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How we can be more abundant in supporting our immune system
I am a big fan of the Harvard Health blog. I enjoy reading it - it's science-based and trustworthy.
That's why I was disappointed with the article "Six ways you can help your immune system".
Of the "six ways" five were rather trite. I immediately thought of four better ways than the article suggested, especially in these days of Covid-19.
I'm a fan of ways to boost our immune system, especially for those of us over 50 - like me. I keep my eyes open for insightful and evidential recommendations.
The recommendations in the Harvard Health blog fell short. They are:
Here is a sample of their suggestions, from all the categories above:
My impression was that these were all things for a high school poster on hygiene.
My idea of helping our immune system is by being more abundant - not from avoiding common germs.
Here's how we can be more abundant in supporting our immune systems.
Attention to Our Dental Hygiene
My dentist once explained to me this, which made immediate sense. If your teeth bleed when you brush or floss them, then that tells you that you have an open path from the bacteria in our mouth into your bloodstream.
The germs in our mouth are virulent but within the oral biome are in statis i.e. in a state of equilibrium.
However, when they enter our bloodstream, they pose a threat to our otherwise healthy body, e.g. they can spread through the bloodstream and attach to some regions of the heart.
In fact, germs from poor dental hygiene can lead to Endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves), clogged arteries and pneumonia.
This presence requires our immune system to defend against those germs from our mouth. Immune resources have to be diverted from other essential defence activities in our body and sent to kill the new invaders.
This response is a poor use of our immune defences.
We can easily avoid the problem with better dental hygiene (from the Mayo Clinic) such as:
Exercise strengthens our immune system
Regular exercise strengthens our immune system.
It used to be thought that that endurance sports increase infection risk by suppressing our immune system.
Researchers in the Department for Health at the University of Bath (published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology) found differently. Reviewing research findings from the last few decades, they found that exercise -- instead of dampening immunity -- may instead be beneficial for immune health.
They found that "evidence now suggests that your immune system is boosted after exercise -- for example, we know that exercise can improve your immune response to a flu jab."
The benefits of exercise, including endurance sports, extend to the immune system.
Keep exercising - regularly.
Foods that boost our immune response
Diets rich in fruit and vegetables have been found to support our immune system.
Boosting our immune system is especially important as we get older, as there appears to be a connection between nutrition and immunity as we age.
A form of malnutrition that is surprisingly common even in affluent countries is known as "micronutrient malnutrition." Micronutrient malnutrition, in which a person is deficient in some essential vitamins and trace minerals that are obtained from or supplemented by diet, can be common in the elderly.
This deficiency can be minimised by adding more of the following foods into our diet:
Sleep - the easiest way to boost our immune system
Most of us know that we should be aiming for seven hours of sleep every night, and that consistency is key.
But how many us know that consistent and ample sleep boosts our immune system?
Good sleep strengthens our immune response.
During a healthy sleep, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines - one type of which are anti-inflammatory.
Sleep supports the proteins and cells of our immune system to detect and destroy bugs and germs. This, in turn, helps us fight them off those same infections even faster in future.
So we must get a good seven-eight hour rest per night to help fight off infectious diseases.
A lack of sleep can cause long term issues such as a lower immunity, and it can increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart and cardiovascular problems, and obesity.
Lack of sleep also puts us at risk of being more susceptible to catching viral diseases.
It's very hard to avoid the conclusion that one of the easiest things we can all do to boost our immune system is to get a solid night's sleep.
Paying attention to your dental hygiene, exercise program, foods, and sleep quantity and quality will assist in strengthening your immune response.
The result is not just a one-off benefit, as a healthy immune system builds resistance as a by-product of its constant battles to keep us healthy.
These layers of resistance are cumulative and give us a better chance of fighting off and surviving emerging viral threats - especially as we age.
Enjoy more sleep, regular exercise, some delicious food, and brush your teeth well - live longer better.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter