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When our immune system is challenged, our whole body goes into fight mode. Whether the invader be a virus, bacteria or a parasite, most peoples immune systems will respond efficiently, by producing antibodies capable of attacking & neutralising it. But for others, their immune system may be weakened & not strong enough to respond as it should, making them more susceptible to colds, viruses, flu's & other more serious illnesses.

Many people are offered the flu vaccine each year. For some this may be an option, but for others there are many ways you can build up your own immune system so when an invader does enter your body, your own natural defence system will be ready & prepared to fight it off.

As 70% of our immune system is situated in the gut lining, it makes sense to complete a bowel detox, to help rid your intestinal tract of any parasites or over growths of yeast. There are many well-structured programs available at health shops & this is an important 1st step to a stronger immunity. Once completed, ensure you take an acidophilus supplement to repopulate your bowel with good bacteria. A lot of people also take colostrum, said to help strengthen the immune system, while also helping maintain a healthy bowel. A bowel detox should be completed once a year - "A Spring Clean".

Eating a varied diet is important for helping to make our immune system stronger, as this keeps it exposed to a greater variety of antigens or invaders. Each time it is challenged, an antibody is made, which fights this specific invader. You can imagine how many antibodies we end up with in a lifetime, all ready to respond again, should the same antigen enter our system. A balanced diet consisting of highly coloured fresh fruits & vegetables, lean meat, fatty fish & whole grains (preferably organic) will provide your body with an assortment of highly absorbable antioxidants, nutrients & essential fatty acids - all vital for a healthy immune system.

The main nutrients which help keep our immune system strong are Zinc, Vitamin C with bioflavanoids & Beta-carotene. Of course an assortment of all of nutrients is vital, however these ones are essential for immunity. Latest research from Harvard Medical School states, " It is essential that all adults take a multivitamin". Seek professional advice so you get just what you need & don't self prescribe.

There are many herbs available that have been shown to help strengthen the immune system. Astragalus, Cats Claw & Garlic, as well as the deep immune mushrooms Reishi & Shiitake are all good choices. These all help with debilitated immune function, post infection recovery & repetitive colds & flu's. They could be taken individually or in a combination. A lot of people start these in the autumn, to help prevent winter illness & take these throughout the colder months.

Keeping your house well aired out & free from dampness is essential for helping to support your immune system. A dehumidifier is one of the best pieces of equipment I have ever bought - the difference to the air temperature is dramatic. Once any dampness is sorted out, burning essential oils can help to keep the atmosphere fresh. Pine, Eucalyptus, Lemon & Tea tree are ideal to put in a burner & vaporise. Orange, Cedar wood or Grapefruit all create a soothing effect, while being uplifting & very refreshing. I often put a couple of drops of my favourite oils onto a light bulb. When I turn on the light, the oil burns as the bulb heats up.

Regular exercise is essential for a healthy immune system, as this helps stimulate our lymphatic system. The lymphatic system has many functions in our body, but 1 is that it makes special cells called lymphocytes, which help the body fight infection. Walking is one of the best overall exercises for helping your whole body function at its best, however cardiovascular & resistance exercises are also vital. Rebounding or bouncing on a trampoline is excellent for the lymphatic system too. Remember that for each 1-hour of exercise you do, you need to sip on at least 750ml of water. This is on top of your usual 2-litre minimum. Starting your day with � a lemon squeezed in water will help your liver to function better & definitely helps to clear your head.

Adequate sleep is essential for keeping a healthy immune system, with the amount of sleep needed varying from person to person & from age to age. Deficiencies of the minerals magnesium & calcium will interfere with a person's ability to unwind properly to be able to fall & stay asleep. Drinks containing caffeine are the main robbers of these nutrients & if consumed for up to 1 hour after having food or taking nutritional supplements, it will interfere with the absorption of nutrients such as iron, calcium & the B vitamins. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant & affects people differently. Keep its consumption to a minimum - no more than 1 or 2 a day & not past 2 o'clock. Try drinks such as Dandelion or Chicory coffee, both delicious alternatives to coffee, yet similar in taste. Rooibos or Red bush tea makes a pleasant change & is naturally tannin & caffeine free.

Untreated depression results in a suppressed immune system response. If what was previously pleasurable has now become of little interest, seek professional advice. Once you have a clear diagnosis, herbs such as St Johns wort & 5 HTP may be suitable alternatives to prescription medication. Nutrient deficiencies & high toxicity are common contributors to depression so always need to be addressed. Ecstasy use is linked to low seratonin levels - leading to depression. Marijuana weakens the immune system. THC, the active ingredients in marijuana alters the normal immune response, making white blood cells 35-40% less effective. The list of diseases & illnesses directly linked to cigarette smoking is growing all the time & this highly addictive habit will directly affect your immune system making you more vulnerable to catch colds & flu's.

All cases of ill health must be fully investigated by your health care professional. Leanne James & her team at Ideal Health are always ready with well-researched information & the best products to help treat health complaints naturally.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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