Say Ah: Immune system

By Donna Patrick, ANP

Special to the Sun Star

Q: How can I prevent colds this year?

A:  In addition to eating healthy meals, exercising, frequent handwashing and getting plenty of sleep there are a few dietary strategies that my help bolster your immune system.

1.        Get your daily dose of fiber. According to a recent study published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, by Christina Sherry, Ph.D., R.D., at the University of Michigan, soluble fiber may be better at boosting your immunity than insoluble fiber.  In this study, mice who were fed a diet high in soluble fiber for 6 weeks recovered from a bacterial infection in half the time it took mice who were given a diet containing mixed fiber.  Examples of  foods rich in soluble fiber are: Oats, citrus fruits, apples, beans and carrots.  Insoluble fiber which is found in wheat, whole grains, nuts and green leafy veges is still very important  for your overall health

2.        If you are not at a healthy weight already you may want to work on reducing your caloric intake.  A study conducted at Tufts University concluded that overweight adults who cut their daily intake of calories by a third over a 6 month time period saw a 50% jump in immunity.  Tufts nutritional immunologist Simin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D., thinks that compounds in the body which lower the immune response in animals may be reduced by cutting back on calories. He says that we can generalize these findings to humans as well and that eating more then what we need drags the immune system down.

3.        Increase your intake of Vitamin D.  You may find you have fewer health problems in general if you get enough Vita D.  Your body naturally makes vitamin D from sunlight which we in Interior Alaska don’t get an abundance of in the winter months. You can also get it from fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon and fortified milk but these sources are not usually enough to meet newer increased recommendations.  Most experts recommend a vitamin D supplement.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that taking this nutrient may help boost your immune system.  They sited a study in which 300 Japanese children who took 1,200 IU of Vita D a day were 40% less likely to contract viruses causing both the flu and the common cold than in the kids given a placebo.  Public Health researcher Adit Ginde, M. D., MPH from the University of Colorado School of Medicine says that lab studies indicate that Vitamin D may help immune cells identify and destroy bacteria and viruses that make us sick.

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