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How To Boost Your Immune System
You’re washing your hands 10 times a day and have stopped touching your face. What else can you do to improve your health and avoid bugs?
It’s been a long, wet winter. Everybody has got colds, and now we are braced for a coronavirus epidemic. Boosting our immune system has rarely felt more urgent, but, beyond eating more tangerines and hoping for the best, what else can we do?
Sheena Cruickshank, a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester, has a “shocking cold” when we speak at a safe distance, over the phone. To know how to take care of your immune system, she says, first you need to understand the weapons in your armoury – a cheeringly impressive collection, it turns out.
“When you come into contact with a germ you’ve never met before,” she says, “you’ve got various barriers to try to stop it getting into your body.” As well as skin, we have mucus – “snot is a really important barrier” – and a microbiome, the collective noun for the estimated 100tn microbes that live throughout our bodies, internally and externally. Some of these helpful bugs make antimicrobial chemicals and compete with pathogens for food and space.
Beneath these writhing swamps of mucus and microbes, our bodies are lined with epithelial cells which, says Cruickshank, “are really hard to get through. They make antimicrobial products including, most relevant to coronavirus, antiviral compounds that are quite hostile.”
If a pathogen breaches these defences, it has to deal with our white blood cells, or immune cells. One type, called macrophages, inhabit all our body tissue and, says Cruickshank, “have all these weapons ready to go, but they’re not terribly precise”. They report to the cleverer, adaptive white blood cells known as lymphocytes. They are the ones that remember germs, “so if you meet that germ again,” says Cruickshank, “they’ll just deal with it probably without you even knowing. That’s when you’ve got immunity and is the basis of vaccination. It’s trying to bypass all the early stuff and create the memory, so you don’t have to be sick.”
Our immune systems may have blind spots. “This might mean that our immune response doesn’t recognise certain bugs,” she says, “or the bugs have sneaky evasion strategies. Personally, my immune system is not necessarily very good at seeing colds.” But a healthy lifestyle will ensure your defences are as good as they get.
Seeing as our bodies contain more cells belonging to microbes, such as bacteria and yeasts, than human ones, let’s start with the microbiome. “We live in a symbiotic relationship with our gut bacteria,” says Prof Arne Akbar, the president of the British Society for Immunology and a professor at University College, London. “Having the right ones around, that we evolved with, is best for our health. Anything we do that alters that can be detrimental.”
Not only do our microbes form protective barriers, they also programme our immune systems. Animals bred with no microbiome have less well developed immune responses. Older people, and those with diseases that are characterised by inflammation, such as allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, tend to have less varied gut microbiomes.
To feed your gut flora, Cruickshank recommends “eating a more varied diet with lots of high-fibre foods”. Being vegetarian isn’t a prerequisite for microbiome health, but the more plant foods you consume, the better. “The microbiome really likes fibre, pulses and fermented foods,” she adds.
Kefir yoghurt and pickles such as sauerkraut and kimchi are among the fermented delicacies now fashionable thanks to our increasing knowledge of the microbiome. But the evidence for taking probiotic supplements, she says, “is mixed”. It’s not a dead cert that they will survive the journey through your digestive tract, or that they will hang around long enough if they do. “It’s more effective to change your diet,” says Cruickshank.
The skin microbiome is important, too, but we know less about it. High doses of ultraviolet light (usually from the sun) can affect it negatively, weakening any protective functions (as well as triggering immune suppression in the skin itself). Overwashing with strong soaps and using antibacterial products is not friendly to our skin microbiomes. “Combinations of perfumes and moisturisers might well also have an effect,” says Cruickshank.
To be immunologically fit, you need to be physically fit. “White blood cells can be quite sedentary,” says Akbar. “Exercise mobilises them by increasing your blood flow, so they can do their surveillance jobs and seek and destroy in other parts of the body.” The NHS says adults should be physically active in some way every day, and do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (hiking, gardening, cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, swimming fast, an aerobics class).
The advice for older people, who are more vulnerable to infection, is to do whatever exercise is possible. “Anything’s better than nothing,” says Akbar. But a lifetime’s exercise could significantly slow your immune system declining with age. In 2018, a study by University of Birmingham and King’s College London found that 125 non-smoking amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 still had the immune systems of young people.
The other side of the coin, says Akbar, “is elite athletes who become very susceptible to infections because you can exercise to a point where it has a negative impact on your immune system.” This problem is unlikely to affect most of us unless, says Cruickshank, “you’re a couch potato and suddenly try and run a marathon, this could introduce stress hormones and be quite bad for your immune system”.
One of the many happy side-effects of exercise is that it reduces stress, which is next on our list of immune-boosting priorities. Stress hormones such as cortisol can compromise immune function, a common example of which, says Akbar, is when chickenpox strikes twice. If you have had it, the virus never completely goes away. “During periods of stress,” he says, “it can reactivate again and we get shingles.”
Forget boozing through the coronavirus crisis, because heavy drinking also depletes our immune cells. “Some studies have suggested that the first-line-of-defence macrophages are not as effective in people who have had a lot of alcohol,” says Cruickshank. “And there’s been suggestions that high alcohol consumption can lead to a reduction of the lymphocytes as well. So if the bug gets into you, you’re not going to be as good at containing and fighting it off.”
Cruickshank says that vitamin D has become a hot topic in immunology. “It is used by our macrophages, and is something that people in Britain can get quite low on in the winter.” Necking extra vitamin C, however, is probably a waste of time for well-fed westerners. It’s not that vitamin C isn’t crucial to immune function (and other things, such as bone structure). “All the vitamins are important,” says Cruickshank, “but vitamin C is water soluble, it’s not one that your body stores.” Eating your five a day of fruits and vegetables is the best way to maintain necessary levels.
Exercising and eating well will have the likely knock-on effect of helping you sleep better, which is a bonus because a tired body is more susceptible to bugs. One study last year found that lack of sleep impaired the disease-fighting ability of a type of lymphocyte called T cells, and research is demonstrating the importance of our natural biorhythms overall.
Janet Lord, a professor at the University of Birmingham, recently showed that vaccinating people in the morning is more effective than doing so in the afternoon. “Your natural biorhythms are, to some extent, dictated by sleep,” says Akbar. “If you’ve got a regular sleep pattern, you have natural body rhythms and everything’s fine. If they go out of kilter, then you’ve got problems.”
The seriousness of an infection largely depends on the dose you are hit with, which could in turn depend on how contagious the carrier is when they cough near you. “We’re constantly exposed to germs, and we only get sick from a handful of those,” says Cruickshank.
If you’re reasonably young and healthy, says Akbar, the mild benefits you may achieve from being extra good probably won’t fend off a severe dose of coronavirus or flu. The likely scenario if you catch the infection is, he says, “you’ll be sick for a while and you will recover”.
From a public-health perspective, when nasty viruses such as coronavirus are doing the rounds, Akbar’s priority is not boosting already healthy people’s immune systems, “but protecting the vulnerable people. Older people don’t respond that well to the flu jab, though it’s better for them to have it than not. It’s a general problem of immune decline with ageing.”
When we get older, he says, the barrier function in the gut doesn’t work that well, “so you have something called leaky gut syndrome, where bugs creep into our bodies causing mild infections”. This causes inflammation around the body, as does the natural accumulation of old “zombie” cells, called senescent cells, and inflammation compromises the immune response.
Akbar is working on developing drug treatments to reduce inflammation in older people but they are a way off yet. Age 65 is when, medically, one is considered older, “but that’s arbitrary”, says Akbar. “Some old people might get problems much earlier. And there are older people who are totally healthy.”
“In terms of coronavirus,” says Cruickshank, “it’s mostly spread by droplet transmission, as far as we can tell, so the biggest thing is hygiene.” So wash your hands, and sneeze and cough into tissues, she suggests, between sniffles. No one can completely avoid getting sick, not even top immunologists.
This vegan Eggplant Bacon recipe takes all the flavor and crispiness of bacon and packs it into thinly sliced eggplant! INGREDIENTS 2 medium eggplant 2 Tbsp soy sauce 30 mL, or tamari for GF option 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil 15 mL 1 Tbsp olive oil 15 mL 1 tsp pure maple syrup 5 mL 1 tsp lemon juice 5 mL 1 tsp smoked paprika 1/2 tsp each salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper 1/2 tsp cumin 1/4 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce INSTRUCTIONS Prep : Preheat air fryer or oven to 300 degrees F (150 C). Cut eggplants into quarters lengthwise, then thinly slice into long strips resembling bacon (about 1/8 inch thick, a mandolin slicer makes this easier). Flavor : In a small bowl, stir to combine all remaining ingredients. Liberally brush onto both sides of eggplant slices. Cook : If air frying, place bacon in a single layer in your air frying pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until dry and browned. If baking, place on a parchment
Normally this is deep fried and full of fat, which is what you get on most movie and commercial shoots. This was served to the cast and crew shooting a commercial that was looking for healthy alternatives. I guarantee this flavour packed version will keep you coming back for more. Serves 4 1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice 1/4 cup cornstarch 1 lb snow peas, trimmed 4 garlic cloves, sliced 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated 3 tbsp light-brown sugar 2 tbsp soy sauce ½ tsp red-pepper flakes 2 large egg whites ½ tsp sea salt ¼ tsp ground pepper 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces 2 tbsp canola oil Cook rice according to package instructions. In a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and ½ cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tbsp cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and to
Lentils are just full of protein and are one of the oldest domesticated crops. Lentils come in a wide variety of colours, the most common are red, green and brown. Serve this soup hot or cold and feel free to drizzle a bit more olive oil on just before serving, Serves 4 1 cup/225g lentils 2 1/2 cups/625ml water 1 teaspoon/5ml sea salt 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced 1/2 pound/225g zucchini cubed 1/2 pound/225g leeks cleaned and sliced 1 stalk celery, sliced 2 tablespoons/30ml olive oil 1 onion diced 2 cloves garlic crushed 2 tablespoon/30ml chopped parsley 1/2 teaspoon/2ml black pepper Juice of 2 lemons Simmer potatoes, zucchini, leeks, and celery in large saucepan with water for 15 minutes. Add lentils , cook for 10 minutes longer or until most of the liquid is evaporated. While the stew is cooking, heat a pan with olive oil on medium heat. Cook the onions for 7- 10 minutes to golden brown. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add o
SERVES 6–8 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped 2-4 large ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and roughly chopped 1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped 6 cups/1.4L chicken or vegetable stock 1 cup/250ml heavy cream ⅓ cup/78ml fresh lime juice Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 2 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped Combine the serrano chiles, the avocados, and the onion in a food processor or blender, and process until a smooth paste forms. Add stock, cream, and lime juice, and purée until very smooth. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl or pitcher, and season with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Garnish with tomatoes. personal chefs and event catering Miami + Miami Beach + Fort Lauderdale + Palm Beach www.yadachef.com email@example.com | 954-367-YADA (9232)
Butterscotch Pudding (Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Vegan) Butterscotch pudding is traditionally prepared with brown sugar, vanilla, milk (or cream), eggs and butter, but this dairy-free (and vegan!) version cuts down on the calories and fat significantly while still keeping a rich texture and butterscotch flavor. This pudding makes a nice and easy weeknight dessert, lunchbox sweet or after school treat. (For lunchbox desserts, after the pudding has cooled and chilled completely, Portion the pudding into individual sealable cups for easy, grab and go homemade sweets. For a richer pudding with a nutty flavor, use coconut milk in place of the almond milk in this recipe. 3 tablespoons/45g cornstarch ¾ cups/165g dark brown sugar, packed 1/8 teaspoon/.5ml salt 2 ¼ cups/560ml unsweetened plain almond milk, divided 1 tablespoon/15g vegan soy free margarine, softened 1 teaspoon.5ml vanilla Gather all of your ingredients. (Puddings cook quickly, so it's best to have everything you need
What are the therapeutic benefits of ginger? Below are examples of some scientific studies on ginger and its current or potential uses in medical treatment. Inf lammation of the colon A study carried out at the University of Michigan Medical School found that Ginger Root Supplement administered to volunteer participants reduced inflammation markers in the colon within a month. The study was published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Experts say that inflammation of the colon is a precursor to colon cancer. Co-researcher Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., M.P.H., explained that by reducing inflammation in the colon a person reduces their risk of developing colon cancer. Zick said "We need to apply the same rigor to the sorts of questions about the effect of ginger root that we apply to other clinical trial research. Interest in this is only going to increase as people look for ways to prevent cancer that are nontoxic, and improve their quality of life in a cost-effect
Recipe provided by: Lucas Cappel Description: If you like pastries, sometimes you bake muffins and biscuits. But what about those who don’t like sweet ones or follow the keto diet? Of course, bake the keto biscuits! We will tell you how to make bacon and cheese biscuits that are hard to believe to be keto. Forget about the common mistake of eating boring and monotonic meals when you follow a keto diet. You can deepen your ketosis using the best MCT oil , and now, even with a limited range of products, you can find many ways to diversify your menu! From small snacks to full-fledged dishes that quickly feed the whole family, you can prepare keto recipes as simple and easy as possible. Want to know how to make cheese biscuits? Stay with us and find 2 delicious bacon cheese biscuits recipes. Cheesy bacon biscuits with basil and jalapeno Ingredients: Bacon - 200 g Cheese - 200 g Eggs - 2 pcs Cream - 1 cup Butter - 100 g Almond (or coconut) flour - 2 cups Baking powder – 1 ½ tsp C
Have some fun with your food this Halloween! This cozy chili is made in a slow-cooker, so all you have to do is roast the tomatillos and add everything to the pot. Don't forget the tortilla ghosts! Ingredients: 2 pounds tomatillos, husked 3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for tortillas 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces Salt and pepper 1 white onion, chopped 6 cloves garlic, smashed 2 pounds Cubanelle peppers, seeded and chopped 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped 1 tablespoon cumin 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar 1 tablespoon lime zest 8 white corn or flour tortillas 1 cup sour cream 4 scallions, sliced Preparation: 1. Place oven rack on highest position and preheat broiler. Place tomatillos on a baking sheet and rub with 1 tsp. oil. Broil tomatillos, turning occasionally with tongs, until skin blisters, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Chop and place in a large (6- to 7-quart) slow cooker.
The latest Utopias beer has an ABV of 28 percent. By Jelisa Castrodale Every two years, Boston-based brewery Samuel Adams releases a new version of its Utopias limited-edition beer . Both the retail price and the alcohol content of this high-gravity beer could make your eyes water — but the latter is the reason why it won't be on a single shelf in 15 different U.S. states. According to CNN, this year's Utopias has an ABV of 28 percent, which means that it's legally prohibited from being sold in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia. Those states each have a limit on the ABV of any beer that can be sold, and it's safe to say that Utopias blows right past it. CREDIT: SCOTT EISEN / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES Samuel Adams says that supplies of this year's Utopias are "extremely limited" — CNN estimates that only about 13,000 bott
Ingredients 8 ounces/227g whipped cream cheese 1 cup/130g powdered sugar 2-3 Tablespoons/30-45ml graham cracker crumbs 16 medium-large strawberries Directions In a food processor, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar. Put the combined cream cheese and powdered sugar mixture in a bowl. Put the graham cracker crumbs into another bowl. Dip the wider end of the strawberry in the cream cheese mixture, then roll it around in the graham cracker crumbs. private chefs and event catering Miami + Miami Beach + Fort Lauderdale + Palm Beach firstname.lastname@example.org | 954-367-YADA (9232) www.yadachef.com fort lauderdale catering and personal chefs