Food for Building Your Immune System

The human immune system is a marvel of biology. The ability to distinguish between the body and foreign objects, and then neutralize these objects, is an incredible feat. The immune system requires certain nutrients in order to carry out its functions. Boosting the immune system is a matter of not only eating certain types of foods, but also avoiding processed foods and those with chemical additives that can inhibit immune function.

Raw Foods

Maintaining a healthy immune system usually requires nothing more than consuming adequate nutrition and avoiding toxic substances. Unfortunately, most food is processed, preserved or cooked--all of which reduce the nutritive content and introduce harmful additives. Even without giving up some cooked food, many people have discovered that making raw food the bulk of their diet has boosted their energy levels, eliminated disease, removed drug dependence and increased overall immune function. As long as food is kept below 118 degrees Fahrenheit, it retains enzymes and other healthful nutrients that are lost in cooking and processing.


The food with the largest direct impact on building your immune system is garlic. Since at least the time of the Roman Empire, people have attributed beneficial effects to eating garlic. But, to realize these effects, the garlic has to be diced and eaten raw or very lightly sautéed. Garlic contains the precursors to allicin, a powerful immune-boosting substance. Allicin only forms when garlic is chopped, diced or minced, allowing the precursors to interact. After the allicin is formed, it quickly degrades in heat or open air. Thus, to boost the immune system, garlic should be chopped finely shortly before eating.


The beta carotene in carrots is traditionally linked with strong eyesight, but it's also a powerful immune system booster. Carrots are a healthy snack eaten raw or juiced. Steaming carrots can actually make the beta carotene easier for the body to use. Beta carotene and falcarinol support the creation of healthy T-cells, an essential bacteria- and cancer-fighting part of your immune system arsenal.


Zinc is an important nutrient for proper immune function. It is essential for production of white blood cells and antibodies. The most abundant food source of zinc by far is oysters. Just a few can significantly boost your immune system. Zinc deficiency can cause a complete immune system shut down. But too much can be toxic, so don't overdo it. If you can't handle oysters, luckily zinc is also present (to a much lesser extent) in crab, beef, turkey, cheese and beans. Foods that are high in protein, which also has immune benefits, usually also contain zinc.


Believe it or not, there's good bacteria in your gut that makes a healthy immune system possible. Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium are essential to proper digestion; without them it would be impossible to absorb enough nutrition from food to maintain a working immune system. Yogurt with live bacteria cultures is an easy way to replenish the good bacteria in your gut. Some brands of milk are also enriched with acidophilus.

What Herbs Build the Immune System?

The body's defense system is highly fragile but can be highly effective. Stress, diet and disease break down the body's ability to fight. There are some ways to maintain and repair an immune system back to a healthy state. Consuming herbs is a simple way to build a strong immune system.

It is important to understand the physical makeup of herbs to fully take advantage of their ability to heal. Some herbs have stems, roots and blooms. In plants such as astragalus, the root contains the nutrients that heal the body's skin, lungs and heart. Failure to maximize the plant at the root will decrease its ability to build the immune system.


There are many studies on herbs and their power to heal. Like all good things, however, too much of a particular herb may lead to toxicity. Hyssop, for example, dates back hundreds of years. It is often administered as a tea and aids in fighting off viruses that affect the immune system, including HIV. Some studies have shown hyssop to cause toxic reactions if used in excess. To avoid the toxic effect of herbs such as hyssop, don't use them as oils or butters.


Herbs that aid the immune system do so by increasing the body's ability to ward of viruses and increasing breathing ability. St. John's wort, for example, is an anti-inflammatory agent and is also good to decrease ulcers. Sage helps with respiratory illnesses and sore throats. Sage is also considered to be an anti-aging herb that fights diseases such as Alzheimer's. Because age has a profound affect on the immune system, sage is a very crucial herb.

Herbs such as garlic increase blood flow and aids the body against autoimmune diseases, including diabetes. Garlic also helps the body fight the flu and herpes. Honey is considered to be nature's antibiotic and promotes healing throughout the body. Burn patients and those dealing with ulcers find relief with honey. Moderate daily doses of honey have great healing power.

It is important for individuals to be knowledgeable about herbs. Because reactions to herbs can be contingent upon individual immune system strength and existing conditions, it is important to work with an herbalist and a personal physician when making decisions about herbs. Never discontinue prescribed drugs for an herb substitute without first consulting with the prescribing physician.

About Exercise & the Immune System

The body can always use a healthy boost. Often, we try the next big thing in the way of vitamins or juice enhancements. Sometimes, the tried and true remedies work the best. Nevertheless, in dealing with the immune system, exercise is one of the most single important factors in maintaining sound health.

When there are a variety of factors already hindering the promotion of good health, exercise becomes the light in the fog. Busy lives lead to fatigue. Stressful lives lead to poor eating habits and poor coping mechanisms like smoking. As the body gets older, its ability to fight disease becomes weaker. When negative issues exist, the immune system breaks down; exercise is the tool to maintain a healthy balance.


The immune system requires less effort than other body systems in order to promote health. Brisk to moderate walking four to five times a week for at least 30 to 40 minutes will increase the body's ability to deal with infections. The benefits of maintaining a healthy immune system through exercise are exponential compared to the time and effort that it takes to implement a light exercise program.


Becoming a gym rat will not necessarily lead to a healthy immune system. Studies have shown that consistent workout plans that extend beyond 90 minutes per session require significant amounts of rest in order for the body to regain its strength. During this recuperation period, the body's immunity level is lower. Overly strenuous workouts do as much damage to the immune system as the total lack of exercise. Marathon runners are also susceptible to a weaker immune system.

Exercise works in concert with other lifestyle factors to maintain a healthy immune system or increase the ability of a week immune system. Dairy products and red meat increase fat intake and weaken the immune system. Fruits and vegetables have fiber that increases the ability of the immune system. Customize a diet that incorporates these principals to get better results from exercise. Water is always crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Drink plenty of it.

Exercise shouldn't be viewed as a temporary fix to help the immune system. A moderate exercise routine is maintained throughout the life of most healthy people. As the body gets older, the immune system will weaken. It is crucial to continue to exercise in a safe manner in order to continue to boost the immune system.

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