Is a Deficiency of This Common Mineral Your Immunity ‘Blind Spot’?



These days, it’s becoming more obvious that having a properly functioning immune system is critical for your health and longevity. So many people are searching for the best ways to boost their immune system.

But it’s not so easy to always keep things running smoothly when it comes to immunity.

Your body’s immune cells must maintain constant vigilance, remaining on guard every second of the day for signs of invasion or danger.

Just as you must be able to tell the difference between normal situations and hazardous ones in everyday life, your immune system has a similar job, but on a microscopic scale.

Specialized immune cells roam throughout your body, trying to distinguish harmful molecules (such as pathogens) from benign molecules (such as food).

This article will discuss how the aging process and other factors can put your immune health at risk. You’ll see how a deficiency of a common but often neglected nutrient could turn out to be your “blind spot” when it comes to having a health immune system.

Fortunately, you’ll discover a simple way to help boost your immune system naturally and defend against age-related immune decline.


Fighting Back Against the Immune Decline of Aging

The aging process itself causes a reduction in numbers of specific immune cells assigned to identify and destroy abnormal invaders, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms.

The bad news is that this decrease in immune cells leaves older adults more at risk for health concerns. It can even render vaccinations less effective for seniors.

Scientists have an impressive sounding term for this age-related decline in immune function. They call it “immunosenescence.”

The reasons behind this process of immunosenescence are quite complex and not fully understood. However, evidence suggests that several key immune functions become reduced or altered with increasing age.

1. Your bone marrow produces fewer and more poorly functioning stem cells that would otherwise develop into immune-enhancing cells.

Your body’s regenerative power is determined by the ability of stem cells to replace damage or worn-out cells. As they evolved, mammals including humans have lost much of the regenerative power found in lower organisms. Aging adds to this diminished ability to produce and propagate adult immune cells.

2. The thymus gland shrinks in size. As a specialized organ of the immune system, the thymus sits behind your breastbone and between your lungs. By about age 75, the thymus has been more or less replaced by fatty tissue. Earlier in life, this gland is where thymus cell lymphocytes (known as T helper cells) mature.

These T cells, once mature, migrate to the lymph nodes, where they function as part of the immune system to fight off disease. What this means is that aging further reduces your supply of immune T cells.

3. With advancing age, worn out immune cells begin to accumulate, leading to an increase in the low grade, chronic inflammation associated with many health concerns.

Known as “inflamm-aging”, this smoldering fire of chronic inflammation is a hallmark of the aging process itself. The process is characterized by a build-up of pro-inflammatory chemicals attracted by damaged immune cells.

4. You also have fewer natural killer type immune cells to defend your health.

These cells, known as NK cells, are renowned for their ability to recognize and eliminate virally infected cells. Age-related changes in NK cell function lead to poorer adaptive immune function in older adults.

This may sound very technical, but it leads to something quite interesting…

Researchers have found remarkable similarities between immunosenescence and the dietary deficiency of a specific nutrient. These similarities are so striking, scientists now believe it’s not merely a coincidence.

What is this important nutrient?

Well, it might surprise you to know that it’s the humble mineral called zinc.


Why Zinc is the Cornerstone of a Healthy Immune System

The mineral zinc is known as a trace element. Trace elements include minerals such as zinc, copper, iron, chromium, and others present in living tissues and required only in minute amounts for normal growth.

As the tenth most common element in the human body, zinc is crucial to the proper functioning of over 300 enzymes and hormones. In fact, zinc is a key component of one of the body’s most important antioxidant enzyme systems, linked to human longevity.

Zinc plays an important role in tissue repair and growth, developing strong bones and healthy skin, and protecting against cellular DNA mutation.   

But for purposes of this article, zinc is also crucial for the support of healthy immune system function and the ability to recover from infection.

As reported in the medical journal Immunity and Ageing, zinc deficiency follows along with what you’ve already learned.

  • It reduces the activity of the thymus gland and its hormones.
  • It reduces the number of T helper cells and NK cells.
  • It reduces antibody production.
  • It impairs functions of innate immune cells.
  • It reduces the ability of the body to regulate inflammation.
  • And it decreases the response to vaccination.

What’s more, even marginal zinc deprivation can diminish immune function.

So it’s no wonder that zinc deficiency can lead to significantly impaired immune function and many health concerns that result from an immune system gone haywire.


Who is at Risk for Zinc Deficiency?

You may have guessed by now that older adults are particularly at risk for zinc inadequacy.

It’s not your fault if you didn’t know this, as it is not well-popularized.

Around 2 billion people worldwide suffer from zinc deficiency.

When it comes to the U.S., the government’s National Health and Nutrition examination Survey (NHANES III study)  of 29,103 people revealed that 35-45% of adults 60 and over had zinc intakes below the estimated average daily requirement.

This is attributed to poor appetite, medication interactions, difficulties in chewing, metabolism changes, financial issues, and other factors associated with aging.

However, zinc inadequacy is not limited to the older population.

Here are some other groups vulnerable to zinc deficiency (which sometimes overlap and compound age-related issues):

  • People who suffer from certain diseases that impair absorption and speed up zinc losses

Digestive and gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, even chronic diarrhea.

Those with liver, kidney, or sickle cell disease.

Individuals with diabetes or other chronic illnesses.

  • People who eat a vegetarian diet

Vegetarians get less dietary zinc because they do not eat meat, which is high in bioavailable zinc. Plus, they typically consume more whole grains and legumes, which contain phytates. Phytates — substances found in cereals, breads, beans, and other foods — bind zinc and inhibit its absorption.

  • Alcoholics often have low zinc status

Alcohol consumption decreases absorption of zinc and increases excretion of zinc in the urine. Additionally, alcoholics often consume less zinc in their diets.


Adding Zinc to Your Diet — Foods to Support Immune System Health

Once you know how important zinc is, you may wonder what foods have zinc in them? Luckily, a wide variety of foods contain zinc, which makes eating them one

of the best ways to boost immune system health naturally. Here are some good sources:

  • Shellfish — oysters, crab, and lobsters
  • Red meat and poultry
  • Baked beans and kidney beans
  • Pumpkin seeds, cashews, and almonds
  • Eggs and hard cheeses


Should You Buy and Supplement With Zinc as a Way to Boost Immune System Health Naturally?

As you’ve seen, maintaining adequate zinc levels is important for aging adults and those with chronic health issues.

And here’s something else that’s important to know…

While you can eat more of the foods listed above, your body has no way to store zinc. This means you need a constant intake of zinc on a daily basis to maintain healthy levels.

And of all the zinc contained in the body, only about 10% of it is readily available to help fight off infection.

Because of this, many health experts recommend buying zinc supplements for immune support and general health and well-being.

One of zinc’s popular uses in recent years is its ability to reduce the severity and duration of colds.

The common cold is actually caused by any of more than 200 viruses that target the human respiratory tract. The beauty of zinc is that it interferes with the ability of a virus to attach to the surface of cells in the respiratory tract and reproduce.

However, merely using zinc as a temporary intervention does not address the issue of age-related zinc insufficiency. That’s why it’s such a smart idea to buy a high-quality supplement with zinc and add it to your daily health regimen, both for immune support and overall well-being.


Bonus Benefits of Zinc

In addition to the immune-boosting effects of zinc, researchers are finding other  important benefits of this trace mineral:

  • Reduces the risk of obesity, blood sugar concerns, and autoimmune issues
  • May improve mental performance and decrease mood-related concerns
  • Helps lower the risk of age-related eye disorders
  • Supports your body’s ability to recognize and remove abnormal or mutated cells
  • Aids in wound healing

Zinc is only one of many nutrients that can help boost immunity, especially for older adults. We will cover these vitamins, herbs, and natural nutrients in future articles.

And of course, as with all substances, some caution must be observed. Zinc can interfere with certain medications. In addition, long-term supplementation at high doses can result in a copper deficiency. So it’s always good to check with your physician for any safety precautions.



You’ve seen now that immune function diminishes significantly during the aging process — and that zinc deficiency works in concert with this immune suppression. That’s why supplementing your diet with zinc represents a first line of defense against pathogens. Plus, it helps boost the immune system naturally — in addition to its many other health benefits.


Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice and any changes should be done in consultation with your health care provider.


Sources for This Article Include:

Aw, Silva, et al. Immunology. 2007 Apr; 120(4)435-446. Immunosenescence: Emerging Challenges for an Ageing Population.

Childs, Calder, et al. Nutrients. Diet and Immune Function. 2019 Aug;11(8) 1933.

National Institutes of Health. Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

Briefel, Bialostosky, et al. The Journal of Nutrition. Zinc Intake of the U.S. Population: Findings From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Study; Vol 130, Issue 5, May 2000.

Haase & Rink. Immunity & Ageing. The Immune System and the Impact of Zinc During Aging. 6, Article number: 9 (2009).

Endocrineweb. An Overview of the Thymus.

Ho, Wagner, et al. EMBO Reports. Stem Cells and Ageing. 2005 Jul;6(suppl 1): S35-S38.

Pinti, Appay, et al. European Journal of Immunology. Aging of the Immune System — Focus on Inflammation and Vaccination. 2016 Oct; 48(10) 2286-2301.

Hazeldine J, Lord JM. Ageing Res Rev. The impact of ageing on natural killer cell function and potential consequences for health in older adults.  2013;12(4):1069-1078.

Committee on Diet and Health, National Research Council. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk

Science News Daily. Zinc helps against infection by tapping brakes in immune response. 2013.

The Dangers of COVID-19: What You Need to Know

The novel coronavirus — COVID-19 — continues to multiply throughout the world. It was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019 after an unusual outbreak of pneumonia cases was noted. The disease was linked to a Chinese food market.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic in March of 2020. As of early September 2020, there have been:

  • 25.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 852,000 deaths globally
  • 5.9 million confirmed cases and 182,585 deaths in the United States

In the U.S., the spread of this pandemic has continued to keep many people home and businesses shuttered. Some businesses have closed permanently, with the economy devastated. Many people are afraid of becoming ill, particularly the older population and those with chronic health conditions.

The virus causing COVID-19 is not the deadliest we have known. Ebola kills about 50% of people it infects. The coronaviruses causing  SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) lead to in death in approximately 10% of infections.

So what makes COVID-19 so dangerous? This article will offer some insight on the virus and explain some of the reasons why we need to vigorously defend ourselves against infection as we wait for a vaccine:


COVID-19 is the Worst Pandemic in a Century — And Deadlier Than the Flu

Although researchers won’t be certain until testing becomes more widespread, COVID-19 is estimated to be about 10 times deadlier than seasonal influenza, which causes death in about 0.1% of those infected.

Scientists are still unable to determine the actual percentage of deaths resulting from COVID-19. That’s because there are many mild cases and deaths which have gone unreported and testing has been lagging in many areas.

One piece of good news is  that COVID-19 isn’t the most contagious virus we face.

While this virus is deadly, health experts consider it to be contagious at about the same levels as seasonal flu, with each person infecting another two or three.

That’s in stark contrast to measles, where each person may infect 18 others. In chicken pox, each person can affect a dozen more.  But here’s where the good news ends: both measles and chicken pox, while highly contagious, are currently controllable by vaccination.


Nobody is Immune From COVID-19

COVID-19 is called a “novel” coronavirus.

That means it’s a new coronavirus, one not previously identified. While there are other types of coronaviruses commonly circulating among people and causing mild illnesses such as the common cold, the virus causing COVID-19 is not the same.

That means nobody has natural immunity to it.


COVID-19 Spreads Easily

Since COVID-19 spreads easily from person to person as it infects the upper respiratory system, it is considered quite dangerous to humans. And as of yet, no vaccine exists.

Since the virus is found in the upper airway, mouth, and nose, it can spread easily by coughing, sneezing, and likely even by loud talking or singing.

And unfortunately, infected people can unknowingly spread the virus for days before they start experiencing symptoms themselves. Some may not ever experience any symptoms, yet have the ability to transmit the virus to others.

Neither MERS nor SARS spread as easily or widely as COVID-19.


Increased Risk by Age, Sex, and Presence of Chronic Health Conditions

With COVID-19, mortality increases with age. The highest fatality rates are seen in those people over 65.

In addition to age, a number of other chronic conditions increase the risk of severe infection:

  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Underlying lung, heart, or kidney disease
  • Organ transplant recipients
  • Sickle cell disease

Gender presents another risk factor for COVID-19. Men are observed to be dying at higher rates than women, although researchers aren’t clear on the reasons for this.


About 5% of Patients With COVID-19 Become Critically Ill

According to researchers, this virus acts like no other pathogen previously seen.

When the virus finds a welcome home in the lining of the nose, it finds cells rich in a cell receptor called ACE2, which under normal conditions helps regulate blood pressure. But scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute have found that the COVID virus uses this receptor to enter cells, hijack the cell’s own machinery, and use it to reproduce and invade new cells.

In the initial phase of illness, victims of the virus may develop dry cough, fever, sore throat, loss of taste and smell, body aches, and headaches.

If the immune system fails to defeat the virus during the early stage, it travels more deeply into the lungs. The most distant branches of the lung, tiny air sacs called alveoli, are lined by cells rich in these ACE2 receptors. When the immune system cannot meet the challenge, patients can develop pneumonia, with coughing, fever, and shallow, and rapid breathing.

Some patients with pneumonia recover, but others deteriorate, often rapidly. They may develop the further complication of ARDS, acute respiratory distress syndrome. Blood oxygen levels fall drastically and it becomes even harder to breathe. These patients often end up on ventilators.


COVID-19 Can Cause a Storm of Inflammation

As the body tries to fight the virus, it triggers an inflammatory response. In about 15% of people, this immune system response leads to an overreaction called a “cytokine storm.”

Cytokine production is a normal immune attempt to kill the virus. Normally,  the immune response peaks early, clears the virus, and helps produce antibodies and immune cells specific to the virus. But in some COVID-19 patients, the cytokine response continues too long and too strongly.


Many Organs Can Be Damaged By COVID

Of course, COVID-19 infection can damage the lungs and become fatal solely due to respiratory complications.

However, the virus — or at least the body’s response to it — can damage many other organs in the body.

  • Heart and Blood Vessels. By binding to ACE2 receptors, the virus enters cells,  including those lining blood vessels. Infection can result in blood clots, cardiac inflammation , and even heart attacks.
  • Brain. Some COVID-19 patients suffer from seizures, strokes, confusion, and brain inflammation. Researchers are still trying to determine the underlying reasons for this.
  • Liver. Up to 50% of hospitalized COVID patients have enzyme levels signaling a struggling liver. Experts believe this damage may be the result of drugs given to fight the virus together with an immune system in overdrive.
  • Kidneys. Kidney damage is common in severe COVID cases, making death more likely. While the virus can attack the kidneys directly, kidney failure could be part of systemic complications, such as rapidly dropping blood pressure.
  • Eyes. The inflammatory eye condition known as conjunctivitis is common in very ill COVID patients.
  • Intestines. Emerging data suggests that the virus can infect the lower GI tract, which is rich in ACE2 receptors. About 20% of COVID patients suffer from diarrhea.


COVID-19 and Children

In the U.S. and world-wide, fewer cases of COVID have been reported in children from birth to age 17 years when compared to adults. And as with adults, children infected with the virus may have typical symptoms, few, or no symptoms.

Infected children are less likely to develop severe illness compared to adults. However, once they become ill, they are at risk for serious complications. About 1 in 3 children hospitalized with COVID in the U.S. are admitted to intensive care units, which is the same percentage as adults.

Children with severe COVID-19 can develop complications such as respiratory failure, shock, kidney failure, and clotting or heart issues. They are also at risk for MIS-C, potentially fatal multisystem inflammatory syndrome.


Treatments and Vaccines on the Horizon

Most individuals who become ill with COVID-19 can recover at home by doing the same things you would do if you had the flu — getting adequate rest, staying hydrated, and taking over-the-counter medications to help fever and body aches.

In the meantime, scientists are diligently working to develop effective treatments.

Scientist are looking at convalescent plasma, which is from recovered COVID patients. This form of treatment has been used over a century to treat a variety of illnesses from measles to polio, chickenpox, and SARS.

In this situation, antibody-containing plasma from a recovered patient is given by transfusion to a COVID patient. The donor antibodies could help fight off the illness, possibly shortening its length or reducing its severity. However, to date, the best results for convalescent plasma have been shown only in those who are critically ill.

The steroid drug dexamethasone has shown promise in decreasing the risk of death in seriously ill COVID patients. These are potent anti-inflammatory medications so their use makes sense. As you’ve seen previously, patients can develop an over-reactive inflammatory reaction with COVID.

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug now in the news and the subject of a clinical trial at the University of California at Irvine, appears promising as a treatment for COVID-19.

The use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine (drugs used to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis) has had mixed results at best when used to treat COVID. Some studies suggest no benefit and possibly a higher risk of death due to heart rhythm abnormality. Their use is controversial. Some practitioners have combined them with the antibiotic azithromycin with some anecdotal success, but no hard data.

Research is proceeding at warp speed to develop a protective vaccine against COVID-19. More than 250 vaccine candidates are being pursued around the world, with several dozen already in clinical studies. The first vaccines for COVID may be in production by the end of 2020 or early in 2021.


What You Can Do to Protect Yourself Now
  • It’s important to clean your hands repeatedly and thoroughly with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them well with soap and water. This helps to kill viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain about 6 feet of distance between yourself and others. Why? When anyone sneezes, coughs, or even just speaks, they send small liquid droplets out from their nose or mouth. These droplets may contain virus particles you could breathe in if you are too close.
  • Avoid crowded places. When people gather together in crowds, you’re more likely to come into contact with someone carrying COVID-19. And obviously, it’s harder to maintain physical distance in a crowd.
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. Your hands have touched many surfaces, where they could pick up the virus. Once they are contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus to entry points such as eyes, mouth, or nose. Once the virus enters, it has a good chance of infecting you.
  • Wearing masks is especially important when it is difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Masks can help slow the spread of the virus and keep people who may have the virus from transmitting it to others.
  • Make sure you and your family members (including children) use good hygiene practices. This includes covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of any used tissues quickly and then wash your hands. This can help you protect people around you from COVID-19 as well as other cold or flu viruses.
  • If you have even minor symptoms such as coughing, mild fever, or headache, stay home and self-isolate until you are completely recovered. Have any supplies you need delivered. If you absolutely need to leave your house, wear a face mask to prevent infecting others.
  • If you have significant symptoms of fever, cough, and especially difficulty in breathing, seek medical attention immediately. It’s best to phone first and follow any directives from your local health authority. Calling in advance will help you most effectively locate the right health facility. It will also help prevent spread of the virus to others.
  • Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted sources, such as the CDC, WHO, or your local and national health authorities. They are the best source of advice on what people living in your area should be doing to protect themselves from COVID-19.


Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Any action should be taken only after consulting with your physician.


Sources for This Article Include:

UCI Health. Why is COVID-19 so Dangerous?,Plus%20there%20is%20no%20vaccine.

World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Science. How does coronavirus kill? Clinicians trace a ferocious rampage through the body, from brain to toes. April 2020.

Ragab, Eldin, et al. The COVID-19 Cytokine Storm; What We Know so Far. Front Immunol. 16 June 2020.

Harvard. Treatments for COVID-19.

McKinsey and Company.

Boost Your Immune System Naturally With These Four Simple Vitamins (Good News for Those 50+)

Older adults, in particular, have valid reasons to be concerned about boosting their immune system health. Age-related decline in immunity can only be addressed by taking pro-active measures.

One of those measures is to address basic nutrition for the best immune support. Scientific research has established beyond doubt that nutritional deficiency or inadequacy has the ability to impair immune functions.

This article will discuss the role four common vitamins play in immune health — and the reasons older adults should consider supplementation with these inexpensive natural nutrients.


Vitamin A — The Anti-Inflammation Vitamin That Boosts Immune System Function

You’ve probably heard about Vitamin A in terms of its importance in vision, particularly night vision.

But odds are, you didn’t know that Vitamin A is also called an anti-inflammation vitamin due to its critical role in enhancing the function of your immune system.

Vitamin A performs important functions in both innate and adaptive immunity.

Innate immunity is considered your body’s first line of defense. It involves natural barriers to infection, including the skin and mucosal cells in the eye, respiratory tract, and other systems. Vitamin A helps maintain the structural and functional integrity of these cells.

Mucus-secreting cells don’t sound pleasant, but they do good work. They provide a mechanical barrier against pathogens. For example, mucosal cells in the respiratory tract help trap small infective particles before they can work their way into your lungs and lead to health issues.

Vitamin A is also critical for adaptive immunity. While adaptive immunity takes longer to respond, it is more specific to the pathogen in question and has a more long-lasting response.

Sufficient Vitamin A is necessary for proper function of the T and B lymphocytes involved in adaptive immunity. It helps the body respond with antibodies in response to specific antigens. A Vitamin A deficiency also causes a decrease in both the number and killing activity of natural killer (NK) cells and other cells that defend against pathogens.

While severe deficiency of this vitamin is more common in developing countries, research shows that even a subclinical deficiency of Vitamin A can increase the risk of infection.

At the beginning of this discussion, you learned that Vitamin A is an anti-inflammation vitamin. Inflammation is a necessary part of immune response and is the body’s way of signaling the immune system to heal injured tissue and defend the body from foreign invaders.

Unfortunately, many people suffer from chronically high levels of inflammation because their immune system goes into overdrive and attacks healthy tissue. Vitamin A helps tamp down excessive inflammation. Studies indicate that being deficient in this all-important vitamin may not only cause inflammation, but can also aggravate existing inflammation.

This all makes Vitamin A an excellent nutrient to help support the immune system, particularly as you grow older.


Vitamin C — The Antioxidant Vitamin That Preserves Aging Immune Functions

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that humans are unable to synthesize internally because we lack a certain enzyme.

You probably remember learning about ancient sailors on long sea voyages coming down with the potentially fatal disease called scurvy when they ran out of limes, a citrus fruit that provides Vitamin C. Scurvy causes spontaneous bleeding, anemia, ulcerations, fatigue, and other issues.

While scurvy is no longer common in modern society, a deficiency of Vitamin C is still the 4th leading nutrient deficiency in the U.S. Many people are remain at risk for basic Vitamin C deficiency, including:

  • Older adults who eat a less varied diet or anyone who eats poorly
  • Those facing excessive psychological or physical stress
  • People who smoke or drink alcohol excessively
  • Those in a lower income group who don’t get enough food with high Vitamin C levels
  • Those with medical issues affecting the body’s ability to absorb food, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease

Vitamin C supports the function of both the innate and adaptive immune systems, similar to Vitamin A. As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C stimulates the production and function of white blood cells that defend against pathogens. Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that attacks viruses and bacteria, appear to be particularly stimulated by Vitamin C.

In addition to stimulating immunity, Vitamin C also helps regulate excessive immune activity by interfering with the production of inflammatory chemicals.  This is why Vitamin C deficiency leads to impaired immunity, higher risk of infection, and problems in wound healing.

Emerging evidence suggests Vitamin C supplementation may help preserve immune function and increase resistance to infections as we grow older. Several studies have shown that Vitamin C supplements raise antibody levels.

A large analysis of placebo-controlled clinical trials found that Vitamin C supplementation reduced the duration of colds. In addition, that same analysis found that Vitamin C supplements reduced the incidence of colds by half in people undergoing extreme physical exertion, such as marathon runners.


Vitamin E — Another Antioxidant Vitamin That Improves Resistance to Infection, Particularly in Older Adults

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin present in the membrane of all body cells. Immune cells contain especially high levels of Vitamin E, which help protect them from damage.

Adequate Vitamin E levels are critical for efficient immune function support. In fact, many animal studies have demonstrated that Vitamin E deficiency can trigger suppression of the immune system.

Inadequate levels of Vitamin E are known to impair both humoral and cellular immunity, which comprise the adaptive immune system.

Humoral immunity is known as antibody-mediated immunity. Antibodies bind to pathogens and neutralize their damage by preventing bacterial toxins from entering cells.

Cellular immunity is a type of immune response produced by the direct action of immune cells rather than antibodies. It occurs inside infected cells and is mediated by activated T lymphocytes. Helper T cells release cytokines, microscopic protein molecules that help activated T cells bind to and destroy infected cells.

Clinical evidence indicates Vitamin E supplements can improve resistance to infection, especially in older adults.

In a study of elderly men and women reported in the journal Free Radical Research, supplementation with 200 mg per day of Vitamin E significantly enhanced specific immune parameters. These included the function of immune cells such as neutrophils, T and B lymphocytes, and NK or Natural Killer cells, even bringing their values close to those of younger healthy adults.

Increased Vitamin E intake not only helps restore the decline in T-cell function associated with aging, but also helps regulate inflammation.


Vitamin D — The “Sunshine Vitamin” With Immune Function Support Benefits

Vitamin D, another fat-soluble vitamin, is quite unique. That’s because the human body can create it in the skin when exposed to sunlight. It’s not only a nutrient we eat, but also a hormone we create in our bodies.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is a primary building block of bone. This vitamin is crucial to nervous, muscle, and immune system health. Insufficient Vitamin D has now also been linked to many age-related health  disorders affecting multiple organ systems.

When it comes to immunity, Vitamin D plays a vital role in regulating both innate and adaptive immune responses. By stimulating innate immune responses, Vitamin D has been shown to enhance the elimination of invading bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Many cross-sectional studies have linked lower levels of Vitamin D with increased infections. In particular, epidemiologists have linked Vitamin D deficiency to increased risk for respiratory tract infections.

You can become deficient in this vitamin for a variety of reasons:

  • Older adults don’t make Vitamin D as effectively as younger people
  • Obesity (the body fat of obese people binds with the vitamin and prevents it from getting into the blood)
  • Failure to get enough Vitamin D in the diet
  • An inability to absorb or convert the vitamin due to certain health problems
  • Spending too much time indoors or living in a climate with less sunlight
  • Certain medications interfere with the body’s ability to convert or absorb the vitamin
  • Those with dark skin have a decreased ability to produce Vitamin D from sunlight

You may want to ask your doctor to run a simple blood test that measures your Vitamin D levels. Fortunately, you can get Vitamin D in three ways:

  • Through your skin
  • From diet
  • From supplements

Because too much sun exposure can lead to skin aging and skin cancer, and because it is not found in many foods, people often decide to get Vitamin D from supplements.


Vitamin-Containing Foods Support Immune System Health — But are They Enough?

It’s important to eat plenty of foods containing these all-important vitamins — foods that can help boost the immune system naturally.

For example:

  • The best food sources of Vitamin A include eggs, cod liver oil, dark green leafy vegetables, and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamin C food sources include citrus fruits such as oranges and tangerines, spinach, kale, and broccoli.
  • Foods rich in Vitamin E include seeds, nuts, and spinach.
  • Very food foods in nature contain Vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna and fish liver oils are among the best sources for Vitamin D.

Unfortunately, many people are vulnerable to nutrient deficiency and in need of immune support. Older adults and those with health issues are particularly at risk. That’s why many health experts recommend supplementing with these inexpensive nutrients that are good for immune health.

As confirmed by a 2018 analysis reported in the medical journal Frontiers in Immunology: “Growing evidence suggests that for certain nutrients, increased intake above currently recommended levels may help optimize immune functions including improving defense function and thus resistance to infection.”



In this article, you’ve seen how four common vitamins impact immune health — and how a deficiency in Vitamins A, C, E, and D can diminish immune function with aging. Eating a good diet and supplementing with these inexpensive but critical vitamins is a great step to take to boost the immune system naturally.


Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Any action should be taken only after consulting with your physician.


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Immune health is something most of us take for granted. When your immune system runs smoothly, it’s likely you don’t even notice it.

Yet, every day you are exposed to millions of invaders — viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic pathogens. Due to this relentless assault on your health, your body relies on your immune system protection and good health.

Your immune system is not a discrete part of your body. It’s an entire network of cells, tissues, and organs, all working together to defend against health threats.

Many people ignore their immune health until something negative happens. But you can choose more wisely by becoming pro-active — starting today. You can make some simple lifestyle changes and better choices for optimal immune health before something challenges your health.

To help, in this article you will find 10 strategies to boost your immune health naturally:


#1. Reduce Inflammation for Immune Health and Disease Prevention

Way back in 2004, Time Magazine’s cover featured the “secret killer” — inflammation. Around that time, researchers were discovering a shocking link between chronic inflammation and major killer diseases: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many others.


What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is one of your body’s crucial defense mechanisms. Your immune system uses it to protect you from infection, toxins, damaged cells, injury, and other factors. It helps your body repair damage done to cells and organs.

You’ve experienced inflammation whenever you have a wound or muscle strain. Your body responds with signs such as redness, heat, pain, swelling, and sometimes loss of function.

This is acute inflammation, which is a short-term response to heal you. This is a localized and beneficial process.

Unfortunately, the immune system can go into overdrive. This triggers a type of “smoldering fire” in your body. A chronic, low-level inflammatory state. And of course, this is not beneficial.

This chronically inflamed state can go undetected for years — even decades — before it erupts into some type of full-blown disease. Smoldering inflammation affects your body system-wide rather locally, as with acute inflammation.

This dysfunctional immune-centered process causes the release of a cascade of pro-inflammatory chemicals researchers have now linked to major chronic diseases, even our major causes of death.

Some of these chemicals are cytokines, small proteins released by cells that play a role in cell signaling. Cytokines are considered immunomodulating agents. This means they regulate immune system function. They help cells communicate with each other in immune responses. And they stimulate the movement of immune cells toward the site of inflammation.

It’s important to realize that cytokines can be both pro- and anti-inflammatory, depending on the situation.

Pro-inflammatory cytokines include interleukins (IL), tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and many others. To remain in good health, you need to maintain a balance between your pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Chronic inflammation leads to problems via many different mechanisms, including excessive free radical formation and the damage these free radicals do to cells in the body.


Inflammation and Aging

One theory of aging, called “inflamm-aging,” suggests that the aging process results from a decreased ability to cope with physical and emotional stressors, escalating this pro-inflammatory state.

Along these lines, health experts generally believe that the key to longevity is to reduce this chronic, low-level inflammatory state. At the same time, the body needs to retain the ability to respond in a healthy way with an acute immune response when necessary.

Interestingly enough, people who live to be 100 or more demonstrate genetic markers giving them improved control over the inflammatory process. That’s certainly no coincidence. However, as you’ll see shortly, you can’t rely on genetics to give you an edge when it comes to immune health and a long life.


Inflammation, Chronic Disease, and Immune Function

Let’s consider heart disease. Aging is a big risk factor for cardiovascular disease, since the body tends to become progressively inflamed as the years pass.

Increasing oxidation takes place, which is the process free radicals use to cause cell damage. Oxidation triggers an immune reaction, which in turn triggers a cascade of pro-inflammatory chemicals at the site of a damaged artery.

This is an immune reaction in which white blood cells called T-lymphocytes and macrophages migrate to the site of damage. They embed themselves in the artery wall and try to gobble up the invaders. During this process, they release molecules that help form the plaque linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Inflammation does not only contribute to cardiovascular disease. Scientists now believe that chronic inflammation is at the root of many cancers, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, some arthritic disorders, Crohn’s disease, and many others.

By now, you can easily see how important it is to reduce the level of inflammation in your body, particularly if you are middle-aged or older. Since inflammation works hand in hand with your immune system, you can boost your immune health by using anti-inflammatory strategies.


Are You Making Pro-Inflammatory or Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Choices?

Many factors put you at risk for maintaining or escalating a state of chronic body inflammation.

  • Being overweight or obese (particularly with visceral or ‘belly’ fat)
  • Chronic, unrelenting stress
  • A sedentary or inactive lifestyle
  • Poor overall diet
  • Poor quality sleep
  • Smoking
  • Gum disease
  • Low levels of sex hormones
  • Depression
  • High blood sugar

We will discuss many key factors in this article which are important to immune health — and have the side benefit of reducing body inflammation. Factors such as:

  • Cutting down on sugar consumption
  • Maintaining good dental and oral health
  • Taking measures to reduce your stress level
  • Getting regular moderate exercise
  • Getting enough high-quality sleep
  • Maintaining an optimal weight
  • Eating plenty of anti-oxidant containing fruits and vegetables


Another Tip Regarding Inflammation

The CRP or C-reactive protein test is a nonspecific measure of inflammation in the body. You can ask your doctor to run this relatively inexpensive test at your next physical exam. While it doesn’t tell you where the problem is located, it provides a benchmark of how inflamed your body is.



#2. Reduce Stress to Improve Immune Function


For generations, folk wisdom has recognized that stressful events take a toll on health and well-being. It has taken modern science time to catch up, but over the last four decades, scientists have realized how stressful situations and negative emotions affect the immune system.


The New Scientific Field Called PNI

A whole new field of study has been created, one called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). PNI examines the interactions between your immune system and the central nervous system in your brain and spinal cord). What PNI research has discovered is that the immune system and brain are intimately linked through a number of pathways.

Both systems — immune and CNS — produce small molecules that serve as messengers between the systems. The immune system uses microscopic proteins known as cytokines to communicate with your CNS.


Cytokines, Inflammation, and Stress

Many studies have focused on the release of cytokines as a response to both psychological and physical stress. Specific cytokines are released by cells in the immune system, but those produced in response to stress are generally inflammation-producing.

When you are under physical or emotional stress, your body also releases hormones such as adrenaline, which bind to cell receptors telling the body to produce these pro-inflammatory cytokines.

One pro-inflammatory cytokine known as IL-6 influences immune system responses. It stimulates the activity of certain immune T cells functioning as links between the innate and acquired aspects of our immune system.


Stress, Immune Function, and Disease

Production of IL-6 and other pro-inflammatory cytokines can be stimulated by stressful situations, negative emotions, depression, and anxiety.

Moreover, as many studies including a 2009 review in the journal Perspectives ion Psychological Science notes, overproduction of IL-6 has been associated with an entire spectrum of age-related disorders, including heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s, and many others.

And when it comes to stress-related immune dysfunction, negative emotions can contribute to:

  • Increased vulnerability to infection
  • More prolonged infection
  • The reactivation of latent viruses
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Reduced immune response to vaccines


Older Adults More Susceptible to Stress-Related Immune Dysfunction

Unfortunately, older individuals or those with existing health conditions are more vulnerable to stress-related immune changes.

A 2002 study done by researchers at John Hopkins School of Medicine found that even chronic mild depression can suppress an older person’s immune system. Study subjects in their early 70’s with chronic mild depression demonstrated weaker immune cell responses. The immune response remained down even 18 months following the study.

Another complicating factor is that older individuals are more at risk for loneliness, emotional grief, social isolation, and other stress-producing life situations.


Helpful Remedies for Stress

Health experts including the Mayo Clinic and others suggest a number of helpful lifestyle strategies to deal with ongoing stress and/or anxiety. Here are ten of them:

  1. Remain physically active. Get into a routine that keeps you doing something active nearly every day. Exercise is a powerful way to reduce stress. It not only helps with mood issues, but can contribute to overall health.
  2. Eat stress-busting foods. Stress-reducing foods suggested in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences include spinach, blueberries, broccoli, fish, bananas, walnuts, and oranges, to name a few.
  3. Avoid alcohol, smoking, and recreational drugs. These substances can lead to or even worsen anxiety. If you are unable to quit on your own, talk to your doctor or seek out a support group that can help you.
  4. Avoid or cut back on caffeinated beverages. Excessive caffeine can aggravate anxiety.
  5. Use relaxation and stress management techniques. You can learn simple visualization techniques, yoga, meditation, or other techniques to lessen anxiety.
  6. Make quality sleep a priority. Sleep experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night to avoid a sleep debt. If you continue to suffer sleep issues, insomnia, or snoring, talk to your doctor.
  7. Discuss your stress levels with a professional. Talking with a counselor or trusted friend can relieve stress and give you a more positive outlook on your situation.
  8. Keep a journal. This can help you identify the issues causing your stress, so you can determine a plan of action.
  9. Take frequent 5-minute stress relief breaks. Stress builds up throughout the day, so taking short breaks can lower your overall stress level.
  10. 10. Use nutritional supplements with stress-relieving benefits. For example, probiotics with their friendly bacteria have the potential to benefit mood disorders. And the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha, which lowers cortisone levels, is known for its stress-lowering effects.



#3. Get More High Quality Sleep for Better Immunity


More than 1/3 of adults in America don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. That’s according to a study reported in 2016 in the CDC’s weekly report.

How much sleep do you really need?

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. And contrary to popular thought, older adults need just as much sleep as younger adults.

As you might expect, sleep exerts a powerful influence on immune function.

Folk wisdom tells us that having an infection such as a cold or flu will make us tired and increase our desire and need to sleep.

And of course, getting a good night’s sleep is commonly referred to as ‟the best medicineˮ for an infectious disease. Along these lines, it makes common sense that persistent sleep loss can weaken our body defenses and make us more prone to catching a cold or some other infection.

But what does the research say? A literature review reported in the journal Physiological Reviews confirms the presence of a bidirectional link between sleep and immunity.

In other words, activation of the immune system alters sleep. And in turn, sleep affects the innate and adaptive parts of the body’s immune system.


Sleep and Inflammation

Stimulation of the immune system by pathogens triggers an inflammatory response. This can disrupt how long or deeply one sleeps. The enhancement of sleep during an infection is believed to help with immune system defense.

On the other hand, sleep disturbance or deficiency can cause the chronic, low-grade inflammation discussed earlier, that has been linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and neurodegenerative disease.

Sleep affects several immune system parameters.

  • Sleep is linked with a reduced risk of infection
  • Sleep can improve infection outcome
  • Sleep can improve the response to vaccination
  • Sleep helps modulates the level of inflammation


How Poor Sleep Alters Immune Function

A 2019 German study reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, identified a mechanism that links sleep to immune function.

When specialized immune T cells recognize pathogens, they activate microscopic proteins called integrins. These integrins allow the T cell to latch on to their targets. In short, researchers found that good quality sleepers had higher levels of integrin activation, which boosts the function of T cells.

Other studies have looked at the role of cytokines such as IL-6 (that you read about earlier in connection with stress) in sleep. Scientists believe that numerous cytokines have sleep regulatory properties.

Many studies have been performed on the effects of sleep on autoimmune inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). About half of RA patients report sleep issues. Researchers attribute this, at least in part, to inappropriate production of different cytokines.


Sleep Strategies for Better Immune Health

If you have trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep, here are some strategies health experts recommend that could help:

  • Maintain a regular schedule for bedtime and waking. Your body uses a 24 hour “internal clock” called a circadian rhythm. Going to bed and waking at around the same time each day (even on weekends) helps keep your circadian rhythm from getting thrown off.
  • Keep a regular pre-sleep routine. Many people sleep better when they maintain a consistent “winding down” or pre-sleep ritual. Certain activities can promote relaxation and prepare the body for sleep, such as reading, gentle stretching, journaling, meditation, or the use of aromatic essential oils such as lavender.
  • Minimize sound and light in your sleeping area. Environmental factors such as these can disrupt your sleep quantity and quality. Darkness is a signal to your brain to release melatonin, which has a sleepy and calming effect. So it’s a good idea to reduce your exposure to light before bedtime, including light from your TV, computer, or other electronic devices. Create a dark space by using blackout shades or by using an eye mask. Since noise can also prevent sleep, you may need a fan or white noise machine to block out sounds if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Make yourself comfortable. You spend about 1/3 of your life asleep. That’s why it’s sensible to invest in a good quality mattress and pillow that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. You may need to lower your thermostat several degrees. Most research suggests that 65 degrees is the best sleeping temperature.
  • Go easy on caffeine and alcohol. Limit caffeine consumption for eight hours before bedtime. Avoid alcohol near bedtime as well. It may aid you in falling asleep, but can increase your chances of waking up in the night once its effects wear off.
  • Review your medications and pain levels with your doctor. Particularly if you are older, you could have pain or be taking medications that can affect sleep quality. Check with your doctor to see if they could be adding to your problem.
  • Limit fluids. To minimize nighttime trips to the bathroom, stop drinking fluids within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Watch that napping. Limit any daytime napping to 20 minutes to ensure you maintain a good sleep cycle. If napping ends up making you less sleepy at bedtime, it’s better to avoid naps altogether.
  • Snorers need to be careful. Snoring doesn’t only contribute to a loss of sleep for you or your bed partner. It can be related to a potentially dangerous condition called sleep apnea. If you snore, check in with your doctor.
  • Consider melatonin or other sleep-promoting supplements. Melatonin is a hormone regulating your sleep cycle. It is produced by your brain’s pineal gland, but is also available in supplement form. Since it promotes relaxation, people with insomnia or jet lag often use it. At the proper dose, melatonin is considered safe. However, it can interfere with some medications, so check with your doctor before using melatonin.


#4. Avoid Toxic Personal Care Products and Cleaners


According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, most of the 80,000+ chemicals contained in products used by Americans have not been sufficiently tested for their health effects.

These chemicals lurk in thousands of everyday products and items, including furniture, cosmetics, household cleaners, toys, packaging, building materials, and even food.

And unfortunately, medical researchers are linking more and more of these chemicals to diseases, including those diseases related to the immune system.


Autoimmune Disorders

Your immune system is designed to protect you from disease and infection. And at its core lies the ability to discern between self and non-self — in essence, what is “you” and what is “foreign.”

When the immune system fails to make this distinction, your body produces antibodies that attack normal cells by mistake. What results is a misguided attack on your own body, leading to the damage we know as autoimmune disease.

With autoimmune disease, regulatory immune T cells are no longer able to keep the immune system in check. Emerging science suggests that impairment of immune B cells play a role in the development and progression of autoimmune conditions.

Another factor connected to autoimmune disorders is what’s called “leaky gut syndrome.” Toxins and other harmful substances can pass through a permeable gut wall and into the bloodstream, triggering abnormal immune activity and inflammation.

Scientists have identified over 80 known types of autoimmune diseases. They affect more than 23.5 million Americans, and are a leading cause of death and disability, particularly among women.

Some autoimmune diseases are fairly common. For example, the autoimmune disorder rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million Americans. Other examples of autoimmune diseases include:

  • Hashimoto’s disease (underactive thyroid)
  • Grave’s disease (overactive thyroid)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lupus


Environmental Exposure Fueling Autoimmune Diseases

According to Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D. Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine: “There is no doubt that autoimmune diseases are on the rise and our increasing environmental exposure to toxins and chemicals is fueling the risk.”

So what kind of chemicals are linked to autoimmune disorders and other forms of immune dysfunction?


Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

One category of potentially harmful substances are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

EDCs are added to plastic packages, beauty products, toys, and so many other products they are now ubiquitous in the environment — and in our food and drinking water.

Research has shown that EDCs including phthalates, triclosan, bisphenols, parabens, and others impact the development, function, and lifespan of various immune cells.

Take phthalates, for example, used since the 1930’s in a diverse number of products:

  • Cosmetics
  • Shower curtains
  • Fragrances
  • Plastic packages
  • Foods
  • Children’s toys

Hundreds of millions of tons of phthalates are produced every year. They are added to products during manufacturing, and easily leach into the environment.

Research reported in the journal PLoS One in 2015 suggests that both the innate and adaptive immune systems are influenced  by phthalates. In studies, they led to impaired cytokine production and disruption of normal inflammatory processes.

Triclosan has antimicrobial properties, and is thus added to hand soaps, laundry detergents, deodorants, toothpaste, and many other products. Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in plastics and epoxy resins, including food containers.

Research shows that both triclosan and BPA can negatively impact human immune function.

And while studies have linked endocrine-disrupting chemicals to a number of immune-related diseases, they have also been linked to hormone-dependent cancers, reproductive disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders.


PFCs in Consumer Goods

Another group of toxic chemicals is known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), found in common consumer products:

  • Non-stick cookware
  • Stain-resistant clothing coatings
  • Microwave popcorn bags
  • Furniture

Of course, they leach into our food and water and eventually into our bloodstream and body.

A Harvard study published in 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that children exposed to PFCs in the womb as a result of their mother’s exposure suffered impaired childhood immunity and vulnerability to disease. The study authors cite the “immunotoxic potential” of PFCs.


Allergies, Eczema, and Asthma

Known collectively as atopic diseases, allergies, asthma, and eczema are characterized by an overactive response to immune antibody production.

Asthma is characterized by chronic inflammation of the respiratory airways that can be triggered by an allergen of some type. Allergic responses have traditionally been considered different from autoimmune reactions. More recently, according to an article in Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, studies are showing that asthma may also have an autoimmune connection.

The incidence of atopic allergic disease is on the rise. One suggested reason is exposure to certain chemicals, pollution, and household cleaning products.


VOCs Inside and Outside the Home

Many cleaning supplies or household products release dangerous chemicals, including gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs (and other chemicals such as ammonia and bleach) found in cleaning supplies contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and asthma. Some VOCs can cause cancer.

VOCs can be found both indoor and outside. Some familiar VOCs include benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene.

Sources of  VOCs include:

  • Building materials
  • Varnishes and finishes
  • Paint and varnish
  • Caulks, sealants, and adhesives
  • Flooring, carpet, and pressed wood products
  • Home and personal care products such as cosmetics and deodorants
  • Cleaners and disinfectants
  • Furniture
  • Air fresheners
  • Dry cleaning chemicals
  • Oven cleaners

It’s important to limit the use or avoid products with high VOCs. You can look for “low VOCs” on the label of products such as paints and building supplies.

Buy only as much of these products as you absolutely need for your project, and dispose of any leftover or unused products safely. Make sure to use good ventilation when using products with VOCs indoors.

Allow new carpet or new building products to air out and release VOCs before installing them.


Protecting Your Immune System From Harmful Chemicals

You must assume that, in general, household and cleaning products contain harmful chemicals. Even products advertised as “natural” or “green” may contain disease-causing ingredients.

Here are a few more tips to protect yourself from chemicals that can impair immune function and overall health:

  • Avoid wearing perfume and other products containing fragrance. They often contain phthalates, which can be labeled merely as “fragrance.” Use personal care products marked “fragrance-free” rather than “unscented” to avoid being tricked by the labeling.
  • Avoid nail polish and hairspray. They frequently contain phthalates, toluene, and xylene.
  • Avoid air fresheners completely.
  • Learn how to make your own non-toxic cleaning products. You can use safe ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar.
  • Always check labels for chemicals. You may see hard-to-pronounce ingredients such as parabens, oxybenzone, and sodium laureth sulfate.
  • Go BPA-free. You can avoid bisphenol A by opting for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables rather than canned foods. In general, products packaged in glass are safer. And don’t take the paper receipts from grocery stores, drug stores, and ATMs unless you really need them, because they contain BPA.
  • Avoid plastics with recycle symbols #3, #6, and #7. They contain harmful chemicals that can leach toxins into your body and the environment.
  • Use cast iron or stainless steel pans for cooking. As you’ve read, non-stick cookware contains toxins.



#5. Say “No” to Sugar to Strengthen Your Immune System


Among the dietary tips you will read about in this article, reducing your sugar intake is one of the best things you can do for immune health.

Soft drinks are the worst culprit when it comes to added sugar in the diets of Americans. A single can of soda contains about 11 teaspoons of sugar. Baked goods, fruit juices, dairy desserts such as ice cream, candy, breakfast cereal, beverages, and table sugar also contribute to the sugar load.

Sugar is also an added ingredient in many processed foods such as salad dressings, ketchup, cured meat, peanut butter, crackers, and many others. In fact, most processed foods contain at least some hidden sugar.

All these sources add up so that the average American eats 42 teaspoons of sugar each day!

Around 200 years ago, a typical American consumed only two pounds of sugar in an entire year. By 1970, we were up to 123 pounds of sugar per year. And today, the average American eats nearly 152 pounds of sugar per year.


Sugar Comes in Variety of Forms and Names

These are all different sweeteners providing calories, but little or no nutritional value:

  • Sucrose — table sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets
  • Maltose — found in barley
  • Fructose — found in fruit juice concentrate, agave, and honey
  • High fructose corn syrup — made from corn starch
  • Sorghum syrup — made from the sorghum plant
  • Molasses — by-product of processing sugar cane into sugar

For most people, health experts agree that a small amount of sugar in the diet is not a problem. But these days, the average American consumes far too much, leading to health risks.


General Health Risks of Sugar

Most people know that eating sugar can have negative consequences on our health. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to:

  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Liver disease
  • Cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s

Research shows that in some people, eating sugar affects the limbic area of the brain — your reward center. This can cause feelings of craving and withdrawal.

Using brain scans, researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse discovered that sugar leads to brain changes similar to those produced in people addicted to drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. 


Sugar and the Immune System

It’s important to realize that too much sugar consumption can impact the immune system.

A study performed by Loma Linda University examined the effects of simple carbohydrate ingestion on the capacity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria. These are white blood cells important in immunity for their capacity to fight infection. After consuming glucose, fructose, orange juice, or honey, the functioning of these immune cells was significantly reduced. The greatest effects were noted 1-2 hours after ingesting the sugars, but the effects were still noticeable after 5 hours.

Research also indicates that a so-called Western diet, high in sugar and fat, can alter the composition of the microbes in the gut, leading to a condition called dysbiosis. Since around 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, high sugar intake can contribute to immune dysfunction and increased inflammation. 

The community of bacteria in the gut, called the intestinal microbiome, is essential to healthy immune responses. Dysfunction can increase susceptibility to many diseases, especially those linked to chronic inflammation. Refined sugar intake can also lead to overgrowth of opportunistic gut bacteria that can be detrimental to health.


How to Decrease Your Dietary Sugar Intake

Here are 10 tips to help you minimize your sugar consumption:

  • Read food labels while shopping. This will help you find hidden sources of sugar you can avoid. In addition to the sugars noted earlier, they may be disguised as rice syrup or caramel.
  • Minimize sugar sources. This includes brown sugar, honey, pancake syrup, and molasses.
  • If you use sugar in coffee or tea, cut it down by half.
  • Switch from drinking sodas to sparking water. Use a squeeze of lemon or lime. Or try water with cucumber and mint or some other combination (like you find at many hotel chains). Diet drinks come with their own health risks so they are not a good substitute.
  • Avoid canned fruits in heavy syrup. Fresh or frozen fruit is much better.
  • When baking, you can often reduce the sugar called for by 1/3. You probably won’t even notice the difference. You can also use unsweetened applesauce in recipes.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Studies show that those people who do purchase more high-calorie products. Eat a healthy snack before shopping.
  • Practice good sleep habits. One research study found that those subjects who did not get a good night’s sleep consumed more calories, soda, and junk food compared to those who slept well.



#6. Keep Your Gut Healthy and Happy


Now you will discover why it is so important to maintain a healthy gut. Not only for immune health, but for your general health and prevention of disease.

Did you know that during your lifetime, about 60 tons of food pass through your GI tract?

The primary function of the gut is to digest this food so that vital energy and nutrients and be extracted, then expel the remaining waste material from your body..

Your small intestine functions to take partially digested food from your stomach and absorb the most nutrients from it. Around 90% of digestion and absorption takes place in the small intestine.

Your small intestine also holds a large number of so-called ‘friendly’ bacteria, predominantly of the Lactobacillus type. You’ll see why they are so important to your health shortly.

After your small intestine finishes its job, the remaining food material then passes into the large intestine.

The large intestine performs a number of vital functions in digestion, including additional absorption of vitamins and other nutrients. It helps your body create vitamins, including some B vitamins as well as vitamin K, essential to proper blood clotting.

It also helps absorb salts and water from the remainder of the indigestible food matter to maintain proper fluid balance in your blood, among its many functions.

Your large intestine also contains plenty of friendly bacteria, predominantly of the Bifidobacteria type.

So both the small and large intestine house bacteria. In fact, your gut contains about 100 trillion bacteria weighing 2 to 3 pounds! Because of this huge quantity of living organisms, some scientists consider your gut to be an organ of sorts. They call it the “microbial organ” or “microbiome.”

So what the main benefits of these friendly bacteria?


Avoiding Digestive System Concerns

For you to remain healthy, approximately 85% of your gut bacteria should be friendly bacteria, such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria. The remaining 15% are considered non-beneficial bacteria, but when their numbers remain small, they generally cause no trouble.

Unfortunately, this ratio becomes skewed for many people.  Non-beneficial bacteria rise in numbers, crowding out friendly bacteria, which are also known as probiotic bacteria.

It may be surprising to realize that more than 100 million Americans suffer from digestive issues.

In fact, medical experts report that more people suffer from occasional constipation than all other health issues combined.

Millions of Americans experience bathroom frustrations such as:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas or bloating
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort


Probiotic Bacteria Keep Your Digestive Tract Running Smoothly

Supplementing your diet with additional friendly probiotic bacteria can help keep your digestive system more balanced.

When it comes to simple constipation, probiotic bacteria can help speed up the transit time of waste material in your colon — giving you more regular and comfortable bowel movements. You may experience less gas and bloating, because probiotic bacteria help maintain your intestinal acidity at a healthy pH level.

Probiotics can also help with occasional diarrhea.

Studies confirm that probiotics lower the risk of diarrhea associated with use of antibiotic drugs. Antibiotics disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your gut by broadly killing both friendly and pathogenic strains. Diarrhea is a frequent antibiotic side effect, but supplementing with probiotics can reduce the risk of this happening.

And here’s something you may not know…

According to the CDC, around 30% of antibiotic treatments prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary.

Of course, antibiotics kill bacteria. But resistant bacteria may continue to grow and multiply. That’s a reason why overuse of antibiotics contributes to the epidemic rise in these drug-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance is particularly worrisome for older adults, who have a high rate of antibiotic use.

Recent studies, including one from Johns Hopkins, report that aging causes a reduction in  population of friendly bacteria such as Bifidobacteria in the large intestine. That means that older people can experience an imbalance between beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria, which makes them vulnerable to immune issues and other concerns.


Probiotics Supports a Healthy Immune System

When you consider your immune system, your large intestine may not immediately come to mind.  However, a big chunk of your immune system — around 70 to 80% — is actually be located in your gut.  Scientists refer to this as GALT, or gut-associated lymphatic tissue.

Several studies, including a 2010 study out of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, suggest that probiotics may help maintain immune system activity by introducing beneficial bacteria into the gut.

So supporting your immune system by supplementing with beneficial probiotic bacteria can help:

  • Maintain a healthy inflammatory response by promoting anti-inflammatory cytokines and down-regulating pro-inflammatory cytokines
  • Stimulating the function of regulatory immune T cells
  • Minimize or preventing allergic concerns
  • Control the growth and spread of pathogens
  • Increase the production of antibodies
  • Strengthen the intestinal barrier lining to help your body defend itself from invaders.


The Truth About Yogurt and Many Probiotic Supplements

Food manufacturers would rather you not know that store-bought yogurt products can often be a waste of your hard-earned money.

Unfortunately, most commercial yogurts come loaded with sugar and other additives. They are often heat processed or pasteurized, which destroys much of their live bacterial cultures.

What about taking probiotic supplements? Researchers warn that about 50% of probiotic products available do not contain the bacteria claimed on the label. Even those that do may not contain the best mix of bacterial strains to provide health benefits. Lower quality products may not be manufactured in an optimal way to help the probiotic bacteria survive life on the supermarket shelf, no less the harsh journey through your acid-laden gastrointestinal tract.

That’s why using a high quality probiotic supplement is the only way to guarantee you will receive the greatest health benefits.

To choose an effective probiotic, it’s important to use a formula:

  • With multiple strains of researched probiotic bacteria. Different strains have different effects in the body.
  • That is hypoallergic, since food sensitivities and allergies are common in those with digestive issues problems.
  • Manufactured with high quality controls to make sure strains remain alive and effective through the manufacturing process.
  • That has undergone testing to ensure its resistance to stomach acids and enzymes in the digestive tract.

Some additional tips to help keep your gut robust and healthy include:

  • Using fermented dairy products such as kefir and organic, unsweetened yogurt, fermented teas such as kombucha, and cultured vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi.
  • Make sure to eat a lot of fiber-laden foods, such as vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Fiber not only helps prevent and relieve constipation, but helps maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Sadly, only about 5% of the population meets the recommendations for dietary fiber intake.



#7. Don’t Neglect Good Oral/Dental Health


You might not realize it, but your oral health and immune system go hand in hand. Your mouth represents a gateway into the body and an opportunity to defend against anything compromising our health. When oral hygiene is neglected, it can lead to dire consequences for the body. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, as well as gum disease and tooth decay have all been linked to poor oral health.

Unfortunately, as the National Institutes of Health points out, gum disease affects nearly 50% of American adults 30 and over and 70% of those 65 and over.

Bacteria and Other Pathogens are Comfortable in the Mouth

Nearly all problems arising from poor oral health come from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogenic organisms. Your mouth represents an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. It’s moist, warm, and contains nutrients for bacteria to use.

When you fail to brush and floss daily, food particles remain, which allow bacteria to multiply and fester in the gums. Bacteria near the gumline form a sticky substance called plaque, which accumulates and inflames your gums. When bacterial growth and plaque multiply excessively, this can cause many complications, even the loss of bone and teeth.

Even though bacteria enter through the mouth, they don’t remain there. Bacteria can work their way into the bloodstream and respiratory system when left unchecked. Gingivitis, the most common type of gum disease caused by bacteria, is relatively mild.

However, a severe infection, called periodontitis, develops at the gumline due to increased inflammation. Gums recede from teeth, creating pockets in which pus collects. Bacteria find their way into the rest of the body through the bloodstream. This sets off an immune response, and a chain reaction leading to other health complications if not remedied early in its progression.


How Poor Oral Health Affects the Immune System

Your immune system functions to attack and kill those bacteria invading the body. Gingivitis and periodontal disease are actually inflammatory diseases caused by proliferation of bacteria. Inflammation from these bacteria signals your immune system to act

Studies suggest that an abnormal immune response also plays a role in triggering inflammation linked to periodontal disease. Immune T helper cells live in the mouth, and have been shown to have both beneficial and harmful effects. These T cells protect against a fungal infection called oral thrush, and have also been linked to gum disease.


How to Keep Your Mouth and Immune System Healthy

Optimal immune health allows your body to  eliminate bacteria and prevent infection. You can help protect your immune system by maintaining good oral health.

Here are a few tips from dental experts for better oral and overall health:

  • Brush your teeth daily
  • Floss regularly
  • Avoid smoking and consume alcohol moderately
  • Get proper sleep and minimize stress
  • Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugars and acidic drinks
  • Probiotics have been shown by research to help prevent plaque and decrease gum inflammation
  • Get regular dental exams and cleanings
  • If you suffer with bleeding gums, mouth discomfort, or difficulty in chewing, see a dental professional immediately



#8. Make a Plan to Stay Active


Regular exercise improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, helps maintain optimal body weight, and decreases the risk of cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases.

But what is not so well known by the public is that exercise also helps lower the incidence of viral and bacterial infections, partly by flushing pathogens out of the lungs and airways.

Much of this can be attributed to the boost exercise gives to immune function. There is an entire field devoted to “exercise immunology.” Research reported in Frontiers in Immunology note that frequent exercise enhances immune competency.

Not only that, but by improving immune regulation, exercise can delay age-related dysfunction and improve response to vaccination.

Exercise enhances the function of antibodies, anti-inflammatory cytokines, and various immune white blood cells, which of all play critical roles in immune defense.

Studies show the most benefit from a moderately energetic lifestyle and exercise program, such as:

  • Bicycling a few times a week
  • Taking daily walks for 20-30 minutes
  • Going to the gym or working out every other day
  • Engaging in fun but active pursuits, such as playing golf regularly

Some experts claim that heavy exertion causes transient immune dysfunction, although there is conflicting evidence.

Exercising decreases stress and helps you feel healthy and energetic — for good reason. So go ahead and sign up for that exercise class or start walking every morning. Your immune system and overall health will benefit.



#9. Avoid This Trio of Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices: Smoking, Alcohol, and Fast Food


This section doesn’t need to be too long, as we all know that smoking, drinking excessively, and eating fast food are bad for us.

But it’s important to realize the effects this triad of unhealthy choices takes on our immune system.


Smoking and Immune Health

According to the CDC, cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemical compounds, many of which can interfere with immune function.

Smoking impacts both the innate and adaptive immune system. Innate immune cells such as macrophages and NK (natural killer) cells are functionally degraded by smoking. In the adaptive immune system, T cells and B cells are affected.

When the immune system is not working effectively due to smoking-related immune dysfunction, viral and bacterial infections can be worsened, particularly problems related to the lungs (flu and pneumonia).

The CDC warns that new research has discovered that smoking is a cause of the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In RA, the immune system attacks the joints and causes pain and swelling. Smoking also interferes with the effectiveness of certain medical treatments for RA.

There are many methods to help you quit smoking, and no one right way that works for everyone. Some involve medications and nicotine replacement therapy, and some are non-drug lifestyle modifications, such as these suggested by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Avoid trigger situations where your urge for tobacco is greatest
  • Chew on something crunchy and satisfying to give your mouth something to do if you experience tobacco cravings
  • Physical activity can distract from cravings and lower their intensity (even a short burst of activity)
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep-breathing exercises, or listening to calming music
  • When you crave tobacco, tell yourself to wait 10 minutes and then do something else to distract yourself

If you are having difficulty quitting, ask your health provider for advice. There are also online support groups and stop-smoking programs.


Alcohol Consumption and Immune Health

According to the National Institutes of Health, around 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making alcohol the 3rd leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.  

In 2018, 26% of Americans over 18 reported binge drinking in the past month. And 6.6% admitted to engaging in heavy alcohol use in the past month.

According to the journal Alcohol Research, researchers have long observed a link between excessive alcohol consumption and weakening of immune defenses in both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system.

Immune-related problems due to alcohol consumption include increased risk of:

  • Pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS)
  • Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)
  • Certain cancers
  • Slow recovery from infection and poor wound healing

Alcohol also impacts the structure and integrity of the GI tract, altering the numbers of gut bacteria and causing immune-related inflammation.

The government’s NIH notes that many options for treatment of alcohol problems exist, including behavioral treatments and counseling, mutual support groups, and medications. The first step is talking to your physician about the issue.


Fast Food and Immune Health

Almost 50% of American adults eat fast food or junk food at least once a week.

Unfortunately, eating a poor quality “junk food” diet is linked to many diseases, including:

  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Early death

Research shows that just one junk food meal can increase inflammation body-wide.

When it comes to the effects of fast food on immune health, a recent German animal study has shown that your immune system reacts to a high fat and high calorie diet similarly to the way it reacts to bacterial infection. Researchers noted that immune cells had what they termed a “fast food sensor” that leads to the release of highly inflammatory messenger.

What’s more, this study found that unhealthy food makes the body’s defenses more aggressive over the long term. Even after switching to a healthier diet, the body’s immune defenses remained hyperactive.

With our busy lives and stressful schedules, it’s hard to eat healthy all the time. Here are 7 tips to help control cravings and stop eating so much junk food:

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where you will find “real” foods rather than highly processed items. Plus, if the food label contains unpronounceable ingredients, it’s probably not healthy.

Plan meals and snacks ahead of time. This way, you won’t be vulnerable to food smells, ads, and sudden cravings.

Make sure to eat sufficient protein. Good protein sources include fish, beans, vegetables, and nuts. Protein makes you feel full compared to when eating carbohydrates. You’ll have less room and desire for fast food.

Work on those stress levels. Cravings usually have an emotional component. So when you feel the urge to reach for a cookie, try taking some deep breaths, going for a walk, or doing a few yoga poses.

Get more sleep. As you’ve seen, sleep affects many areas of health. Research indicates that sleep deficiency leads to increased hunger and reduced ability to control snacking.

Eat the rainbow. Eating a diverse array of foods can boost your immune and overall health, as well as prevent disease. Try purple potatoes, red beets, and green kale.

Have a piece of fruit. While fruit contains sugar, it also provides nutrients and fiber. Eat some berries or watermelon instead if you’re craving a sweet treat.



#10. Eat More Vegetables and Fruits for the Antioxidant Benefits


You’ve probably heard a lot about antioxidants. However, not many people really understand what they are and how they work.

Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals accumulating inside your body.

Free radicals compounds cause damage when their body levels become excessive. They’ve been linked to many illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer.

Your body contains its own internal antioxidant defense system to keep damaging free radicals in check, called the endogenous antioxidant system. It includes antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD). This is your first line of defense against free radicals.

Exogenous antioxidants are formed outside the body and represent a crucial back-up system. These antioxidants can be absorbed and utilized by your body cells when consumed as foods or supplements.

Some examples of exogenous antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, and various flavonoid, polyphenol, and carotenoid antioxidants. These nutrients also help stimulate the body’s own production of endogenous antioxidants.

Free radicals form constantly in your body during metabolic processes. But a multitude of lifestyle, stress-related, and environmental factors promote increased free radical formation:

  • Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
  • Air pollution
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Toxic metals, pesticides, and chemicals
  • High blood sugar

Yet, free radicals are not all bad.


Free Radicals and Immune Health

They also serve vital functions essential to your health. Immune cells need and use free radicals to defend against infections.

This immune-related protective function against external is by itself a source of free radicals. That’s because activated immune neutrophils produce their own free radicals. Moreover, the inflammatory process stimulates activation of immune phagocytes by sending out inflammatory cytokines.

That’s why your body needs to maintain balance in the number of free radicals and antioxidants.

When free radicals outnumber antioxidants, a state called oxidative stress can develop. Prolonged oxidative stress damages DNA and other vital molecules in your body. It can even cause cell death.

Oxidative stress elevates your risk of cancer and heart disease. Some researchers theorize that DNA injury from oxidative stress plays a central role in the aging process. And as you’ve seen throughout this report, chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases, including heart disease.


How Can You Get More Antioxidant Protection?

You’ll find antioxidants in certain foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Here are some foods with a high antioxidant content:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Red cabbage
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Spinach
  • Pecans
  • Purple or red grapes

You’ll notice that many antioxidant sources are quite “colorful.” That’s why health experts tell you to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.


Other Tips to Reduce Free Radical Production

There are a number of simple things you can do to decrease out-of-control free radical production:

  • Avoid high glycemic foods. Refined carbohydrate and sugary foods stimulate the production of free radicals.
  • Exercise regularly and reduce stress.
  • Don’t re-use cooking oils or fats. The cooking process oxidizes them, generating more free radicals.
  • Avoid processed meats. Bacon, salami, sausages, and hot dogs contain preservative chemicals that lead to free radical production.
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain a normal weight. Obesity can increase the risk of oxidative stress.
  • Supplement your diet with nutrients providing antioxidant protection. (These will be discussed in the next section.)



#11. Boost Immune Health With Targeted Immune Nutrients


Perhaps not surprisingly, you will find that many of the nutrients which help with immunity and inflammation are antioxidants.

Antioxidants are crucial at all ages, but particularly important for older individuals.

Middle-aged and older people need a much higher intake of antioxidant-containing foods. However, they commonly don’t consume an adequate supply of these antioxidants — or other nutrients important to immune function.

That’s why it is beneficial to supplement with specific antioxidants and other nutrients that quell inflammation and boost immunity.

Here are a few suggested antioxidants and other nutrients important to immune health:

Vitamin C

Among its many functions, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines. It also reduces inflammation by protecting the health of blood vessels.

Stress rapidly depletes vitamin C from the body. Aging can lead to progressive vitamin C deficiency, which makes supplementation highly recommended.

Vitamin D

Recent Vitamin D research has confirmed important interactions between vitamin D and cells from both parts of the immune system. Impaired or insufficient vitamin D levels may lead to dysregulation of immune responses.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is known as an anti-inflammation vitamin due to its critical role in enhancing the function of your immune system. It performs important functions in both innate and adaptive immunity. Research suggests that even a subclinical Vitamin A insufficiency can increase the risk of infection.


Beneficial probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria have been scientifically shown to help with numerous health concerns, particularly conditions of the digestive and immune systems.

Around 70% of your immune system is actually located in your gut, making it crucial to maintain a healthy community of bacteria for immune defense. Aging leads to a decline in numbers of friendly gut bacteria, and an increase in the numbers of non-beneficial bacteria.


The Astragalus herb, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, provides support for healthy immune function. It promotes immune cell development and antibody production

Astragalus also acts as an antioxidant, so it helps protect cells against damage. It has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, studies have found that Astragalus helps promote the growth of friendly gut bacteria.


Hesperidin is a flavonoid found in high concentrations in citrus fruit such as oranges. Studies have shown that hesperidin can reduce inflammatory cytokines. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation caused by bacteria.


Vinpocetine is a naturally occurring plant extract, which acts as a powerful antioxidant, especially for some of the more destructive free radicals. It reduces inflammation, particularly in the brain by suppressing cytokines and other pro-inflammatory substances.


Quercetin is a flavonoid antioxidant found in many vegetables and fruits, particularly citrus fruits, apples, dark berries, and grapes.

Quercetin may help protect against heart disease and cancer. Quercetin can also help stabilize the cells that release histamine in the body, which creates an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine immune effect. Studies also suggest that flavonoids have anti-cancer properties.


Resveratrol is a protective antioxidant flavonoid found in the skins of grapes, berries, and peanuts.

Researchers have found that resveratrol provides powerful protecting properties, anti-inflammation being one of resveratrol’s many effects. It has been shown to suppress macrophage overactivity, reduce inflammatory cytokine production, and protect brain cells from damage by free radicals and inflammatory chemicals.

Green Tea Leaf Extract

Green tea contains high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds called catechins, especially EGCG.

Various compounds found in green tea protect against free radicals, inflammation, and even autoimmune disorders. Studies have shown that EGCG inhibits the damage caused by beta-amyloid, a compound that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Omega-3 Oils

Omega 3 oils are anti-inflammatory and omega-6 oils (found in most cooking oils) are pro-inflammatory. Omega 3 oils play an important role in immune system regulation. Unfortunately, most people get at least 10 times as many omega-6’s as are necessary, skewing the omega-3 and omega-6 balance.

Ideally, fish should give you the omega-3’s you need. However, our fish supply is quite polluted with toxins such as mercury and others. That’s why it may be good to supplement with a high-quality fish or marine oil.


This trace mineral plays a crucial role in supporting immune function and the ability to recover from infection.

Zinc deficiency reduces antibody production, reduces the body’s ability to regulate inflammation, and impairs the function of immune cells. Older adults are especially at risk for zinc inadequacy.

Beta Glucans

These compounds, found in mushrooms and yeast, can boost the response of several immune cells, including natural killer cells, lymphocytes, and neutrophils.

For example, the beta glucans found in Reishi mushroom provide regulation of the immune system with its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral properties.


This essential micronutrient is a potent antioxidant with inflammation-reducing properties. Selenium also boosts immune system response by protecting against certain pathogens. It is believed to help prevent replication of viruses.

A selenium deficiency has been shown to decrease immune cell function and show immune response.


Berries and flowers of the elderberry plant, Sambucus nigra, are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients to help boost immune function and reduce inflammation. Some health experts recommend elderberry to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms.


Curcumin is actually a group of compounds derived from the turmeric plant, a yellow-orange spice and medicinal herb used over thousands of years.

Among its many benefits, several studies have found that supplementing with curcumin helps regulate immune function that has become overactive. It supports gut health by fostering the growth of friendly bacteria. Curcumin is also considered an antioxidant, and demonstrates anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.

Within this article, you have discovered dozens of simple ways you can boost your immune system naturally. Choose a few lifestyle changes and suggestions from what you read about here in this guide. This will put you well on your way to robust immune health for a lifetime.


Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Any changes should be done in consultation with your own health care provider.


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Why Bacteria Can Protect Your “Second Brain” and Boost Your Immune System Naturally


You may be looking for ways to boost your immune system naturally. So let me ask a question: Have you ever felt “butterflies in your stomach” when you were nervous? Or had a “gut feeling” about something?

Well, this most likely means you’re getting signals or messages from a source that might surprise you: your second brain.

This second brain is technically known as your enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS is comprised of over 100 million nerve cells that line the 30 feet of your gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus all the way to the rectum.

As you might expect, the ENS in your gut plays a big role in controlling digestion in multiple ways. Releasing enzymes necessary to break down the food you eat, controlling blood flow to assist with nutrient absorption, the process of elimination — these are all functions of your ENS.

Unlike the brain in your skull, the ENS can’t write a grocery list or multiply numbers.  But the two brains do communicate with each other in some ways that researchers are only now beginning to understand.

Scientists have discovered that the ENS can actually be responsible for triggering emotional responses. For example, bowel irritation can send signals to your skull’s brain leading to mood changes, even anxious or depressed feelings.

But one of the most fascinating things researchers are investigating is how your second brain can affect your immune response and promote a healthy immune system.


Your Second Brain and a Healthy Immune System

When you think of your immune system, your GI tract is probably not what comes to mind.

However, approximately 70% of your immune system is actually located in your gut. Scientists call this the GALT, or gut-associated lymphatic tissue.

A number of different immune cells live in the GALT, including activated T cells, macrophages, mast cells, and many others. Since many pathogens gain entry to the body via the gut mucosa, it’s vital to have a healthy community of immune cells to provide healthy immune system defense.

But in addition to the different types of immune cells, your gut also contains something else critical to good health. The GI tract is home to about 500 different types of bacteria — about 100 trillion organisms.

In fact, you have so many bacteria and other organisms in your gut, scientists now consider them to comprise a type of organ — the ‘microbial organ’ or microbiome.

Your Unique Gut Microbiome Serves Many Purposes

Every person’s body has a an entirely unique network of microorganisms, as these colonies have developed and multiplied since birth.

Approximately 85% of the bacteria in your gut should ideally be so-called friendly bacteria. These include species such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria.

Far too often, however, non-beneficial bacteria start to crowd out the friendly strains. This imbalanced situation is known as dysbiosis. It can be the cause of common bathroom complaints, such as constipation or diarrhea, gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort.

But as you’ve seen, your gut is also a big part of maintaining a healthy immune system. That’s another big reason to keep your gut health in top shape.

Unfortunately, a number of things can lead to dysbiosis or intestinal imbalance:

  1. Increasing age. The aging process leads to a decline in numbers of friendly gut bacteria, and an increase in the numbers of non-beneficial bacteria.
  1. Overuse of antibiotics. The CDC estimates that at least 30% of antibiotics prescribed during outpatient visits are actually unnecessary. Since they basically function to kill bacteria, their indiscriminate use can reduce the abundance and diversity of intestinal bacteria, including those important in immunity.
  1. Medications other than antibiotics.
  1. Excessive stress.
  1. Fatigue, and lack of quality sleep.
  1. Toxins in the environment.
  1. Nutritional deficiencies and poor diet.

The good news is that there are some positive steps you can take to balance your digestive system and boost your immune system naturally.

You can reduce your intake of processed foods and sugar. It’s also important to get more fiber into your diet. Most Americans do not get the 20-35 grams of fiber they need for good health. You can make positive lifestyle choices to reduce stress, avoid toxic products, and sleep better. You can also take probiotics after a course of antibiotics.

But one of the most important steps you can take for a healthy immune system is to add a high-quality probiotic supplement to your daily health regimen.

Most people think of yogurt when hearing about probiotics. But yogurt is usually highly processed and full of sugar, making supplementation a better plan.


Probiotics for Better Digestion and Boosting Immune System Health

The word probiotic actually means “for life.” Probiotics have been scientifically shown to help with numerous health concerns, particularly conditions of the digestive and immune systems.

John DiBaise, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic , reports that “Probiotics seem to change how your immune system reacts to an invading microorganism and whether your digestive tract becomes inflamed as a result.”

Researchers continue to find more and more health benefits for taking daily probiotics, even beyond boosting your immune system naturally.

Here is a list of some researched strains of probiotic bacteria you may want to consider when making your best choice of an effective daily probiotic supplement:

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum. This strain of probiotic bacteria is the most prominent one found in the large intestine and female vaginal tract. Like all probiotics, B. bifidum assists the body in producing and absorbing vitamins. Plus, it boosts immune system function and improves digestive function. B. bifidum may also offer benefits against the overgrowth of yeast and provide help for occasional diarrhea.
  • Bifidobacterium longum. This bacterial strain is also found predominantly in the colon, and is considered by researchers to be one of the most important probiotic strains. B. longum produces lactic acid. This increases gut acidity to help discourage the growth of non-beneficial microbes. Studies suggest this strain promotes overall digestive health and immune support.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus. The public is most familiar with this strain of probiotic bacteria, because it is commonly used in yogurt. Lactobacillus acidophilus works primarily in the small intestine, but also has the potential to support vaginal and urinary tract health. Additionally, L. acidophilus probiotic can reduce antibiotic side effects, including diarrhea. It can also help with common digestive concerns, including constipation.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus. This probiotic species resides primarily in the small intestine and vaginal tract. One feature is its resistance to stomach acid, which makes it a valuable addition to a daily probiotic supplement formula. It functions to optimize both the GI and genito-urinary tracts. Studies show that Lactobacillus rhamnosus can reduce occasional diarrhea, and even help with lactose intolerance.
  • Lactobacillus casei. This species of probiotic bacteria is located in the mouth and small intestine, where it has a wide temperature and pH range. This helps it survive the journey through the GI tract for better effectiveness. Research demonstrates that Lactobacillus casei provides immune support.
  • Lactobacillus sporogenes. Also known as Bacillus coagulans, this probiotic bacterial strain can produce spores, which helps resist destruction as they pass through the gut. Just a few of the benefits seen in studies with this Bacillus coagulans strain include improvement of diarrhea, simple constipation, and other digestive health concerns.


Choosing a High Quality, Effective Daily Probiotic Supplement for Boosting Immune and Gut Health

When you decide to shop for probiotic supplements, there are some things you should keep in mind.

As you’ve seen above, some probiotic bacteria strains are more resistant to surviving the harsh conditions of the GI tract. So it’s often best practice to choose a multi-strain probiotic formula for the most comprehensive support.

Some quality products also contain prebiotics, which essentially comprises a natural food source for the probiotic bacteria. This is a good feature to look out for when choosing a top probiotic.

Some products tout their numbers of colony forming units (CFU’s), which indicate the numbers of viable cells. However, as the National Institutes of Health notes, higher CFU counts do not necessarily translate to a product with more health benefits, as they can be misleading. Consumers should look for products labeled with CFU numbers at the end of the product’s shelf life, rather than numbers at the time of manufacture.

There are plenty of probiotic supplements on the market that are of dubious quality and provide no benefit. The last thing you want to do is waste your money on a product you think will make you healthy when it actually provides no benefit.

In searching for probiotics, you will find plenty of companies advertising their daily probiotic supplements for extremely low prices. The phrase “you get what you pay for” holds true in the case of probiotic supplements. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Companies advertising cheap probiotic supplements do so by cutting corners in order to save money. This could mean using lower quality ingredients and inferior strains. The result is a probiotic supplement that will not help you, and in some cases, could make you worse. Take your time to consider the quality of the supplements, not just the bottom line price.

When you go to buy probiotic supplements, spending a little more money for high quality products will pay dividends in good digestive and immune system health.



As you’ve seen, using probiotic supplements can help you achieve better gut health, along with many other benefits. They provide benefits in both prevention and treatment when it comes to health concerns.

So whether you suffer from health issues presently or just want to stay healthy as you grow older, taking probiotics daily can help you maintain better overall health and boost immune system health naturally.


Note: This article is not intended to constitute medical advice. Any actions should be done in consultation with your physician.


Sources for This Article Include:

Yan F, Polk DB. Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2011;27(6):496-501. doi:10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834baa4d

Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Scientific American. Feb 2010. Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being

Andrew Platt. Immunity in the Gut. British Society for Immunology.


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Microbiome.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic Prescribing and Use in Doctor’s Offices.

Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(9):1021. Published 2017 Sep 15. doi:10.3390/nu9091021

Brown AC, Valiere A. Probiotics and medical nutrition therapy. Nutr Clin Care. 2004;7(2):56-68.

National Institutes of Health. Probiotics.

5 “Magic” Mushrooms Seniors Now Turning to for Immune Defense (Number 3 Will Blow You Away)

“Magic mushrooms” with hallucinogenic effects have given fungi a bad rap since the hippie era of the 1960’s.

However, the real magic of the humble fungi family is that they represent some of nature’s most potent botanical healing weapons — and a natural way to boost the immune system.

The use of medicinal mushrooms dates back to at least the 3rd millennium B.C. The same compounds fungi use to protect themselves from invaders also help fight many human health problems. So much so that some of today’s scientific experts hail the mushroom as a “medical miracle.”

In this article, you’ll see how five of the more important medicinal mushrooms can help boost your immune system naturally and defend against many health conditions — especially those related to aging.


Medicinal Mushrooms and the Immune System

Back in the 1980’s, Harvard scientists discovered that specific compounds within mushrooms could stimulate specific cells in the immune system.  They observed the immune-boosting properties of a certain component of medicinal mushrooms called beta glucan.

Molecules of beta glucan possess a “lock and key” relationship with the receptors of special immune cells called macrophages. Like the Pacman in the 1980’s maze arcade game, macrophages go around engulfing anything your body identifies as a harmful pathogen — viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms.

Beta glucan molecules inside mushrooms stimulate macrophage activity by attaching to the surface of macrophage cells and basically acting as fuel to keep them going strong.

Continued research has found that beta glucan can also boost the response of other immune system cells, such as natural killer  (NK) cells, lymphocytes, and neutrophils.

Beta glucans are one of hundreds of potentially healing compounds in mushrooms.

A number of mushrooms from around the world have been researched for their benefits. Here are five of the most well-known and well-studied medicinal mushrooms:


#1: Reishi Mushroom Helps Balance Age-Related Immune Decline

The Reishi mushroom, known scientifically as Ganoderma lucidum,  contains approximately 400 different bioactive compounds, including beta glucans and triterpenes. Reishi extract is also rich in trace elements such as zinc and selenium, known to help prevent viral infections.

Many centuries ago, ancient Asian healers discovered that Reishi could promote health and longevity. For these reasons, Reishi has historically been referred to as the “mushroom of immortality.”

Modern science, with the benefit of advanced technology, has found that Reishi mushrooms can help protect against the negative effects of aging and defend the immune system.

With advancing age, immune function declines. This weakening of the immune system basically opens the door to infection by bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

Additionally, aging causes the body to lose its ability to turn off the inflammatory response once threats are eliminated. Out-of-control inflammation is now considered by most health experts to be at the root of many chronic diseases of aging.

When it comes to Reishi, research has shown it possesses broad-reaching benefits, including immunomodulation. Reishi mushroom defends immune function through its effects on various white blood cells, including natural killer (NK) cells, as well as B and T lymphocytes.

In addition to its overall immune-enhancing benefits, research suggests Reishi also acts in these ways:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic (pain-relieving)
  • Sleep promoting
  • Antibacterial and antiviral
  • Anti-aging
  • Liver protection
  • Defense against abnormal cell growth
  • And many others


#2: Maitake Mushroom Boosts Immunity and Destroys Abnormal Cells

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is another well-researched mushroom with healing properties and natural immune support.

The Japanese name for Maitake is “dancing mushroom.” It is a prominent component of Asian cuisine.

In the United States, Maitake is called “hen of the woods” because it grows in the shape of a fluffed-up chicken. These mushrooms are so prized, the location of maitake patches in the wild is often kept as a family secret passed down through generations.

As with Reishi, the key compound in Maitake is beta glucan, which enhances the action of macrophages and helps the immune system produce more natural killer (NK) cells that seek out and destroy abnormal or mutated cells. When beta glucan from Maitake enters the system, it signals the presence of a threat so the body and immune system can defend itself.

A 2010 study reported in Experimental & Molecular Medicine, found that Maitake helped reduce inflammation in the bowel by suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals.

Instead of just boosting the immune system, Maitake helps restore balance to the immune system, stimulating when necessary and suppressing when called for. Maitake is regarded as one of the best mushrooms for natural overall health support.


#3: The Cordyceps Mushroom — a Staple of Ancient Tibetan Healing

The Cordyceps mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis) is a staple of traditional Tibetan medicine. Found in the high mountains of Tibet, Nepal, and China, Cordyceps is called the “caterpillar fungus” because it derives some of its nutrients from caterpillars.

Multiple compounds in cordyceps (including cordycepin and polysaccharides) have been shown to:

  • Boost immune function naturally
  • Inhibit abnormal cell growth
  • Aid respiratory concerns
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Act as an antioxidant
  • Promote energy and stamina

Increasing evidence shows that cordyceps is a bidirectional immune modulator. This means it can either escalate or suppress immune system function by regulating innate and adaptive immunity.

Innate immunity is your body’s first line of defense against attack. It is immediate but non-specific, and involves natural killer cells, macrophages, and others. The second line of defense, adaptive immunity, is specific to the pathogen in question. It takes longer to get started but has a more long-lasting response. Adaptive immune cells include T and B lymphocytes.


#4: Shiitake — the Queen of Mushrooms for Natural Immune Defense

Shiitake mushroom gets its name from the Japanese chestnut tree or ‘shiia’. Scientifically known as Lentinula edodes, it grows wild in Asia and is commercially produced in America. Shiitake, known as the “queen of mushrooms,” is one of the most popular mushrooms for both culinary and medicinal uses.

A 2015 University of Florida study of healthy adults found that eating one Shiitake mushroom a day improved immunity and reduced inflammation.

In addition to its immune-enhancing effects, Shiitake has also been studied for anti-aging effects, helping the body rid itself of abnormal cells, oral health, and support for cardiovascular health.


#5: The “Turkey Tail” Immune Booster

The fifth mushroom we’ll discuss in this article with immune-boosting effects is Coriolus versicolor, called the “Turkey Tail” mushroom in North America due to its striking colors.

Ancient Chinese formulations of this mushroom have traditionally been used to promote strength, health, and longevity.

Coriolus versicolor is a widely studied mushroom — with hundreds of research trials demonstrating its significant benefits.

This mushroom contains an array of antioxidants that defend immune health by regulating inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds.

Also found in this mushroom are immune-boosting carbohydrate molecules called PSK and PSP for short. Emerging research suggests that they increase and activate several specialized immune cells, naturally strengthen the immune system, and inhibit the growth of abnormal cells.

In addition, a study of PSP extracted from Turkey Tail mushroom demonstrated beneficial changes in gut bacteria, which also helps defend immune health.



In the wild, habitat loss has threatened the natural yield of many of these mushrooms. That’s why many are grown commercially for research and use in supplements and extracts. Using extracts and supplements containing medicinal mushrooms is also a more precise way to gain their beneficial compounds.

Mushroom extracts for immune defense are generally regarded as safe and non-toxic, but they should be used with caution by people taking immunosuppressive drugs.

Backed by thousands of years of use by ancient healers, modern science now recognizes the powerful health benefits of medicinal mushrooms.  In fact, mushrooms contain a “virtual pharmacy’ with a broad array of bioactive compounds. In your quest to defend your health — particularly your immune health — consider integrating the mighty “magic” mushroom into your own personal healthcare regimen.


Note: This article is not intended to constitute medical advice. Any actions should be done in consultation with your physician.


Sources for This Article Include:

Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):32-44.

Sanodiya, Thakur, et al. Ganoderma lucidum: a potent pharmacological macrofungus. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. 2009 Dec;10(8):717-42

Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado

Life Extension  Magazine. Fight Immune Decline With Reishi

Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. Immune-enhancing effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) extracts. Ann Transl Med. 2014;2(2):14. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2014.01.05

Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. Chapter 5, Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd ed.

Zhi-Bin Lin. Cellular and molecular mechanisms of immunomodulation by Ganoderma lucidum. J Pharmacol Sci. 2005 Oct;99(2):144-53.

Lee, J., Park, S., Thapa, D. et al. Grifola frondosa water extract alleviates intestinal inflammation by suppressing TNF-α production and its signaling. Exp Mol Med 42, 143–154 (2010)

Saleh MH, Rashedi I, Keating A. Immunomodulatory Properties of Coriolus versicolor: The Role of Polysaccharopeptide. Front Immunol. 2017;8:1087. Published 2017 Sep 6. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.01087 5 Immune-Boosting Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushroom

Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, et al. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-487. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.950391

What You Should Know About Viruses — And the Ways They Hurt Us

We know viruses can harm us. But many people don’t understand the full ramifications of these microscopic disease culprits.

In this article you’ll discover what you should know about viruses and the harm they cause, how they differ from bacteria, and how to prevent and defeat them.


How Viruses Differ From Bacteria

Both viruses and bacteria are so tiny they can only be seen under a microscope. Both trigger some type of immune system response. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Let’s first consider bacteria. These single-celled living organisms thrive under a wide range of temperatures, meaning they can be found almost everywhere. Bacteria contain DNA, which they use to reproduce.

Fortunately, bacteria aren’t always harmful. They can even benefit your health. In fact, most bacteria don’t damage your health at all. Your skin and GI tract are crawling with bacteria. Researchers call the community of bacteria in your gut the microbiome. Microbial bacteria on your skin help clear out debris and dead skin cells. In your gut, bacteria help you with food digestion and immunity.

Of course, bacteria can be harmful, particularly when they multiply in places they shouldn’t be in. That’s why, in general, bacterial infections are found in more localized body areas. Some common examples of these more localized bacterial infections include:

  • Strep throat
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Gastroenteritis (food poisoning)

Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat bacterial infections. These medications kill bacteria by disrupting their reproduction and spread.

Now let’s look at viruses.

Viruses are even smaller than bacteria. For example, the polio virus is 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt.  It wasn’t until the electron microscope was invented in 1931 that a virus could even be seen.

Viruses are not even considered to be living organisms. These infectious agents consist merely of a protein shell and, depending on the virus type, a strand of RNA or DNA.

Viruses cannot reproduce on their own the way bacteria do. Instead, viruses are like parasites. They require a host cell to multiply. This host could be a person or an animal.

Here’s another difference. Bacteria can be either detrimental or beneficial to your health, but in general, viruses only cause illness.

Viral infections often lead to symptoms that affect the entire body, such as aches, pains, fever, and fatigue.

Unlike bacterial infections, antibiotics do not work with viruses. Instead, you need to  rely on a robust immune system. With time, the immune system develops antibodies in order to recognize the virus and stop it from attacking healthy cells. That’s why it’s so important to practice good habits consistently to help support your immune health.


How Viruses Work in the Body

Viruses are not really alive. So like a bad science fiction movie, they need a host to fulfill their lifecycle.

Open wounds and respiratory passages act as gateways for viruses to enter the body. At times, insects can be the mode of entry. Dengue fever and yellow fever are viral illnesses transmitted by mosquito bites.

When a virus enters the body, it infects healthy cells. It can take over the cell’s own machinery and force it to start reproducing the virus. The virus destroys the once-healthy cell when it has completed its task.

Viruses are considered “masters of disguise.” This means their protein coat can be mistakenly assumed to be healthy by your body. So healthy cells become fooled into attaching to viruses, allowing the virus access to the cell.

Once the virus gains entry, it releases its own genetic information, and hijacks the cell’s own method of reproduction. The virus utilizes the host cell’s membrane to travel throughout the body, avoiding immune system detection. This is a key reason why it is so hard to treat viral illnesses: they’re difficult for our immune systems to recognize and target.

However, when the body does eventually recognize the difference between the virus and healthy cells, the immune system begins the process of creating antibodies. These are microscopic proteins that mark the virus as foreign. Then these antibodies prompt immune responses such as white blood cells coming to the area to destroy the viral particles and injured cells.


Viruses and Innate and Adaptive Immunity

Your innate immune response represents the first line of defense against invading pathogens, including viruses and bacteria.

Innate immunity includes mechanical barriers such as the skin or mucus membranes, and a variety of cells and molecules comprising the rapid response team. While the immune system does defend us from many pathogens, the inflammation that arises as part of the immune response can damage our own tissues and impair organ function when pathogens stimulate a strong response. Autoimmune diseases are created this way.

The good news is that innate immunity can help defend us from an array of pathogens, including the coronavirus causing COVID-19.

However, while the innate immune response can prevent or control some infections, it has limitations. The adaptive immune response, which includes both B and T lymphocyte cell based immunity, reacts more specifically and powerfully in response to invading pathogens.

B cells produce antibodies to help defend against microbial invasion. Antibody responses are the primary way vaccines protect us from viral infection. The absence of protective antibodies can lead to the rapid spread of new viruses in populations who are unexposed and unvaccinated.

Antibodies produced by B cells make up part of the adaptive immune response, with the ability to recognize most molecules that could invade the body. In a second branch of the adaptive immune system called cellular immunity, T cells specifically kill cells infected by viruses. 

T cells make up the second part of the adaptive immune response. Unlike B cells, receptors on T cells can only recognize fragments of protein found on specific cell surface molecules. There are different types of T cells, including T cells that kill infected cells and helper T cells that accelerate activation of other immune cells. While innate immunity and B cell responses work against a wide variety of pathogens, T cells respond very specifically to certain pathogens, including viruses such as COVID-19. 


Viruses, Herd Immunity, and Vaccines

You’ve likely been hearing a lot lately about vaccination, which can prevent some viruses. Vaccines assist your body in creating antibodies before you’ve even been exposed to the virus. This way, your body is prepared to defend against the specific virus if you do become exposed to it.

Vaccination is also one way to achieve herd immunity.

Herd immunity (also called community immunity) takes place when a large percentage of a community becomes immune to a disease, either through vaccination or prior illness. This makes disease spread less likely. Even newborns or people who are immune-compromised benefit from herd immunity, as they achieve some level of protection from the reduced spread throughout the community.

Vaccines have prevented many deadly or dangerous illnesses. In the U.S., smallpox and polio have both been eradicated because of vaccination. However, certain groups of people cannot be vaccinated and are vulnerable to diseases. These include babies, pregnant women, and those who are immunocompromised, such as people on chemotherapy or individuals who have had organ transplants.

You may wonder why there are still outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated. Yet in 2014, 668 cases were reported. The disease was spread by infected people traveling to the United States. These infected people exposed unprotected people to the disease.

There are several reasons why people are left unprotected. Some vaccine protection fades after a period of time. And some people don’t receive the recommended vaccines due to certain personal beliefs or inaction.


The Most Common Viruses

This may sound surprising, but hepatitis B is the most common infectious disease in the world today. About 2 billion people are infected with the hepatitis B virus.

Influenza epidemics of the 20th century caused millions of deaths worldwide. Today, influenza remains a serious disease, since about 20,000 people die of the flu in the U.S. each year. The influenza virus attacks the human respiratory tract, leading to symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, coughing, body aches, and nasal congestion.

Every year, there are millions of cases of the common cold, which has been the typical reason children miss school and adults miss work. The most common viral culprit for the common cold is rhinovirus. But other viruses can also cause colds, including human coronaviruses, respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, and others.

There are four main types of coronaviruses, one of which is SARS-CoV-2, the novel virus that causes COVID-19. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960’s.

Other common or well-known viruses include:

  • Measles, mumps, and chicken pox
  • Herpes and shingles
  • Rabies, usually spread from the bite of an infected animal
  • HIV, the virus causing AIDS
  • Epstein-Barr, which causes mononucleosis
  • HPV (human papilloma virus), which can lead to cancer


Treating and Preventing Viruses

Some antiviral drugs do exist. They were first developed in response to the AIDS pandemic. Antivirals can help treat infections such as herpes simplex, hepatitis, influenza, chicken pox, and shingles. The drug remdesivir is currently being investigated as a treatment for COVID-19.

It’s important to take pro-active steps to reduce your risk of getting viruses such as colds, flus, and coronaviruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for a full 20 seconds, and help children do the same.
  • If soap and water are not available, utilize an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. Viruses can enter your body through these openings and lead to viral illness.
  • Stay away from others who are sick, since they can spread viruses through close contact with others.


Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Consult with a health professional before taking any action.


Sources for this Article Include:

Harvard Medical School. How the Body Reacts to Viruses.

Ask the scientists. Answers to common questions about how viruses work.

Mayo Clinic. Bacteria vs viral infections: how do they differ?,it%20to%20produce%20the%20virus.

Live Science. What are viruses?

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Herd Immunity.

CDC. Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others

CDC. Human Coronavirus Types

5 Top Herbal Immune Support Supplements

One of the best ways to achieve a healthy immune system is to find balance —what scientists call the process of immunomodulation.

Immune decline is a classic manifestation of the aging process. But it isn’t always about reduced immune function. Sometimes, problems result from an over-active immune system. A system that turns against itself.

Herbal and botanical nutrients comprise some of the best immunity boosters. They can help stimulate the immune system when necessary, and suppress over-active immune response before it leads to chronic inflammatory imbalance and health concerns. This is what is meant by modulating immune function.

Here are 5 of the best herbs to boost immune system health:


Astragalus — The Body Defender With Many Benefits for Immunity

The Astragalus herb has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years, primarily as a lung and digestive tonic. Astragalus is referred to as an adaptogen. This means it helps defend the body from various stresses — physical, mental, and emotional.

Importantly, Astragalus provides support for healthy immune function. It promotes immune cell development and antibody production.

Research shows that the Astragalus herb contains complex sugars called polysaccharides that help regulate the composition of the microbiome, or community of bacteria in the gut. Herbs such as Astragalus help promote the growth of beneficial or friendly gut bacteria, while inhibiting the growth of harmful gut bacteria. Yet another example of balance.

This is crucially important, since scientists now realize that about 70% of your immune system is actually located in the gut.

Astragalus also acts as an antioxidant, so it helps protect cells against damage. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

In addition, studies have found that Astragalus has antiviral properties, and may help prevent respiratory issues such as the common cold. Animal studies have suggested that Astragalus can rejuvenate depressed immune function.


Andrographis — The Bitter Tonic That Supports Immune Health and So Much More

The herb Andrographis paniculata is a popular plant in Traditional Chinese Medicine and used to treat a wide array of ailments. In the Ayurvedic tradition, Andrographis is called the “King of Bitters” due to its use as a bitter digestive tonic that aids appetite and regularity.

Many bioactive compounds with therapeutic benefits have been isolated from this plant through scientific research, including flavonoid and polyphenol antioxidants and a bitter-tasting compound called andrographolide. Some of the most notable activity attributed to Andrographis includes:

  • Immune stimulating activity, including an increase in lymphocyte immune cell production
  • Anti-microbial effects against bacteria and fungus
  • Reducing inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory chemicals
  • Antioxidant activity that helps scavenge cell-damaging free radicals
  • Anti-infective activity, with positive results in treating symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection
  • Destruction of abnormal and mutated cells
  • And many others


Echinacea — The Immune-Boosting “Hedgehog” Herb

The herb Echinacea has been used for centuries as a Native American medicinal plant. It is named for the prickly scales in the purple coneflower, which resemble the spines of a hedgehog (echinos is Greek for hedgehog).

People have historically used this herb to treat a diverse array of maladies, ranging from malaria to diphtheria to syphilis. In Germany, therapeutic use of Echinacea is quite popular. This is actually where most of the scientific research on Echinacea has been conducted.

Even back in 2002, about 20% of the adult U.S. population used nutraceuticals such as herbal nutrients and supplements. Echinacea was the most commonly used, taken by over 40% of these people.

Laboratory and animal studies have found that Echinacea contains various chemical compounds including flavonoid antioxidants and polysaccharides. These compounds trigger immune system activity and increase the number of white blood cells to fight infections. The bioactive components differ between the root and the above-ground parts of the plant.

Echinacea has been shown to:

  • Boost immune system function
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Relieve pain
  • Act as an antioxidant
  • Act as an antiviral agent

A meta-analysis of 14 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that Echinacea not only lowered the risk of developing a cold by 58%, but also reduced cold duration significantly.

In Germany, certain parts of the plant have received regulatory approval to treat colds, respiratory tract ailments, slow-healing wounds, and flu-like infections.

Medical experts note that it is crucial to choose a high-quality Echinacea supplement with standardized extracts since preparations of Echinacea can differ widely. For therapeutic benefit, it’s best to use the herb as early as possible in the course of a cold.


Olive Leaf Extract — Immune Boosting Properties From the “Tree of Life”

The olive tree has been revered throughout history dating back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who considered it a symbol of longevity.

In the Bible, the olive tree is known as the “tree of life.” And of course, the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet promotes the healthful benefits of olives and olive oil.

While most attention has been given to the benefits of olives and olive oil, the leaf of the olive tree is only now starting to receive the focus it deserves.

Research has found that Olive Leaf Extract contains higher amounts of polyphenol antioxidants than those observed in extra virgin olive oil and olive fruits. The antioxidant benefits give Olive Leaf Extract the ability to remove damaged and mutated cells.

Scientists have found that a phenolic antioxidant compound called oleuropein is the main source of the olive tree’s own disease-resistant properties. In lab tests, oleuropein has demonstrated anti-inflammatory benefits and antibacterial activity. 

Another clinical study published in 2018 found that Olive Leaf Extract increased the number of immune NK (natural killer) cells to support immune response.


Chinese Skullcap — A Traditional Chinese Medicine Powerhouse

Scutellaria baicalensis is a plant commonly known as Chinese Skullcap. This herb, a member of the mint family, has a long history of use, and is one of the most widely used herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

To date, over 40 bioactive compounds have been isolated and identified from the Scutellaria plant. Three flavonoids antioxidants have been identified as the major active components of Chinese Skullcap: baicalin, baicalein, and wogonin.

The compounds in Chinese Skullcap demonstrate:

  • Antibacterial and antiviral activity
  • Anti-allergic activity
  • Antioxidant properties to scavenge free radicals and protect against cell damage
  • Regulation of the innate immune system
  • Reduction in the production of inflammatory chemicals



As you’ve seen in this article, herbal and plant-based nutrients direct from Mother Nature can help modulate and balance immune function to deliver the healthiest response to threats. Scientific studies continue to validate the use of these herbal immunity boosters, many of which have been used world-wide for centuries to provide natural immune support as well as treatment for health issues.

Note: In general, herbal nutrients show few side effects. However, since they may interact with some other herbs and prescription medications, check with your healthcare practitioner before using. Information in this article is not meant to be used as medical advice.


Sources for This Article Include:

Mount Sinai Health Library.

Science Direct.

Zhai Z, Liu Y, Wu L, et al. Enhancement of innate and adaptive immune functions by multiple Echinacea species. J Med Food. 2007;10(3):423-434. doi:10.1089/jmf.2006.257

Shah, Sander et al. Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. July 2007. S1473-3099(07)70160-3

Okhuarobo A, Falodun JE, Erharuyi O, Imieje V, Falodun A, Langer P. Harnessing the medicinal properties of Andrographis paniculata for diseases and beyond: a review of its phytochemistry and pharmacology. Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 2014;4(3):213-222. doi:10.1016/S2222-1808(14)60509-0

Magrone T, Spagnoletta A, Salvatore R, et al. Olive Leaf Extracts Act as Modulators of the Human Immune Response. Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2018;18(1):85-93. doi:10.2174/1871530317666171116110537

Qabaha K, Al-Rimawi F, Qasem A, Naser SA. Oleuropein Is Responsible for the Major Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Olive Leaf Extract. J Med Food. 2018;21(3):302-305. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.0070

Zhao, Tang, et al. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Volume 71 Issue 9; June 2019. Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi. (Lamiaceae): a review of its traditional uses, botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology

5 Odd Ways You Could Be Weakening Your Immune System

Today, it’s more important than ever to maintain and improve immune system function.

Having robust immunity is crucial to living a long and healthy life. However, a number of hidden factors could be sabotaging your immune health and compromising your body’s ability to defend itself.

You can help boost your immune system by watching for and avoiding these surprising immune saboteurs:


Loneliness and Your Immune System

Did you realize that loneliness can impair your immune health?

Social isolation has been recognized as a risk factor for various illness and increased risk of death for decades.

A 2014 study of 404 adults published in the journal Psychological Science exposed participants to a common cold virus. The group that had more hugs and social support showed decreased susceptibility to illness and less severe illness signs.

An animal study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology found that the added anxiety linked to loneliness can lead to more suppression of the immune system and more oxidative stress damage caused by cell-damaging free radicals.

Research performed at Ohio State University linked loneliness to several dysfunctional immune responses. Study subjects who were lonelier demonstrated increased signs of herpes virus reactivation and produced more pro-inflammatory chemicals when responding to acute stress that did those who were more socially connected. This study suggested that loneliness acts as a chronic stressor triggering a poorly controlled immune response.

Unfortunately, as a national survey by AARP pointed out, 35% of adults 45 and up are lonely. Seniors often lose connections with relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. So if you’re feeling isolated, it’s important to bring more social activity into your life. Volunteer, join a group with common interests, or seek new friendships. Your immune system health will take a positive step forward.


Grief and Immune System Health

According to medical experts, a sudden or tragic event such as losing a loved one can weaken your body’s immune response. 

According to a 2012 review published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, bereavement is associated with immune imbalance, including reduced immune T cell production. It can also raise the level of chemicals and hormones increasing your risk for more severe and frequent viral infections, such as the flu. In fact, certain vaccines such as the flu shot may be less beneficial for those coping with intense loss.

While not specifically immune-related, sudden emotional stress such as divorce or death of a loved one can also trigger “broken heart syndrome,” a condition that weakens the heart muscle. Plus, a Harvard study found that risk of a heart attack is 21 times greater within the first 24 hours after a person learns of the death of a significant person.

Anyone experiencing grief needs to make sure to practice good self-care, focusing on simple things such as eating well and getting outside. At times, a grief specialist such as a counselor or psychologist is necessary to help cope with emotional and physical manifestations of grief.


Inadequate Sleep and its Effects on Immunity

The Mayo Clinic warns that a lack of sleep can damage your immune system health. While sleeping, your body has the chance to heal and rebuild, preparing your body and immunity for the next day.

Those who don’t get quality sleep (or enough sleep) are more vulnerable to getting sick when exposed to a virus, including the common cold virus. Plus, a lack of sleep impacts your ability to  recover when you do get sick.

A 2009 Carnegie Mellon University study of 164 adults found that those who slept less than 6 hours per night were 4 times more likely to come down with a cold compared to those who got more than 7 hours of sleep. Researchers concluded that sleep is a strong predictor for susceptibility to the common cold virus.

During sleep, your immune system releases special chemical substances called cytokines. Some cytokines help to promote sleep. Other cytokines are necessary to protect against infection or inflammation, and lack of sleep can suppress their production. Plus, the production of infection-fighting antibodies is reduced when you fail to get enough sleep.

Long-term lack of sleep also raises the risk of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. Sleep deficiency can even cause accelerated aging and a shorter lifespan.

So how much sleep is necessary for a healthy immune system? Most experts agree that adults require seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.

However, sleeping too much can result in a poor quality of sleep, and may be counterproductive to good health and immune function.

Here are a few tips from sleep experts:

  • Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep. Keep the room cool, dark, and quiet. If necessary, use black-out curtains.
  • Put away electronic devices such as your tablet, laptop, or smart phone once you get into bed. It’s a good practice to keep the TV out of your bedroom as well.
  • Stick to a regular sleeping schedule. Try to go to bed and get up about the same time every day, including weekends.
  • Remember to limit your caffeine intake, particularly after lunchtime.
  • If you or your bed partner have persistent sleep difficulties (or snore), discuss it with your doctor. You could need further evaluation or a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea, a dangerous disorder.


Sugar Intake and Immune Dysfunction

OK, most of us are guilty of eating too much sugar. Of course, it contributes to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other health issues.

But what about immunity?

A rise in blood sugar from eating a high dose of sugar can affect the major components of your innate immunity, which helps defend you from infectious pathogens. Research shows a decreased activity of white blood cell defenders known as neutrophils.

Researchers have known for many decades that, among diabetics, there was a relationship between blood sugar levels and infections. Even back in the 1940’s, scientists discovered that the white blood cells of diabetics were sluggish.

In 2006, researchers confirmed in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that neutrophil activity is impaired with less-than-adequate blood sugar control. And this impairment of immune activity is not limited to diabetes sufferers. In general, as blood glucose rises, immune function goes down.

Earlier research from Loma Linda University found that this impairment could be caused by not only table sugar (sucrose), but with fructose (fruit sugar), honey, and orange juice. The biggest effect on immune cell activity occurred within 2 hours of ingestion, but the effects can last for at least 5 hours.

The bad news is that our sugar intake continues to rise. By the year 2000, Americans’ sugar consumption had grown to 152 pounds per year, up from 110 pounds in the 1950’s.

Science and common sense confirm that we should be pro-active about minimizing our sugar intake for a healthy immune system and overall well-being. Sugar lurks everywhere, even in breads, condiments, and salad dressings. Make sure to check labels when you shop!


Oral Hygiene, Gum Disease, and Immune Health

It may sound surprising, but maintaining good oral health and hygiene can help improve immune system function.

As a gateway into the body, your mouth provides a point of entry for microorganisms to enter both your respiratory system and bloodstream.

Unfortunately, nearly half of American adults over 30 suffer from some level of gum disease.

Early gum disease or gingivitis is caused by bacteria that feed and grow on the food debris building up between the teeth and around the gum edges.

Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, leads to inflammation that not only attacks the gums but can also affect the bone holding the teeth in place.

Inflammation caused by the bacteria signals your immune system to spring into action. When gum disease and subsequent inflammation becomes significant, the immune system cannot keep up with its job of defending us from bacterial invasion.

Here are some things you can do to make healthy lifestyle choices when it comes to your oral health and immunity:

  • Have your teeth cleaned and checked out professionally at regular intervals
  • Brush regularly — at least twice a day. Replace your toothbrush about every 3 months
  • Floss daily to remove the bacteria between your teeth that can’t be reached by your toothbrush

Immune function is complex. As you’ve seen in this article, many factors — including some not so well known — impact your ability to maintain a healthy immune system. While you can’t prevent some immunity-influencing situations, such as loss of a loved one, there are some simple dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to improve immune system function.


Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Consult with a health professional before taking any action.


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3 Immunity Super Foods With Hidden Benefits

Today, more than ever, it’s important to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. One of the best ways to maintain your overall health — and your immunity — is to maintain a nutritious diet.

While many foods possess the ability to boost your immune system health, here are 3 of the best ones with scientific backing for their immune benefits:


Garlic — The Unsung Immune-Boosting Food

Garlic is one of the most commonly used seasonings for cooking. But in addition to its culinary use, garlic has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine for its protective and curative properties. In the middle ages, people even used garlic to keep the plague at bay.

This vegetable, known as Allium sativum, is known for its production of compounds with interesting biological and pharmacological properties. These organosulfur compounds — particularly one called allicin — are extracted and isolated from garlic exhibit a broad variety of beneficial effects.


Garlic and the Immune System

The bioactive components in garlic boost the functioning of the immune system by activating certain immune cells— lymphocytes, macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells, and others. They do this by a variety of mechanisms. This includes modulating the secretion of cytokines, chemicals that regulate both the innate and adaptive immune system.

Plus, they are important in the production of immune antibodies, and active immune cells such as phagocytes and macrophages.


Garlic and Viruses

The scientific literature has shown that garlic demonstrates potent effects against certain viruses.

For instance, a Chinese study tested daily use of a garlic supplement on a group of 146 people. Half the group received the garlic supplement and half received a placebo. Strikingly, the placebo group suffered 63% more common cold infections when compared to study subjects who received the garlic supplement.

And those in the garlic-using group who did manage to catch a cold had symptoms for 1.5 days compared to 5 days in the placebo group. The doctors who conducted this study noted: “An allicin-containing supplement can prevent attack by the common cold virus.”

When you consider how many people suffer from common colds each year, you can see how this is significant.

Garlic also demonstrates anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects. Plus, it has a positive benefit on heart health, blood sugar, and abnormal cell growth.

Fortunately, garlic is an inexpensive way to promote immune health. In addition to adding as much garlic to your diet as possible, garlic extract supplements are available.

However, garlic supplement manufacturing varies widely, which influences its positive effects. So it’s important to choose a garlic supplement from a reputable company with high quality standards.


Fruits and Vegetables With Immune-Boosting Vitamin C

Vitamin C , also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that any Vitamin C unused by the body is excreted in the urine — not stored. So this nutrient must be taken regularly to prevent a shortage.

What’s more, unlike most animals (even most mammals), humans are unable to create Vitamin C internally. This means humans must gain this nutrient from their diet or by supplementation.


Foods High in Vitamin C

Many people think only of citrus fruit when they consider the best food sources for Vitamin C, but this nutrient is found in many fruits and vegetables:

Fruits highest in Vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits and juices, especially orange and grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Papaya and mango
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, and blueberries

The best vegetable sources of Vitamin C include:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
  • Red and green peppers
  • Spinach, cabbage, and other leafy greens
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Winter squash


Functions of Vitamin C

Vitamin C performs many functions in the body. It’s necessary for the growth and repair of body tissues, including the formation of collagen to make tendons, skin, ligaments, and even blood vessels.

It’s also important in wound healing and the repair and maintenance of bones, cartilage, and teeth.

Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant. This means it protects cells and molecules from free radical damage generated during metabolism and other activity.

But that’s not all.


Vitamin C’s Role in Immunity

The Nobel Prize in Physiology went to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi in 1937 for his research on Vitamin C. This discovery launched the deluge of Vitamin C research — especially with regard to immune function.

Research shows that Vitamin C stimulates the production and function of certain white blood cells, especially neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes.

Scientists have also found that some white blood cells, including phagocytes, produce and release chemicals with antiviral activity. Phagocytes are essential to immune health because they ingest harmful foreign particles, including bacteria, viral particles, or dead or dying cells.

Some studies report that Vitamin C can enhance the pathogen-killing ability of neutrophils and stimulate the proliferation of B and T lymphocytes. Neutrophils make up from 40 to 70% of all white blood cells, and are a critical part of the innate immune system. B and T lymphocytes are a big part of the adaptive immune response. Vitamin C also has a beneficial effect on the body’s NK or natural killer cells.

Research shows that regular use of Vitamin C supplements has been found to reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold.

One study reported in Annals of Nutritional Metabolism found that in older people requiring hospitalization for pneumonia and chronic bronchitis, even a dose of just 200 mg of Vitamin C per day reduced the clinical severity of their illness.


Vitamin C in Health and Aging

A severe vitamin C deficiency is called scurvy, and is potentially fatal. Even by the late 1700’s, the British navy knew they could cure scurvy by eating citrus fruit, even though they had no knowledge of Vitamin C. While scurvy is no longer common, a certain level of Vitamin C deficiency is.

Unfortunately, aging adults tend to show lower levels of circulating Vitamin C, which can impair immune function. This is further complicated by the fact that the aging process itself leads to a decline in normal immune function.

But it’s not only older adults at risk. The government’s NHANES study found that overall, about 23% of Americans suffer from Vitamin C depletion.

In addition to immune issues, low Vitamin C levels have also been linked to many common conditions, including diabetes, pneumonia, arthritis, and many others.

The good news is that eating plenty of the foods listed above and supplementing with Vitamin C can not only improve immune function, but also support overall health and prevent many health issues


Green Tea — 4,000 Years of Healing Power

The use of tea originated in China over 4,000 years ago, and tea has played a critical role in Asian culture and medicine ever since. Today, tea is the most widely consumed beverage world-wide.

And while there are thousands of different types of tea, green tea has been particularly studied for its effect on health.

Green tea contains an active ingredient called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, called EGCG for short. Research indicates that EGCG is the primary factor creating the health benefits of green tea, and promotes health in several body systems.


Green Tea and Immune Health

When it comes to immune health, green tea and EGCG play a regulatory role in both the innate and adaptive immune systems.

Studies have repeatedly shown that EGCG plays a beneficial role in immune system T cell function. In 2011, new research at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University found that EGCG can increase the production of T cells and also play a positive role in autoimmune disease.


Green Tea and Viruses

A 2017 review of green tea catechins found that EGCG demonstrates antiviral effects against a diverse number of viruses. Green tea also acts as an anti-microbial agent.

As a natural antioxidant, EGCG can help reduce the production of free radicals and protect cells and molecules from damage. Green tea also helps reduce inflammation and shows benefits with many health issues, including heart and blood sugar concerns and several types of cancers.

In more recent years, a form of green tea called matcha has become popular. Matcha is a fine green tea powder of high quality made from the entire leaves of tea bushes. As it is the only type of tea in which leaves are ingested, it contains a much higher level of antioxidants.

Green tea extract can also be consumed as a supplement in powder, liquid, or capsule form.


Note: This article does not constitute medical advice. Consult with a health professional before taking any action.


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