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       Volume I - July 10, 2009

Be Assertive About Your Immunity
by Alice Osborne & Patty Liston


We have a neighbor, a young man who just returned from spending a couple years in New York, who is struggling with Swine Flu right now, so our prayers and thoughts are not only with him, they are also on what we can do to stay well and avoid this flu.

We’re betting you’ve been thinking about it as well. So it’s with this concern that we did some research on the immune system. We’ve shared this information recently, but it needs repeating. PLEASE read what Wendy McMillan of Natural Solutions magazine has to say then stock your fridge with these important foods:

“What we eat plays a big role in fighting off germs. ‘Our immune system is like a finely honed, intricately choreographed dance,’ says Beth Reardon, RD, an integrative nutritionist at Duke Integrative Medicine, North Carolina. Every cell has a specific role, she says, and requires key nutrients to survive and work properly. The standard American diet is desperately lacking in important nutrients and puts the immune system at risk. The best way to maintain health and avoid the flu? Eat well. These nine power foods can help you beat the best of the bugs:

  • Garlic: One of nature’s more potent remedies, garlic has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, courtesy of allicin, the sulfurous chemical compound responsible for crushed garlic’s unmistakable, pungent odor. It not only inhibits the growth of bacteria, it can even kill some germs on contact. Now for the tricky part: To experience the full benefits of garlic in combating colds and flu, you’d have to eat an entire bulb raw every day. Patty has been really ill with a nasty head and chest cold, so her neighbor introduced her to this garlic remedy. She says she just quickly swallows finely a finely chopped garlic bulb every day, and it’s not that bad. She thinks this might be why she hasn’t gotten pneumonia.

  • Shiitake mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms add more than their rich flavor to a dish—they help produce a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells, which release a type of protein into the infected cells that causes them to self-destruct. Research also attributes the powerful effect of shiitake mushrooms to their unique complex sugars called lentinan. Structurally similar to bacteria, lentinan “tricks” your body into feeling threatened, which kicks the immune system into a higher gear.

  • Tea: This comforting beverage does an admirable job of soothing the throat and relaxing the senses, even as it helps build up your resistance behind the scenes. Green tea, one of the least processed varieties, contains the highest amount of nutrients, but black teas are also rich in health benefits. In fact, powerful compounds known as polyphenols comprise nearly 30 percent of their dry weight. Why is that so important? Well, thanks to the air we breathe and much of the food we eat, our body is constantly bombarded with free radicals, which steal electrons from healthy cells and, in the process, damage their DNA. The selfless polyphenols offer up their own electrons to these unstable atoms, rendering them harmless and eliminating the threat.

  • Oranges: No surprises here. Just one orange provides more than 100% of the daily value for vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps strengthen the immune system. While there ïs conflicting evidence about vitamin C’s cold-prevention power, most nutritionists and doctors agree that it certainly can’t hurt. One way vitamin C helps boost immunity is by stimulating the growth of antibodies that fight off infections. Vitamin C is part of the chemical reactions that allow the body to synthesize proteins needed for antibodies. The more vitamin C that’s available to the body, the faster antibodies can be made. Studies show it also acts as an antihistamine, lowering blood levels of defensive chemicals (histamines) released by the immune system that actually exacerbate stuffiness and congestion. Finally, vitamin C helps produce prostaglandin E1 in the body, an anti-inflammatory hormone. While inflammation is a natural bodily response signifying something is physically not right, chronic, low-grade inflammation can actually cause the immune system to constantly fight the inflammation. And if the immune system is busy doing that, there’s a good chance it’ll miss the beginnings of another illness.

  • Blueberries: Blueberries get a lot of votes as the ultimate immunity food. A powerhouse of antioxidant phytonutrients, health-promoting components found in plants, blueberries are also a good source of both vitamins C and E. When vitamins C and E work together, they produce their most potent antioxidant effects. While vitamin C, the body’s No. 1 water-soluble antioxidant, patrols the body’s waters, fat-soluble vitamin E works to protect fatty tissues from free radicals.

  • Sweet potatoes: Rich in carotene, the chemical that gives certain vegetables their orange color, sweet potatoes are a key player in the fight against infection. The reason? The liver converts carotene to vitamin A, which fortifies your first defender, your skin, by making it less permeable to germs. Sweet potatoes also contain about 27% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, and recent research has shown that the unique proteins in sweet potatoes may have antioxidant effects.

  • Lean beef: Beef gets a bad rap sometimes, primarily because most Americans eat too much of it. But the rich zinc content of lean, organic beef can bolster the immune system, just one 4-ounce serving provides approximately 42% of the recommended daily value. Zinc figures prominently in the production of white blood cells, says Camire. Too little zinc leads to a drop in them, which increases your risk of infection. Unlike other types of cells, most immune cells live only a short time and cannot divide or reproduce on their own. Because zinc spurs rapid cell division, it helps replace and repair these important members of the immune team. Looking for a vegetarian source of zinc? A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds packs approximately 17% of the RDA.

  • Spinach: Loaded with nutrients and essential vitamins, spinach also contains folate, important when it comes to the production of new cells. In addition to being short-lived, immune cells get produced in fairly low numbers. When the body is threatened, one division of the immune system jump-starts production of cells targeted for the specific invaders. And the immune system depends on folate to increase the supply of cells. But that’s not all: Researchers have identified at least 13 different compounds in spinach that act as antioxidants. One of these is quercetin, a phytochemical that has been shown to help prevent many viruses from multiplying. It’s recommended adults include approximately three cups of spinach in their diet each week.

  • Yogurt: We know the “good” bacteria in yogurt, known as probiotics, makes an essential contribution to a healthy immune system. The stomach and intestinal tract contain more than 500 different varieties of bacteria, and probiotics help maintain a balance between the good and bad bacteria by crowding out pathogens and preventing them from attaching to gut walls. Probiotics also feed on non-digestible fibers called prebiotics, producing short-chain fatty acids that decrease acidity in the colon. The decreased acidity makes the colon uninhabitable for most infection-causing pathogens, which, in turn, allows for increased mineral absorption.

    Probiotics can also enhance the body’s immune response by increasing levels of key players, including natural killer cells. Studies have shown that yogurt specifically helps the body build a protein called gamma interferon, which aids the body in developing white blood cells.

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