I was looking today for ways to boost the immune system fast, and, of course, I kept reading that to strengthen your immunity you need at least several weeks of focus on a super healthy lifestyle, with veggies and fruit more or less high in antioxidants (without overdoing it with berries or supplements, for instance, since too many antioxidants are actually dangerous), foods or supplements with omega-3 fats, vitamin C and zinc supplements, and a severe goodbye to saturated and trans fats, along with lots of exercise (preferably more than just thirty minutes a day) and chicken soup (apparently much of its healing properties has to do with the anti-inflammatory antioxidant carnosine and the chicken soup’s effect on neutrophils, the largest class of white blood cells), among other things (time in nature, time away from smoking and drinking :), and, yes, limiting your intake of sweets, etc.). (Funny how most of these articles, though, don’t mention true teas and herbal teas, which are also very important.)
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So I was reading suggestions for a better functioning immune system, listing up all the usual suspects (minus teas), and then I remembered how great I feel when I do intermittent fasting, and how it’s supposed to help the body in all sorts of ways, including by increasing its immune response. And, indeed, an article in Immunology Letters from October 2020 discusses that response, while also briefly mentioning—and this is a peer-reviewed science article—that intermittent fasting helps fight aging and benefits the body in a way that creates the conditions for it to live longer. IF also helps us respond better to stress, and that alone helps out immune system by not suppressing its good functioning with a large production of cortisol. While some cortisol is actually anti-inflammatory, too much of it affects the production of lymphocytes in a negative way, leading to immunosuppression.
Back to intermittent fasting, while I don’t embrace the authors’ enthusiasm that it can do wonders, including as a “a possible preventive strategy against COVID-19” (but do note that the authors themselves mention the fact that Covid does develop ways to circumvent the immune system) . . . the fact is that IF does promote autophagy (meaning “self-eating”), a series of processes by which the body removes damaged or otherwise unwanted cell components, recycling some of them (essentially repairing cells), helps the production of antibodies and cytokines, and targets pathogens.
Now that I got you all excited about intermittent fasting, do check with your doctor(s) if it’s for you. It’s certainly not recommended in all cases, and you need to get professional advice if you have diabetes or other chronic conditions (and not only then).
Some recent studies suggest that autophagy may promote liver health, stalling the progress of certain conditions (such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or chronic alcohol-related liver disease, for instance), help with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and even lower the risk of cancer, but more scientific investigation is needed to determine all that. Also, some of the research shows that too much autophagy is a bad thing, so beware of too much IF.
Wondering how to do intermittent fasting? Definitely check with your doctor(s). You’ve probably seen infographics with IF recommendations according to age, but age is not the only deciding factor. Your health is, and also your schedule. Also your lifestyle and the kind of meals and temporary (throughout 24 hours) calorie restrictions you’ve tried in the past. It may be better for you to start with 12:12 fasting, for instance, where you simply eat dinner at 6:30 p.m. and then not eat anything after that. It may be hard at first, you may get very hungry right when you want to fall asleep, but you may find that your body gets used to it.
Or you may want to try the 16:8 fast, which is what I do when I do IF. In my case, it helps me lose a few kilos, without putting them back quickly afterward, but every body is different.
In any event, whether you do the 12-hour, 16-hour or other versions of IF, this kind of fasting will probably help your immune system. Be aware, though, that the immunity boost happens because IF puts your body under stress. You may not want to do that if your body is already dealing with difficult conditions.
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If your schedule or health situation doesn’t allow you to do IF, and you know you have a weakened immune system on account of a less-than-healthy diet, for instance, then you may want to consider a supplement called SystemWell (R) Ultimate Immunity, from Nature’s Way.
I do not take—or decide to ingest—supplements lightly, and I usually wouldn’t mention something that’s so all over the board in terms of ingredients, because it may be too powerful for the body, but in my case, for instance, I opted to take this after a stressful spring and half summer with lots of work under pressure. Also a spring and half summer with more sweets than usual and and pitifully few vegetables. Finally, I decided to take it after two months of very little exercise. All the above resulted in various issues which signaled to me that my immune system was weakened (no surprise there).
This Ultimate Immunity from Nature’s Way includes echinacea, maitake and shiitake mushrooms, garlic, olive leaf, aerial parts of goldenseal, fenugreek seeds, rosemary and thyme leaves, and more. The blend also includes vitamins A, C, D, and zinc and selenium. They give as serving size three tablets, but I’m taking just one every three days (probably for two months). Again, if you’re not used to taking supplements, this may be a lot for you. It would certainly be like an earthquake for a friend of mine who doesn’t even take aspirin!
If the above blend is too much for you, ask your doctor(s) about a probiotics blend, since probiotics, too, help increase the production of antibodies and promote immune health in many other ways as well. They affect the functions of macrophages and T and B lymphocytes, for instance, cells most directly involved in the immune response.
Please note that things have gotten quite out there in terms of the intensity of these probiotics, from 1/3/5/7 billion to 200 billion CFU! I personally feel comfortable with 5 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units), and many health professionals would agree that, in general, a smaller number does the trick better, but with certain hospital stays requiring stronger and stronger antibiotics, as in the case of a relative of mine who went in for cancer surgery and came away plagued with several bouts of Clostridium difficile, who knows where we’ll get.
Anyway, here’s Jarro-Dophilus (R) from Jarrow Formulas.
I also recommend you take omega-3 supplements if you don’t get enough of these essential fatty acids from food. They help lower blood pressure and triglycerides, fight inflammation, and raise the good cholesterol (also lowering the bad cholesterol in some cases), all of which makes them very important for managing the health of your arteries and heart, along with that of other conditions and illnesses, such as the metabolic syndrome. Omega-3 fatty acids also improve the health of your eyes and brain, help prevent and manage certain autoimmune diseases, and more. Last but not least, they fight the inflammation brought on by infections and may even help a little against Covid.
A final word of advice: If you can move in any way, do it!
Okay, you may not be able to run like the woman in the above image, but do everything in your power to move more, within your limits. In the end, when it comes to the immune system, there’s nothing like good food (and a lot of water), good company, and exercise in nature. Oh—and tea!
To a happier, healthier life,
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