Everyone Wants Immunity

  • Written by Dr. Lucas Szczepanik B.Sc., D.C.

    It’s that time of year again. Sniffles and coughs become more common and everyone heads down to the hospital for their flu shot. Although the flu shot is a viable option, many people focus on strengthening their immune system naturally through proper diet, and avoid things that are harmful to the immune system. It is the immune system that fights off disease causing microorganisms and responsible for the body’s healing abilities. In fact, the aging process may have more to do with the functioning of the immune system rather than the passage of time.

    There are a number of factors that will depress the immune system’s defensive abilities. Environmental factors such as the chemicals in household cleaners; the overuse of antibiotics and other drugs; chemical additives and preservatives in the foods we eat; exposure to environmental pollution etc. will have a depressive effect on the immune system. Mental and emotional stress is also very detrimental causing a sequence of events that suppresses the normal activity of white blood cells, as well as depleting the body of needed nutrients. The result is an impairment in our healing ability and a lowered defense against infection. Some common signs of a weakened immune system include fatigue, listlessness, repeated infections, inflammation, allergic reactions, slow wound healing, & chronic diarrhea.

    The best approach to take is to try to reduce the factors that depress the immune system and make sure your body is getting the necessary nutrients to keep the immune system strong. It is important to note that taking a multivitamin and “eating the way I want” is not the right approach. One of the most common suppressors' of immune function is an incorrect diet high in fat and refined processed foods. Some nutrients to pay attention to are:

    Vitamin C

    • Citrus fruits, berries, melon, tomatoes, broccoli, & papaya are natural sources
    • Supplemental forms of Vitamin C come in 500mg or 1000mg capsules
    • 1 medium papaya has approximately 195 mg of Vit.C.
    • 100g of broccoli has approximately 115 mg of Vit. C.
    • 1 medium orange has approximately 70 mg of Vit. C.

    Vitamin A

    • recommended daily allowance in Canada is 900 micrograms (= 0.9 milligrams)
    • TOO MUCH CAN BE TOXIC —there is usually no need to take Vitamin A as a supplement
    • A multi-vitamin is sufficient for Vitamin A supplementation unless there is a known deficiency in the body.
    • Sources include beef liver, cod liver oil, eggs, butter, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, apricots, pumpkin, squash
    • 1 whole egg has approximately 110 micrograms of Vit A.
    • 1 large carrot has approximately 810 micrograms of Vit A. (this doesn’t mean you’ll overdose on Vitamin A from eating a handful of carrots)
    • 100 milligrams of Spinach has approximately 460 micrograms of Vit. A

    Vitamin E

    • Very important for the body’s defense system —an excellent antioxidant
    • Recommended not to take as a supplement in large doses
    • sources include sunflower seeds, wheat germ, sweet potatoes, shrimp, salmon

    Zinc

    • boosts the immune response and promotes healing of wounds when used in appropriate doses (100 mg or less daily)
    • helps to protect the liver
    • doses over 100 mg per day may actually depress immune function

    Protein

    • it is essential to the function of your entire body as well as components of the immune system
    • average women requires 45 grams/day and average men require 55 grams/day
    • high protein diets can be very harmful to the liver and kidneys. If a higher protein diet is required because of weight lifitng, athletics etc., then your water intake should be increased as well to lessen the burden on your liver and kidneys.
    • sources include low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meat and poultry, eggs, soy foods, legumes and nuts

  • The best approach to take is to add some of the foods mentioned above to your diet and then take an inventory of some of the stressors to the immune system and try to eliminate or reduce these stressors. A truly healthy person will have a healthy immune system.

    Health Canada has a vitamin chart with the RDA’s (recommended daily allowance) on their website. The chart can be accessed from the Health Canada website or by typing the following link in your internet browser; http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_vitam_tbl-eng.php

 

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