How to strengthen your immune system this time of year

It’s winter again here in Australia and every year many of us battle to keep colds and flus from ruining our week. Everyone around us seems to have a sniffle or two and its all we can do to not catch the dreaded cold.

There is a way to minimise your chances of catching of a cold or flu or help to reduce the symtpoms if those nasty germs fight their way through. One is to whip up this recipe and keep some in your freezer for when you need it or as a everyday booster. The other way is to provide your immune system with the essential nutrients it needs to help fight off unwanted germs.

Kick that Cold Elixir

This simple remedy is full of nourishing ingredients which work hard to support your immune system. By keeping the immune system armed and ready for attack your body has a better shot at killing off those invaders who march their way into your body through your skin or mucous membranes which is the very first line of defence we use to protect us from foreign bodies.

Should the first line of defence fail along with our antimicrobial proteins which are found in our blood, the next line of defence is our natural killer cells (yep, they are a real thing) and backed up by phagocytes. Together they provide a strong attack.

Natural killer (NK) cells have the ability to destroy many different kinds of cells which have become infected and present abnormal plasma membrane proteins. Once the killer cells have attached themselves to the infected cell they release a toxic substance which causes the cell to rupture. During this attack NK cells release protein-digesting enzymes called granzymes resulting in the cell self-destructing.

When the cells inner mass has dispersed, those microbes which are floating around inside the body are ambushed by the phagocytes and promptly eaten in a process called phagocytosis. Ending the foreign invaders attack on your immune system.

This isn’t the only defence mechanism the body has to protect itself from invaders. We also have soldiers guarding our important immunity called Lymphocytes. Broken down again into B cells and T cells. There are a few different types of T cells; such as helpers T cells, cytotoxic T cells and memory T cells.

B cells are highly responsive to an infection as they quickly divide and produce antibodies. These antibodies march their way to the site of infection where they position themselves to kill the invader.

For a T cell to start fighting it requires activation from an antigen which is specific to foreign antigen fragments. However, there needs to be a second signal known as costimulation. Working as a team they initate an attack on the foreign body to destroy it. This process eliminates any accidental immune responses.

Once activation is complete the T cell proliferates (divides multiple times)  and differentiates (become specialised cells) resulting in clones which are capable of recognising a specific antigen and destroying it.

Helper T cells have a very important part to play in the upkeep of the immune system as they produce a cytokine, called interleukin-2 (IL-2) which is fundamental to all immune repsonses.

Cytotoxic T cells remember particular antigens that are combined with histocompatability complex class-1 (MHC-1). Once again costimulation occurs by utilising interleukin-2 or other cytokines helper T cells have created.

Memory T cells are the remains of T cells who have been cloned. These cells have the ability to recognise an antigen from a previous invasion culminating in a speedy attack of the foreign antigens.

So, how do we ensure our immune system has the right equipment to help our cells fight off infection?

Nutrition!

The immune system can be quite sensitive to any changes in our nutritional status leaving our body wide open to an attack. Our best defence against infection is to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, protein, fat and complex carbs. Eliminate as much processed foods as possible and definitely avoid fast food and foods high in saturated fat and sugar.

The main nutrients to support your immune system during cold and flu season are:

  • zinc
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin A
  • lactobacillus
  • bioflavnoids

Foods to enjoy regularly are:

  • ginger
  • garlic
  • citrus fruits
  • broccoli
  • capsicum
  • spinach
  • Greek yoghurt
  • almonds
  • turmeric
  • papaya
  • green tea
  • poultry
  • sunflower seeds
  • berries
  • tomatoes
  • buckwheat
  • kiwi fruit
  • mango
  • cabage
  • shellfish
  • sesame seeds
  • pecans
  • sardines

Of course, Mother Nature has an abundance of beautiful foods on offer. Don’t limit yourself. Take advantage of all the delicious and nutritious, natural foods there is to enjoy.

 

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