Sam Bauman: Living well with the immune system | NevadaAppeal.com

Sam Bauman: Living well with the immune system

Sam Bauman

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There's lots of immunity boosters on the Internet, but they don't seem to do the job. Thousands of products are put out there to help us shortstop disease and heal faster, but do they really work?

But a single solution to reduce chances of likely conditions such as shingles and even cancer isn't yet here.

And our collection in body of molecules, cells, tissues and organs works hard to effectively resist the barrage of assaults from germs, pollutants and other substances on a daily basis.

But a single solution to a flagging immune system in otherwise healthy people eludes us, medicos say.

The proof of any purported immune booster is whether it can increase resistance to infection, says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., chief medical adviser to the Consumer Reports magazine. Vaccines can help, but "dietary supplement or alternative remedy has been shown to do so," Lipman added.

So what can one do to maintain a healthy life as your immune system normally declines?

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The strength of the immune system is linked to a healthy lifestyle, good nutrition and sufficient rest. Here's some more findings:

Try variety in your diet. "Our immune system relies on having all the essential nutrients in the right balance," says Walter Willet, M.D. PhD, chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard. For example, those whose diets are low in iron, selenium, vitamins A, C and D and several B vitamins have fewer white blood cells — the immune systems first line of defense against disease. To insure you're getting what you need, aim for as many different types and colors of produce as you can, along with whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy oils.

Alcohol is best consumed in moderation and seems to improve the immune response, but too much turns off the genes that help us defend against infection. Moderation means one drink for women and two for men in a day.

Consider a vitamin D supplement. Studies show D is important to the immune system. Older adults are in danger of not getting enough, 800 international units may be worthwhile. But skip other supplements of nutrients unless you have a diagnosed deficiency.

Don't mega dose in supplements. Large doses of supplements such as vitamin A, iron and others can actually hamper the immune system.

Adopt good life habits. Get plenty of sleep, it helps the immune system ward off viruses, according to research led by Sheldon Cohen, Ph. D, of the lab for study of stress, Carnegie Mellon University. The target goal is seven to eight hours of sleep daily.

Exercise but don't do too much. Physical activity may lessen the likelihood of upper respiratory infections. Suggested is 30 minutes of brisk walking, bike riding, swimming or easy jogging.

Kick butts. Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Cultivate life joyous moments. Gazing at art, attending a symphony or cradling a newborn baby can help the immune system.

One immune system booster would be a walk around Washoe Lake State Park. At one end it's all horses and horse troughs. The other end is pure green, several picnic sites and a view of Slide Mountain.

Treat your immune system well and enjoy life.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.

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