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Help to prevent colds and flue
About the immune system
The immune system makes up the body’s primary defence against harmful pathogens, infectious bacteria and other ‘invaders’. Through a series of steps, together referred to as “the immune response”, this attacks the organisms and substances that infiltrate body systems and cause disease.
The immune system comprises a network of cells, tissues and organs located throughout the body. For instance, arguably the most important part of the immune system is in the gut, which is home to Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (found in the intestines). GALT is considered to be the largest collection of immune cells in the body – 70% of all antibody producing cells are located here!
In this way, a number of systems work together to protect the body, including the digestive system, the lymphatic system, the urinary system and the liver. If one system is under strain (for example, as a result of a high toxic load, inflammation, acidity etc), this will place additional stress on other systems.
Immune-boosting should therefore always be viewed as a holistic exercise, which involves all aspects of health – including everything from diet and exercise, to potential food allergies, gut integrity and digestive disorders.
We stock a range of holistic supplements that help support the immune system including the ImmunoBiotic Complex, scientifically proven system support, this multi-strain combination has been specially formulated with both active bacteria and other beneficial nutrients. Blended with vitamin D3, it offers scientifically backed support.
Foods which can also support the immune system are
An essential nutrient, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, a type of unstable molecule known to damage the immune system.1 There’s some evidence that vitamin C may be particularly helpful in boosting the immune systems of people under major stress. To increase your vitamin C intake, add these foods to your diet:
citrus fruits and juices (such as orange and grapefruit)
red and green peppers
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Research suggests maintaining ample levels of vitamin E is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, especially among older people. To get your fill of vitamin E, look to these foods:
wheat germ oil
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in the production of certain immune cells. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) caution that even mildly low levels of zinc may impair your immune function.2 Here are some top food sources of zinc:
Another type of antioxidant, carotenoids are a class of pigments found naturally in a number of plants. When consumed, carotenoids are converted into vitamin A (a nutrient that helps regulate the immune system).3 Look to these foods to boost your carotenoids:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid known to suppress inflammation and keep the immune system in check.4 Although it’s not known whether omega-3s can help fight off infections (such as the common cold), research suggests that omega-3s can protect against immune system disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Try these omega-3-rich foods:
oily fish (including mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, and trout)
To keep your immune system healthy, it’s important to get sufficient sleep, exercise regularly, and manage your stress.
Digestive enzymes – the stuff of life…
Enzymes are clever little molecules of protein that are made from amino acid chains that help with digestion. They act as catalysts (or triggers) to bring about specific biochemical reactions in the body, which produces over 3,000 kinds.
Every process in the body is driven by enzymes of one kind or another – whether acting alone, in combination or in complex chain reactions. They are therefore vital substances – without them, many biological functions would simply be impossible, or too slow for us to survive.
So, they are certainly worth finding out a little more about because they play a central role in helping us to achieve optimal nutrition, health and vitality.
Types of enzymes
If we are deficient in enzymes, this can have a direct effect on the efficiency of important processes in the body, which can become unbalanced, making us more prone to ill-health.
The structure of enzymes establishes their particular function or use. Enzymes produced by the body can be classified into two types: metabolic enzymes and digestive enzymes.
Metabolic enzymes are primarily involved in energy production and cellular activity on every level, but they also have other functions – like helping to detoxify the body.
Digestive enzymes also have a number of functions, chief amongst which is assisting in the break down of food into its constituent nutrients (as the name suggests), followed by the absorption of these. The body uses different types of digestive enzymes to digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates for example.
Enzymes can also be obtained through dietary sources, i.e. food enzymes present in natural whole foods, such as leafy green plants, fruit and vegetables. These assist the body with the digestion of that particular food.
For the purposes of this article, we are particularly interested in the role played by enzymes in digestion.
The process of digestion
During digestion, food is broken down into a simple form that can be absorbed by the body. The process starts in the mouth with the chewing of food, continues in the stomach and small intestine where it is chemically broken down by the digestive juices and enzymes and finally gets completed in the large intestine. Basically, food is taken in, digested to extract essential nutrients and energy and any remaining waste is finally expelled.
Digestion is arguably one of the most important and complex processes in the body, because it dictates our nutrient absorption, as well as our toxin and waste elimination. It also involves a wide number of organs and nutrients. For instance:
– Organs and other components: the mouth, teeth, tongue, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, rectum, anus and other organs are all involved in the digestive process.
– Nutrients and other chemicals: such as saliva, hormone regulators, nerve regulators, gastric juices, friendly bacteria, bile, hydrochloric acid and, of course, digestive enzymes.
The efficiency of the digestive process therefore affects everything from immunity and hormone balance, to metabolism, toxic load, general health and well-being.
A digestive system that is sluggish or functioning less than optimally can lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms and conditions, including constipation, imbalanced bowel flora, irritable bowel, heightened toxic load and even self-poisoning. Healthy digestion is therefore arguably the cornerstone of good health.
A bit more about digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes play a central role in healthy digestion.
The human body produces around 22 different kinds, each of which acts on a different type of food. They work best at a specific temperature and pH and also have specific sites of action, such as the mouth and stomach.
As mentioned above, these enzymes are used to help break food down into nutrients and waste. The nutrient molecules must be digested into molecules that are small enough to be absorbed through the lining of the small intestine. When we don’t produce enough digestive enzymes to complete this process efficiently, or there are insufficient enzymes available from the foods in our diet, this can lead to what is called partial digestion.
Food that is not properly broken down cannot be absorbed. It can therefore sit fermenting in the stomach and small intestine, or putrefying in the colon. This can, in turn, lead to increased activity of harmful bacteria and parasites in the gut, along with poor nutrient absorption, fatigue, digestive upset, flatulence, bloating and more serious health issues (including food intolerances and allergies).
Digestive enzymes and health
In relation to digestion and nutrition therefore, it is essential to recognise the critical role of enzymes and the importance of having sufficient levels of these. However, according to Dr. Edward Howell, each of us has a finite reservoir of enzyme activity.
What’s more, the complex digestive process requires a great deal of enzyme activity to extract nutrients from food and translate these into all the various tasks of the body. Factors such as caffeine and alcohol intake, illness, pregnancy, stress, severe weather and exercise can also all take their toll on our enzyme reserves.
Plus, our bodies produce fewer enzymes as we age. By age 35, the production of enzymes in the stomach, pancreas and small intestines begins to decline. Enzyme production in the body decreases by 30% in most adults over 50.
It therefore follows that it is sensible to put the least possible strain on the digestive system and its enzyme reserves, both by eating a healthy diet and, in particular, including a high number of enzyme-rich foods in it (such as raw foods, sprouted and/or fermented foods).
Unprocessed whole foods contain most of the enzymes required for digesting that particular food, which can then help to relieve some of the strain on the body when having to produce its own enzymes. Many people also consider digestive enzyme supplements, to support their digestion.
In contrast, a diet high in enzyme-poor, highly refined and processed foods can place a significant strain on digestion. The body will try to compensate by producing more of its own digestive enzymes to make up for the lack of external plant enzymes, thereby depleting its own reserves more quickly.
Theoretically, the more we can preserve our reservoir of precious enzymes, the better able our bodies will be to protect themselves against ill-health and maintain a healthy balance between activity, repair, immunity and recovery.