By MISSY CORRIGAN
Health and fitness contributor
The immune system is made up of a variety of cells and proteins that protect the body against viruses and bacteria. As we age, it is normal that the effectiveness of the immune system is reduced, increasing the incidence of age-related illnesses. Having a weak immune system, at any age, can cause illness and infections to occur more frequently. Scientists have yet to find one surefire way to boost the immune system, yet they state the most effective way is to start with a healthy lifestyle.
Individuals with weak immune systems often get skin infections, pneumonia or bronchitis. Some will often have other symptoms like autoimmune disorders, digestive issues or blood disorders. The following healthy living habits can help protect the immune system: Don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, exercise, practice good hygiene habits, get plenty of sleep, and reduce exposure to stress.
Research supports that there is a link between nutrition and immunity, especially in the elderly. It is reported that older individuals tend to eat less or have less variety in their diet, which can make it difficult for them to maintain a healthy immune system. Even younger individuals who are malnourished or lack a variety of whole foods in their diet can be at risk for a weaker immune system.
To boost your immune system, nutritionists recommend getting a variety of foods that contain certain vitamins and minerals. Vitamins C and E are both powerful antioxidants that support a healthy immune system. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, green peppers and broccoli, while cashews, peanut butter and sunflower seeds are good sources of Vitamin E.
Zinc is involved in the production of immune system cells and is found in baked beans, cashews and chickpeas. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation to support a healthy immune system. Tuna, salmon, flaxseed and walnuts are good sources of these fatty acids. Lastly, Vitamin A, which is found in sweet potatoes, papaya, carrots and collard greens, assists in the regulation of the immune system.
Healthy immune systems require care and nourishment. In a time when many are focused on counting calories or macronutrients, be sure to pay attention to your vitamin and mineral intakes so you aren’t getting too much of one and not enough of another.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, exercise has also been published as a benefit for the immune system. The increased circulation during exercise can help the cells move through the body more efficiently, delivering nutrients more effectively, and it also stimulates the digestive system, helping to rid the body of toxins and waste.
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at email@example.com or (803) 773-1404.