Strengthen your defenses naturally

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Strengthen your defenses naturally

A balanced diet is the main tool for keeping an immune system in balance and ready to fight viruses and other health threats.

Strengthen your defenses naturally

The immune system is the barrier that defends us from harmful microorganisms and infectious agents. It has a great job, because we live in a kind of soup or air full of bacteria, viruses, parasites and other potentially harmful agents. If the defenses are in good health, the response to an external aggressor, such as a virus, may be more effective. However, if the external aggressor finds himself with weak defenses, it is easier for him to unbalance the organism.

THE IMMUNE SYSTEM NEEDS BALANCE

With the appearance of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), interest in those habits, foods or supplements that can stimulate immunity has redoubled. The status of this immunity is known to depend on numerous non-hereditary factors (as has been assessed in identical twins), including lifestyle, diet, sleep, or exercise habits, and also the history of exposure to germs during life. All are factors that influence very significantly.

Many people think that strengthening the immune system consists of stimulating it, making it work more so that it fights with more intensity against the enemy; however, immunity needs balance. If it works in an exaggerated way it also creates health problems, sometimes very dangerous.

When we catch a cold we notice mucus, because the respiratory mucous membranes are inflamed. The immune system causes this unpleasant and often painful inflammation to expel the invading agents. Even so, in excess it is also harmful. Again, the key is balance.

People with weakened defenses (elderly, immunosuppressed, chronically ill, polymedicated …) constitute a more vulnerable population. They are the most prone to infection and health complications. Health professionals are also highly exposed to contagion, as COVID-19 has shown, especially if they do not have the means to carry out their titanic work.

We can take care of the immune system, but this is not the same as treating a disease such as that caused by the coronavirus. We do not want to give false hope. We have put together tips that can be useful for everyone, to avoid complications of COVID-19, to try to reduce its spread and that of other viruses and bacteria. And also so that after suffering it, if it is the case, the body can build a more robust and effective immunity.

DIET IS THE MAIN TOOL FOR EFFECTIVE IMMUNITY

Diet is the most decisive variable in your hand to keep immunity balanced. A healthy diet, rich in natural foods and low in processed foods is essential.

During confinement or quarantines, many of us will have experienced the tendency to snack after hours, often unhealthy foods. Bag snacks are strongly discouraged (chips, cocktail cookies …), which may contain substances that reduce immunity, such as low-quality fats, artificial flavors, colorants, acrylamides or starches of undetermined origin.

Baked goods, margarines, snacks, and ready meals often contain hydrogenated fats. These fats are known to reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, as are additives. If we lose the pastry, we can prepare them at home with natural ingredients. Avoid the so-called “three whites”: sugar, refined flours and industrialized milk.

The alternative to all these unhealthy products are foods like nuts and fruit. The first because they contain good quality fats (especially hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts and almonds from the country), and the fruits because they provide desirable vitamins.

It is better to consume them raw than roasted, since they are rich in fats of high biological quality that stimulate the formation of defense immunoglobulins. As they tend to get rancid, prefer them from the country, which are fresher. And throw them away when their aroma or taste is not pleasant.

FOODS THAT CANNOT BE MISSING FROM YOUR TABLE

When composing your menus, it is worth taking into account certain nutrients and foods:

  • Citrus fruits: the amount of vitamin C provided by citrus juices is not as high as is believed, but if they are presented with the flavonoids in the pulp and, above all, with the most fibrous parts, their immune action is much more powerful. So little filtered juice or, of course, whole fruit is always better.
  • Garlic, onion and leek: vegetables from the alliaceae family such as garlic and onion have allylcysteine, a substance with a structure very similar to mucolytics and expectorants that is recommended for irritating dry coughs. This substance is preserved in cooked garlic and onions, although when they are raw they have a greater antibiotic power.
  • The cruciferous family: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard, kale, radishes, turnip greens … have a very antioxidant substance, sulforaphane, which relieves flu symptoms. It is present above all in the sprouts of its seeds. Isothiocyanates, responsible for the intense smell of crucifers, are also interesting.
  • Mushrooms Certain mushrooms, such as shiitake, promote the formation of defensive white blood cells. Less studied mushrooms, such as chanterelles or champignons, may also do so. Mushrooms provide antioxidants and immunity-enhancing beta-glucans or lentinases.
  • Honey. Its pectoral effect is indisputable and for centuries it has been recommended in the treatment of respiratory processes. Its antiseptic power is much greater when it has not been subjected to intense heat.
  • Olive oil. It is one of the most interesting foods, especially if it is virgin and cold pressed, which is richer in vitamin E and polyphenols. Other cold pressed oils (sunflower, flax …) are also recommended.
  • Probiotics Fermented foods improve the intestinal microbiota, essential for the health of the digestive system, the part of the body that contains the most lymph nodes where immunity is developed. Supplementation with probiotics is not useful if you do not eat a healthy diet, rich in fiber that favors the proliferation of these beneficial microbes.

Finally, it is important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water and through the fruit. We are animals with an inland sea and hydration is vital, especially in diseases that can cause a dry cough. Don’t buy into the hoax that warm salt water kills viruses. Water helps flush out toxins (not viruses or bacteria), which offloads the immune system.

THE MAIN ENEMIES OF IMMUNITY

Strengthening the immune system goes, to a large extent, by saving everything that weakens it.

  • Stress and depression. Sustained anguish, negative emotions and thoughts and, in general, a psychic life deprived of serenity and contentment not only prevent us from fully enjoying life, but also decrease the responsiveness of our defensive system. When you start to feel like the situation is over you, give yourself a break and try to regain your balance. You will feel the inner peace and strength that reside within you.
  • Refined products. Refined foods, such as sugar or cereals, have lost much of their nutritional interest during the handling process. Don’t give up on those vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber, and prefer wholegrain or whole versions of rice, pasta, breads, or cookies. They will be much more helpful for the immune system.
  • Sedentary. A daily dose of movement is essential for the body to find its balance, as it is designed for it. Choose the type of exercise that best suits you and your circumstances (ask yourself, for example, how you feel that day) and give yourself an extra oxygenation and circulation that sets in motion beneficial mechanisms for your overall health.
  • Toxic Tobacco, alcohol, drugs, addictive stimulants (coffee, tea or artificial soft drinks), environmental pollution … are factors that reduce the efficiency of the immune system since they force it to work more than necessary. It is better to try to suppress them or at least reduce them.

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