garlic.

Crushed or not crushed?
Crushing may be best, since it enables the beneficial components to be released. Crush or chop the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes.

How to reduce garlic’s odor and unpleasant breath?
Personally, I find cooking a dish with garlic and parsley together helps reduce the odor. After a meal, brush your teeth (including tongue) thoroughly. Since this concern is beyond the scope of this post, you may find solutions from other resources such as How to Get Rid of Garlic Smell and Garlic Breath Removal.

Supplements as an alternative—garlic pill or not?
Garlic supplements have some advantages, since eating lots of garlic isn’t always practical and/or socially appealing. The bottom line is—there is no clear evidence whether the pill provides the same benefits as garlic or its extracts, and whether the effective compounds detected in garlic remain potent after manufacturer’s processing. Also, depending on your health needs, you may wish to consult with your physician.

After all, maintaining immune stimulation can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. So, enjoy your daily dose of garlic!

What’s your take on garlic? Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

Photo credits: by nkzs ; by vieux bandit

Make A Seasonal Dish Your Year-round Cancer Preventive Antioxidant

Unlike American folks, who cook sweet potatoes as a Thanksgiving side dish, Asian people use the vegetable as a staple. Today we will talk about how you can take advantage of its nutritional value for cancer prevention benefits.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which can inhibit abnormal differentiation of epithelial cells that make up the skin covering the whole surface of the body–the frontline defense against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Beta-carotene, a so-called cancer-preventative antioxidant, can eliminate carcinogenic free radicals, block binding of carcinogens with the nuclear proteins, and thus prevent cancer.

Beta-carotene is crucial to the production of vitamin A. Your body requires this vitamin, creating it from foods containing beta-carotene. Also, vitamin A is essential for eye health, and sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A. In addition, sweet potatoes are a good source of copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and iron. When you obtain well-balanced nutrients, you are unlikely to suffer from nutrition deficiency, and so boost the capability of your immune system.

Eating more sweet potatoes is particularly important for the following groups of people:

1. Vegetarians or those who do not consume red meat. Without animal sources such as beef, liver, or butter, these folks must obtain vitamin A from plants that contain carotenoids.

2. Cigarette lovers and “second hand smokers” with no choice. Because smoking releases trillions of free radicals that cause cell damage, these individuals need to have strong carotenoid and antioxidant defenses. Carotenoids are simply red and yellow pigments in plants and animals. In addition to providing colors, they also act as antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, keep them from damaging cells, and protect the network of other antioxidants.

Two bonuses from sweet potatoes:
1. Fiber-richness, which effectively stimulates intestinal movements, reduces cancer-causing toxin retention, thereby preventing colon cancer – good for those with constipation.
2. Natural sweetness, which makes the sweet potato a dessert without artificial sugar. But those diagnosed with diabetes should be aware of the possibility of increased blood sugar levels.

Can you see sweet potatoes as an important food for overall health and immune benefits?

Photo credit: by NatalieMaynor

Sleep Disordes, Immune Suppression, Cancer Risk

When an old saying tells you should “sleep like a baby” or “sleep like a log”, modern science is backing it up, especially when insufficient sleep can suppress your immune system. The human immune system plays an important role in protecting the body against the development of cancer. The cells of the immune system are our defenders, constantly destroying and eliminating any cell in the body that initiates or undergoes a malignant change. When this natural defense mechanism is weakened, as malignant cells increase and then overpower the immune system, cancerous growth takes place.

View from the real world:
I’m sure everyone can relate to what inadequate sleep can cost in our daily lives. Sleep deprivation and/or disorders are linked to an array of health issues from fatigue, lacking mental alertness, and depression to more serious problems such as heart failure, hypertension and diabetes. Insomnia certainly contributes to road or workplace accidents. Of significance, sleep disorders are commonly associated with chronic inflammatory diseases, and can lead to immune suppression. Some studies suggest that shortened/reduced nightly sleep is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer development.

View at the cellular level:
Sleep is a key factor for supporting a functional body defense system. During deep sleep, our bodies work to strengthen our immune system by producing and releasing potent immune-enhancing substances, such as cytokines. In contrast, there are cancer-stimulatory cytokines, which may be switched to dominance when sleep is deprived. It seems that cytokines are a group of critical players in the sleep-immune interaction.

When sleep is deprived, the immune T-cells go down and inflammatory cytokines go up, as shown by many studies. This alone may post a potential risk for a suppressed body defense. When your immune system is weak and not functioning well, germs or pathogens can easily penetrate the body and commit destruction to the cells, thereby you are susceptible to colds, flu, and even more serious diseases including cancer. In addition, sleep deprivation may lead to a higher level of C-reactive protein – an inflammation marker. Inflammation plays a role in heart disease, atherosclerosis and cancer.

How to get a good night’s sleep:
We all have had experience how it feels after a good night’s sleep. For those who are unable to sleep well, don’t be depressed. Here are a few practical, time-tested tips – in I-b-e-d:

I-b-e-d techniques help you have a restful sleep:

Individualize sleep hours.
Best practice on time.
Eliminate distractions.
Discover the cause (of sleep disorders).

1. Individualize your sleep hours, and get what you really need, whether is 6, 7, or even 9 hrs. Of course, more than 10 hours of sleep doesn’t make you healthier.

2. Best is to maintain so-called “sleep hygiene”, i.e. go to sleep at the same time every day and wake up at the same time.

3. Eliminate any distractions. These range from bedroom TV, computer, too much food before bed to thoughts and emotions. If necessary, discipline yourself: no coffee, no alcohol or smoking 6 hours before bed.

4. Discover the cause of sleep disorder, don’t rely on “sleeping pills”. There are various reasons responsible for sleep disorders: from stress, health complications to side effects from medication – including drug use or abuse, and drug withdrawal as well. Consult your physician, explore it and receive effective treatments.

How did your sleep impact your health? What’s your practice to get enough sleep?

Photo credit: by sean_mcgee

What’s in a Cup of Tea? Catechins for Helping Immune Functions and Weight Management

Do you drink tea? What is your favorite tea? How often do you drink it? Let’s have a little, “Tea Talk”. After water, tea is the most popular drink in the world. In addition to its great variety of tastes, drinking tea has been associated with many health benefits including prevention of heart disease and cancer.

So, what is the key ingredient for tea’s benefits?
Catechins — a potent and effective form of polyphenol antioxidants. Green tea is chemically characterized by its abundance in catechins. According to research, a typical cup of brewed green tea contains, by dry weight, 30–40% catechins, while equal amount of Oolong tea contains roughly 16% and black tea 3–10% catechins.

What is the science behind tea’s cancer protective effect?
Cancer protective benefits of tea catechins have been attributed to the following areas:
1. Antioxidant properties, which positively impact on the ability of the body’s cells to handle oxidative stress.
2. Enhancement on immune functions through its nutrients’ absorption and anti-microbial effect. Tea catechins can inhibit pathogen growth and modulate immune cells and inflammation markers.
3. Promotion of weight management through its effects on metabolism and metabolic enzymes. While increasing your metabolism, tea catechins also intensify fat oxidation and themogenesis, helping burn body fat naturally.
4. Protection against digestive and respiratory infections.
5. Inhibition on cancer cell growth, which is related to the diminished tumor growth and metastases observed from scientific studies.

In Bushman’s literature review (1998) on green tea and human cancer, which examined a total of 31 human studies and four reviews, the majority of these studies indicate that tea consumption is associated with reduced risks for cancers of the colon, urinary bladder, stomach, esophagus, pancreas and lung. New findings also showed that high consumption of green tea was closely associated with decreased numbers of lymph node metastases among pre-menopausal Stage I and II breast cancer patients.

Any substitute of green tea?
Sure. Tegreen 97, produced by Pharmanex, provides a highly concentrated, proprietary extract of green tea catechins. Each Tegreen 97 capsule contains the catechins equivalent of seven cups of green tea without the caffeine. With other polyphenol antioxidants as its constituents, Tegreen 97 is one of the most potent antioxidant products on the market, providing your body with maximum protection for critical cell structures such as DNA. Interestingly, studies from Pharmanex also showed that Tegreen 97 can have a significant beneficial effect in managing serious health conditions such as weight gain and need for blood sugar control.

It is recommended that consumers select a tea extract that is decaffeinated and standardized for total polyphenol contents and/or catechin concentrations. When shopping the tea market, please be aware of all of this. Also, Pharmanex Tegreen 97 meets all the criteria.

Photo credit: by Kanko

Protein and Immune System

The backbone of your immune system is made from protein; without adequate protein your immune system can’t survive, and is less able to stay and fight cancer. It’s critical to include healthy protein such as fish, poultry and beans in your daily diet, because they provide plenty of protein yet without much saturated fat. Here I emphasize a few foods high in immune boosting protein.

Sure, a diet high in red meat is not good for your health. This doesn’t mean you should ban beef. Beef is rich in immune boosting mineral zinc, in addition to protein. Zinc in your diet is very important for the development of white blood cells, the heroic immune system cells that recognize and destroy invading bacteria, viruses, and other harmful foreign bodies. Zinc deficiency weakens your immune system; even mild zinc deficiency can increase your risk of infection. Since vegetarians and those who avoid red meat (beef and pork) let pass this major source of zinc, these folks should make sure to consume zinc-rich oysters, fortified cereals, poultry, yogurt or milk.

Fish and shellfish
Research showed that of all fats, omega-3s — found in fish such as salmon — created the highest blood levels of flu-fighting T cells and interferon-gamma cytokines. Cytokines are various protein molecules secreted by cells of the immune system that regulate the immune functions.

Shellfish like oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams contain plentiful of selenium. Getting adequate selenium can increase immune cell production of cytokines. Cytokines help clear flu viruses out of your body.

The bottom line:
Dietary deficiencies in protein and key micro-nutrients have long been associated with immune dysfunction.

Photo Credits: by Art By Steve Johnson and  TheBusyBrain

The Immune Boosting Properties of Yogurt

Yogurt_213406_7960Go into any restaurant or watch any commercial for a kitchen cleaning product, and enemy number one will be bacteria. From fear of ingesting these microscopic critters, we want them as far from our food as humanly possible. But did you know all bacteria are not bad? In fact, strains found in yogurt can actually help you by boosting your immune system. On top of that, yogurt’s non-bacteria components can also assist the immune system. Here’s a look at both.

Bacteria components:

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are commonly used in yogurt production. In the finished product, these bacteria must be alive and in substantial amounts. Sounds scary? Not really when they strengthen your immune system.

LAB in yogurt are healthy bacteria, which keep the gastrointestinal tract free of disease-causing germs. In particular, they can increase body metabolism, promote digestive functioning, and facilitate bowl movements. Lactic acid bacteria can decrease pH in the colon lumen and change the intestinal micro-ecological environment. Increased amounts of LAB in the intestines can suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria, thereby contributing to reduction in infection.

Yogurt’s bacterial components play an important role in the immunostimulatory effects of yogurt. Frequent consumption of yogurt can power up the body’s immune response, which then stimulates white blood cells such as lymphocytes and macrophage, resulting in the events like destroying cancerous growth and/or ingesting cancer cells.

Non-bacteria components:

Yogurt is a nutrient-rich food containing high-quality protein, vitamins (especially folic acid), and trace elements, all of which are necessary for maintaining optimal immune response. Although milk and yogurt have similar vitamin and mineral compositions, calcium is more bioavailable from yogurt than from milk. Calcium can strengthen the immune system too.

The association with cancer prevention:

It’s a complex subject. In general, yogurt’s beneficial bacteria, any compounds produced by the friendly bacteria found in active yogurt cultures, and other nutrients in yogurt may positively influence the immune system, making it harder for cancer cells to survive.

Just make sure to consume the yogurt high in protein but low in fat, sugar and calories.

Photo credit: by LotusHead

20 Don’ts to Strengthen Immune System and Lower Cancer Risks

While eating a balanced diet is essential, healthy eating habits are equally important for the immune system. Why? Because poor eating manners and/or habits cause poor digestion, which can result in poor nutrition by affecting nutrient breakdown, absorption and metabolism, and leave toxins accumulated in the body, thereby leading to an over-stressed immune system.

So, what are the habits harmful to your immune system? Follow this list to get rid of them.

1. Don’t eat too much for each meal. Control your food intake to 70-80% full, and fill the rest with 2-3 snacks throughout the day. .
2. Don’t over-eat at once. The worst is to bring an empty stomach to a party and eat a huge meal. Over-eating is one of the triggers for illnesses.
3. Don’t skip meal(s) for whatever purposes, esp. don’t skip your breakfast. Eating no food cannot make you slim.
4. Don’t intake too much sugar, e.g. by eating sugar-rich deserts.
5. Don’t eat too much salty food. High sodium contributes to cardiovascular diseases.
6. Don’t eat too much food high in fat, especially saturated and trans fats.
7. Don’t eat very hot food. Oriental folks are accustomed to having warm dishes, but some of them tend to eat a dish when it’s still quite hot. Hot food hurts the esophagus.
8. Don’t eat very spicy food. It hurts the esophagus and stomach, resulting in poor digestion—weakening the immune system
9. Don’t eat a meat-oriented diet, esp. red meat.
10. Don’t eat too many animal organs. For instance, the liver is an abundant source for protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as the largest organ for detoxification. Because toxins are mostly processed and excreted through the liver, many toxins are also hidden there.
11. Don’t eat processed foods as your daily diet. Processed foods possibly contain known carcinogens, and lack the vital nutrients necessary to support immune functions.
12. Don’t dislike food. Eat a diversity of foods to get those nutrients that are not contained in one food, and to avoid nutrient imbalance. If you really “hate” a particular one, always substitute it with another from the same family with similar nutrients.
13. Don’t eat too many “Fast Foods”.
14. Don’t eat too fast. Enjoy your meal!
15. Don’t eat too much before going to bed. It’s amazing how many people eat a big dinner before bed time.
16. Don’t eat or take something “blindly”, in other words, don’t go with the “marketing flow”. For example, Ginseng’s effects on the body could be from good to excellent, but is not good for everyone.
17. Don’t go without water. Drink at least 6-8 glasses a day.
18. Don’t drink alcohol excessively. Excessive alcohol damages various organs and immune functions.
19. Don’t drink too many soft drinks or artificial juices.
20. Don’t forget to maintain food hygiene. Dirt on fruits/veggies, grease or traces of food in the microwave, and garbage provide nutrition to bacteria, and invite some illnesses. Poor food hygiene has a lot of to do with laziness.

In short, healthy eating habits promote a strong immune system and minimize your risks for illnesses including cancer. Healthy eating takes discipline too.

Do you have another unhealthy eating habit to add to this list?