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Your Immune System, Part 1

By Ayda Ersoy Page

Most of us know how we can strengthen our immune system by eating high nutrient foods, getting regular exercise, getting enough vitamins, and so on. We are living in a very toxic world and we need to protect ourselves and eliminate any disease by taking better care of ourselves. Sometimes it takes an extreme situation like we have right now to make us more aware of our health.

Viruses and bacteria are two types of potentially disease-causing (pathogenic) particles. Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and can be transmitted in a variety of ways. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that usually cause mild illnesses, such as the common cold. However, certain types can infect the lower airway, causing serious illnesses like pneumonia or bronchitis. Most people will get infected with a coronavirus at some point in their lives and the majority of these infections are harmless.

There are countless things that can weaken our immune systems and prevent our bodies from fighting off viruses. For example, being sedentary, consuming a lot of added sugar (like baked goods or sodas), being overweight or having type 2 diabetes. Especially here on Molokai, we unfortunately have so many people suffering with obesity and diabetes, so they need to give extra attention. Also existing diseases such as heart or lung and respiratory conditions, autoimmune disorders, and issues related to gut health and nutrient deficiencies, especially protein, zinc, vitamin A and and vitamin D. All of these high risks can weaken our immune system, as well as countless others including smoking, stress and insomnia. In other words, a lot of people can suffer from a weakened immune system.

So how can we strengthen it?

Let’s start with exercise. Just being active during the day will help you boost your immune system. If you’re able to get outside, simply going for a walk, maybe a 15 minute walk twice a day or a 30 minute brisk walk can have a positive effect. But even in your home, you can get good exercise without gym equipment, your own body weight is more than enough. You can be creative and instead of weights, you can use things like water bottles, bags of cat food, a chair, a cushion etc. Start looking at your home as a fitness center and you will be surprised what you can do!

The second major factor is our added sugar intake. Sugar is one of the most important factors that can affect our immune system by damaging the gut. Overconsumption of added sugar, over long periods of time, is also associated with being overweight or obese — risk factors for a wide range of health problems. But even if you are not overweight, excessive sugar consumption has been linked to chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate (monosaccharide) and comes in many forms including glucose (occurs naturally in fruits and plant juices), fructose (occurs naturally in fruits, some root vegetables, cane sugar and honey), and galactose (which combines with glucose to form lactose). Eating a whole apple versus drinking apple juice will have two different effects on the body (yes, eating the whole apple is definitely better!).

In part 2, I will look at other factors that can weaken your immune system, and how you can strengthen it.

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