More Immune System Boosting Nutrients

Here are a few more ways to prevent, or to lessen the severity of a cold or flu that you may have already caught.

Garlic is a member of the onion family, and is a powerful immune booster that stimulates the production of infection-fighting white cells, boosts natural killer cell activity, and increases the efficiency of antibody production. The immune-boosting properties of garlic seem to be due to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin and sulfides.

Garlic can also act as an antioxidant that reduces the build-up of free radicals in the bloodstream. Garlic may protect against cancer, though the evidence is controversial. Cultures with a garlic-rich diet have a lower incidence of intestinal cancer. Garlic may also play a part in getting rid of potential carcinogens and other toxic substances. It is also a heart-friendly food since it keeps platelets from sticking together and clogging tiny blood vessels.

Selenium is a mineral that increases natural killer cells and mobilizes cancer-fighting cells. The best food sources of selenium are tuna, red snapper, lobster, shrimp, whole grains, vegetables, although that depends on the selenium content of the soil they’re grown in, brown rice, egg yolks, cottage cheese, chicken breasts, sunflower seeds, garlic, Brazil nuts, and lamb chops.

One study found that children taking a half teaspoon of flax oil a day experienced fewer and less severe respiratory infections and fewer days of being absent from school. The omega-3 fatty acids in flax oil and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. This may be the reason that cod liver oil was often prescribed to cure a cold. Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection.

When taking essential fatty acid supplements, such as flax or fish oils, take additional vitamin-E, which acts together with essential fatty acids to boost the immune system. One way to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is to add one to three teaspoons of flax oil to a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Fish oil is always the better choice, but flax can be more palatable for children, or in a smoothie, for example.

Zinc is a valuable mineral that increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and help them to fight more aggressively. It also increases killer cells that fight against cancer and helps white cells release more antibodies. Zinc supplements have been shown to slow the growth of cancer.

Zinc increases the number of infection-fighting T-cells, especially in elderly people who are often deficient in zinc, and whose immune system often weakens with age. The anti-infection hype around zinc is controversial. While some studies claim that zinc supplements in the form of lozenges can lower the incidence and severity of infections, other studies have failed to show this correlation. A word of caution: too much zinc in the form of supplements (more than 75 milligrams a day) can inhibit immune function. It’s safest to stick to getting zinc from your diet and aim for 15 to 25 milligrams a day.

For infants and children, there is some evidence that dietary zinc supplements may reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infections, but this is controversial. The best source of zinc for infants and young children is zinc-fortified cereals.

If you are already sick then this may be of help. Hot foods such as chili peppers, hot mustard, radishes, pepper, onions, and garlic contain substances called “mucolytics”, which are similar to over-the-counter expectorant cough syrups. These mucolytics liquefy thick mucus that accumulates in the sinuses and breathing passages. Getting sick is a fact of life, so if you already are, then at least spicy foods can help you breathe a little easier.

Happy Lifting!

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