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Your Immune System, Part 2

By Ayda Ersoy Page

In my article last week, I talked about the need for strengthening our immune system, and how we can do so through exercise and by minimizing our added sugar intake.

Other major factors that can affect our immune system include insomnia and stress, which are both equally important and really can not be separated from each other. When you are in high stress, you will be restless and often not sleep well either. On the other hand, if you have insomnia, eventually you will have stress by increasing cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone. When we stress the body, we suppress the immune system because the body thinks that it’s the time to be alert, and not the time to repair and heal ourselves. When we are not getting enough rest or sleep, we can not repair our body to help keep it in balance or homeostasis.

And what about nutrient deficiencies? Proteins are the building blocks that help our bodies repair. Protein deficiencies tend to be hidden for so many people, you may be thinking that you are getting enough protein but bioavailability (such as over-cooked plant based protein) or any digestion problems can impair the absorption. Finding yourself feeling tired often, or losing your hair, can be a sign of protein deficiency.

Zinc deficiencies are common, and zinc is necessary to build our body’s defenses, so a deficiency can increase the risk of infectious diseases. Also, zinc is necessary for the production of the hormone thymulin, which is important for the maintenance of various immune functions. Eggs, meat, shellfish and seeds are excellent sources of zinc.

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin or hormone, has well documented benefits, such as improving our body’s defenses, enhancing Vitamin A, improving gut microbiota, reducing systemic inflammation, improving mood and sleep, improving muscle strength and reducing respiratory infection. So it’s important to make sure that you are getting enough sunlight. But if you are overweight, or if you cover yourself when you go out in the sun, then even though on Molokai we have so much sunshine, you may not have enough levels of Vitamin D in your blood. So in addition you may need Vitamin D supplementation. Beef liver, fatty fish, egg yolks and cheese, and of course sunshine, are good sources of Vitamin D.

Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining vision and promoting growth and development, and is also known as an anti-inflammatory vitamin because it plays an important role in enhancing immune function. You can find it in foods such as beef liver, salmon, sweet potatoes and carrots.

And selenium is another important nutrient that we should not forget. It is a potent nutritional antioxidant and strongly influences inflammation and immune responses. Brazil nuts, sardines, tuna and shrimp are high in selenium.

The bottom line is that we can not control what is coming from outside, although we still can have an enormous control of our health by taking care of our body and our mind. Don’t forget, taking action and preventing yourself from getting a disease or illness is so much better than waiting until you have something before you take action. We should all act now and change our lifestyle for better health.

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