There is growing concern for everyone’s health and safety as the H1N1 virus (swine flu)
becomes more widespread. Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A
influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. Normally, people are not
affected by swine flu, but human infections can happen and as we have seen recently,
H1N1 in particular is a unique combination of four different strains of
influenza, of which two strains are swine flu, one is an avian flu, and one is a human flu.
The symptoms of H1N1 flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache,
chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting, as well.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that people may be able to infect others
beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming
sick. That means that the flu is contagious before you even know you are sick, as well as
while you are sick.
Our bodies are under constant attack from microbes, allergens and environmental
conditions, and it is the job of our immune system to serve as our protector or buffer
against these elements. Given the recent flu outbreak and with allergy season upon us,
supporting your immune system is more important than ever if you want to stay healthy.
The best way to strengthen your immune system is with a comprehensive approach that
involves healthy lifestyle practices, stress management, regular exercise, a healthy diet,
and nutritional supplementation.
The skin is the body’s first line of defense. Since many viruses are airborne, avoiding
them completely may be impossible because germs, viruses and bacteria live on
surfaces for a short time and can enter the body through the mucus membranes in the
mouth, nose and eyes. This is why it is important to wash your hands before touching
your face. Good health habits alone can be natural ways to boost the immune system or
at least prevent the immune system from having to work so hard.
Viruses can survive for several hours on hands, tissues, or hard surfaces. A healthy
person can contract a virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching his or
her own mouth or nose. Using an antibiotic soap may help prevent the spreading of
germs, but these soaps can also contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria, so it is best to use them only when necessary.
Your immune system is greatly impacted by your dietary habits and nutritional status.
Dietary factors that depress immune function include nutrient deficiencies, excess
consumption of sugar and unhealthy fats, and the consumption of allergenic foods.
Sugar can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy foreign particles
and microorganisms. The negative effects start within 30 minutes and last for over 5
Optimal immune function requires a healthy diet that is rich in whole, natural foods –
such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts – low in bad fats and refined
sugars, contains adequate protein levels, and plenty of water and other fluids (soups,
herb teas). Fresh, nourishing foods are great for your immune system. Think salads,
soups and stews. Yogurt also provides important beneficial bacteria that helps to keep
your digestive system and immune system healthy.
Nutritional deficiencies are the most frequent cause of a depressed immune system.
Therefore, we recommend that everyone incorporate the following 5 key supplements
into their daily routine to build a solid foundation.
Unfortunately, even the best diet cannot protect you from nutrient deficiencies.
Stress, poor food choices, and illnesses can further deplete your body of
important nutrients. Support your body by giving it the nutrients it needs in order
to function at its best. A good multivitamin provides a broad range of vitamins
and minerals to fill in nutrient gaps in your diet and protect against nutrient
2. Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6)
Healthy fats are necessary for good health, have anti-inflammatory properties,
and cannot be manufactured by the body. EFAs support hormone balance,
cardiovascular, reproductive, joint, brain, immune, and nervous system health.
Antioxidants are natural compounds that protect the body from harmful free
radicals and play a role in disease prevention. Antioxidants protect the body’s
tissues against stress and inflammation and enhance immune function.
A healthy immune system begins in the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, the
digestive system produces up to 75 percent of the immune system’s cells.
Beneficial bacteria is vital for digestion, preventing the overgrowth of yeast and
other pathogens, and for manufacturing B-complex vitamins and vitamin K.
5. Vitamin D
Beyond its role in bone health, new research shows that vitamin D3 also
improves immune function and can reduce the risk of some cancers, including
breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Vitamin D also seems to play a
role in cold and flu prevention.
It is estimated that over 70% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. And, during
the fall and winter months when sunshine is less available, your vitamin D levels
fall to their lowest point. Vitamin D regulates the expression of more than 1,000
genes throughout the body, including genes contained in macrophages, immune
system cells that attack and destroy viruses. Vitamin D “switches on” genes in
macrophages that make antimicrobial peptides, natural antibiotics that the body
produces. Like antibiotics, these peptides attack and destroy bacteria; but unlike
antibiotics, they also attack and destroy viruses.
Beyond Core Nutrition
A healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward establishing a healthy immune system.
Factors that increase immunity include: not smoking, increasing your intake of green
vegetables, eating regular meals, maintaining a proper body weight, getting more than 7
hours of sleep, and exercising regularly.
While short-term stress – such as playing sports, experiencing stage-fright, or dealing
with an immediate threat – is a temporary natural immune system enhancer, numerous
studies have shown that chronic stress reduces immune activity. Those who deal with
chronic stress, such as a high-pressure job or a troubled relationship, typically have
lower-than-average white blood cell counts.
Good sleep is very important to a healthy immune system. During deep sleep, immuneenhancing
compounds are released, and many immune functions are greatly increased.
Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep nightly.
Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Sick
1. SCRUB. Wash your hands with soap for at least 30 seconds – and wash them
often. If you can’t wash, then use a hand sanitizer. Use sanitary wipes to clean
phone mouthpieces, door knobs, computer keyboards, and other hands-on
2. COVER. Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands, where germs will be spread
onto everything you touch. Instead, use a tissue or the crook of your elbow.
3. HANDS OFF. Don’t touch your face. Cold and flu viruses enter your body
through the eyes, nose, or mouth. If you travel or are exposed to lots of people,
you may increase your resistance by using throat sprays and zinc lozenges.
4. FLOSS. What does flossing have to do with virus prevention? Plenty. Over 300
species of bacteria live in your mouth, and viruses use bacteria as “factories” to
grow and multiply. So be sure to floss at least once and brush at least twice daily,
and give those viruses fewer options.
5. EAT RIGHT. Cut down on sugar and eat more fruits and vegetables to boost
your immune system. If you should get infected with a cold or flu, you’ll be in
better condition to help fend it off or shorten its stay.
6. DRINK WATER. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins and keeps you
7. WORK OUT. Aerobic exercise speeds up the heart, helps transfer oxygen from
your lungs to your blood, and makes you sweat – all of which can help increase
the body’s natural virus-defending abilities.
8. QUIT SMOKING. Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and
more frequent ones.
9. SUPPLEMENT. Key vitamins, minerals, and herbs can help to keep your
immune system strong so that you can fight off infections. A comprehensive
formula such as Pathway Immune System Support is designed to strengthen
your defenses. We also recommend supplementing with extra vitamin C and
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