As cold and flu season approaches, it’s a great time for retirees to integrate some eating habits to help build the immune system. In general, as people age, so too does the immune system, making seniors more susceptible to communicable disease such as colds and flu. Thanks to scientific research, there are some things you can do to promote a strong immune system. Just what does it take to ensure your immune system is able to effectively fight against disease, are there vitamins, herbal preparations, or lifestyle changes that support a healthy immune system?
Here are some tips various diet and lifestyle changes to help boost the immune system:
- Eat plenty of nutrient rich foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and fish, for vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.
- Raw Brazil nuts are loaded with zinc, which is a very strong anti-oxidant, known for supporting the immune system.
- Quit smoking, and avoid smoking if you have not yet started.
- Eat a diet high in bright colored fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise on a regular basis, incorporate resistance training (such as weight lifting) and cardio (running, walking fast on hills, playing tennis, biking, or swimming).
- Maintain a healthy weight, ask your physician what your healthy weight range should be and request a test of total body fat content.
- Keep alcohol intake to 1 to 2 servings per day.
- Make sure you get enough sleep, around 8 hours is adequate for most adults.
- When cooking, keep raw meat and fresh vegetable preparation areas separate, wash hands frequently, and keep your living environment clean.
- Minimize your stress level-stress lowers the body’s ability to fight infection.
- Eat plenty of foods high in antioxidants, such as, red berries, lemons, and curcumin (turmeric).
According to Harvard Health, “Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors on the immune response, both in animals and in humans. In the meantime, general healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand.”
The antioxidants found in bright fruits and vegetables are thought to help strengthen the immune system. Mayo Clinic reports that the Vitamin C found in lemons may help strengthen the immune system. Try juicing a fresh lemon (be sure to scrape out all the pulp. You can even grate some of the rind into water (for an even higher antioxidant level), then add a natural sweetener (such as stevia) and some ice. Drink lemon water during the day to hydrate and help boost the immune system.
Mayo clinic also reports that recent studies show that curcumin (turmeric in curry), can help to regulate the immune system. Make a delicious hot tea by grating fresh turmeric into hot water and adding a natural sweetener and some fresh grated ginger, and cinnamon. You can also find turmeric tea and turmeric supplements online. Be aware that studies show that the substance called, piperine, an alkaloid found in black pepper, helps boost absorption of turmeric. In addition, some studies show that intake of medium chain fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil, also help to promote proper absorption of turmeric. In fact, some studies discovered that without eating a fatty meal (such as one with coconut oil), turmeric was not absorbed at high enough levels to have a therapeutic effect on the body.
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Red berries such as, raspberries and strawberries have also been found in studies to be very high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Red berries are also thought to help boost the immune system, and they are included as part of a brain healthy Alzheimer’s prevention diet as well.
1. Harvard Health. (2017, September). How to boost your immune system. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
2. Mayo Clinic Health Letter. (2013, November). Antioxidants. http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/health/pdf/284/201311.PDF