Immune system is a complex interaction among cells in many parts of the body. They all co-ordinate to protect the body from foreign invaders. The immune system is not located in any one organ system or part of the body. The brain, the blood, the liver, the bone marrow, the lymph system, the spleen, the thymus, the skin, and some endocrine glands all work together to make up the immune system.
A well functioning immune system is of great importance in the maintenance of good health. It can save a person from many health problems ranging from minor infections to cancer. The genetic makeup of a person greatly influences immune system. Environmental factors also exercise a lot of influence on it.
Diet is the most important factor in building up immunity. Foods contain vitamins, minerals and other important elements that can broadly stimulate immune functioning. This, in turn, will increase body resistance to various viral and bacterial infections, as well as cancerous growths that flourish or die according to the operation of immune mechanism.
FOODS THAT BUILD UP BODY RESISTANCE
Carrot, Curd or Yoghurt, Fruits & Vegetables, Garlic, Low-Fat Foods, Mushroom and Zinc-Rich Foods.
A Carrot, as one of the richest sources of antioxidant beta-carotene, is a powerful immunity stimulating food. It strengthens immune defences against both bacterial and viral infections, as well as cancer. In one study of 60 older men and women, average age 56, beta-carotene increased the percentage of specific infection-fighting immune cells, such as natural killer cells and activated lymphocytes and T-helper cells.
This study was conducted by Dr. Ronald R. Watson, Ph.D., at the University of Arizona in Tucson. It showed the more beta-carotene, the greater the increase in protective immune cells. For instance, both 30mg and 60mg of daily beta-carotene for two months improved immune cells, but the bigger dose was more powerful. Two months after the beta-carotene was stopped, the immune cells came down to pre-experiment levels. Such doses are comparable to eating five to ten carrots a day. Thus, a diet high in carotene-rich foods, such as carrots, could provide these immune-stimulating doses of beta-carotene. Other foods rich in carotene, besides carrot, are mangoes, papaya, orange, melon, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, whole milk, curds and butter.
Curd or Yoghurt
Curd or Yoghurt is an extremely valuable immunity stimulating food. It has been regarded as an age-old fighter of disease and a powerful protector against viruses, infections and tumour cells. Eating curd stimulates at least two vital components of immunity, namely nature killer cells and gamma interferon. Dr. Joseph Scimeca, Ph.D., nutrition researcher at Kraft General Food Inc., explains that natural killer cells circulating in the body detect tumour cells, then seek out and destroy. Nature killer cells are one of the best defences against tumour cells and viruses, he says. Even Yoghurt that has been heated to kill 95 per cent of the bacterial cultures still activates nature killer cells, this was discovered by Dr. Scimeca.
A Remarkable proof in in this respect in human beings comes from research by Dr.Georges M. Halpern, M.D, of the University of California School of Medicine at Davis. In the first large-scale study of effects of yoghurt on immune system, Dr. Halpern and Colleagues found that those eating 450gm of yoghurt a day for four months had five times more infection-fighting gamma interferon in their blood than non-yoghurt eaters.
In this study of 68 persons, age 20-40, one-third got no yoghurt, one-third got yoghurt with active live cultures and the remaining one-third got yoghurt that had been heated to destroy the live cultures. Only the yoghurt with live active cultures of lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus (standard in yoghurt worldwide) stimulated interferon.
If a person starts eating curd or yoghurt three months before pollen season or cold season, it can build up his immunity, considerably reducing his susceptibility to both these aggravations, says immunologist Dr. Halpern. In a yearlong study of 120 young and elderly adults, he found that eating 170 grams of yoghurt a day significantly reduced the number of days the subjects had hay fever attacks, especially from grass pollens. The yoghurt eaters also had very few symptoms of hay fever and allergies. Further, those eating yoghurt daily had about 25 per cent less cold during a year than the non-yoghurt eaters.
Fruits & Vegetables
All kinds of fruits and vegetables can greatly strengthen immune system. Such plant foods contain a large number of compounds that can boost immunity, including vitamin C and beta-carotene. Vegetarians have more powerful immune defences. A recent study at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg compared the blood of male vegetarians and meat eaters. They found that white cells of vegetarians were twice as deadly against tumour cells as those of meat eaters.
This means vegetarians needed only half as many white cells to do the same job as meat eaters did. Researchers thought that vegetarian’s white cells were more deadly, presumably due to their yielding greater armies of natural killer cells or more ferocious natural killer cells. Vegetarian also have higher levels of carotene in their blood, which greatly helps strengthen immune system.