postheadericon Caring for our immune system

immune-system-SALMON_1

Our immune system is something we often don’t think much about until we get a cold or the flu. But a healthy immune system is critical for us to carry out our daily activities, including our workouts, without falling ill to many of the microscopic invaders that we come into contact with daily. One important part of our immune system is in our intestines. Our intestines do a lot of work for us – trillions of bacteria, most of them the beneficial kind, inhabit our intestinal tracts, processing our food and making available essential nutrients that fuel our bodies and help us to carry out all of our activities, including exercise. One of the important functions of our intestines is immunity. About 70% or more of the power of our immune system resides in our intestines. Important players in our immune system, such as B and T cells, have their origin in the gut, specifically the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). So a healthy intestinal tract is important for overall health, immune strength, and good training.

So how do we give our guts the best care we can and how can we help our overall immune system stay healthy?

> Well, one thing we can do is obvious – eat a healthy diet. Unprocessed, nutrient-dense food makes less work for our bodies and gives us the nutrition we need without having to filter out a lot of junk (there’s a reason it’s called “junk food.”)

> We can also be tuned in to any negative reactions we have when eating certain kinds of food. We all know people with food allergies or intolerances, and having that as an added burden won’t help our health OR our workouts. So watch for that often hidden problem.

> Probiotics, which can be found either in some foods or taken as a supplement, are basically the beneficial bacteria that can help keep the population of “good bacteria” high enough to allow for good function. Probiotics are available in capsule or tablet form, either in refrigerated or shelf stable varieties. Soy or almond yogurt is also a good vegan source of these beneficial bacteria.

> Exercise! Moderate exercise has been shown to help immune function and is recommended for almost everyone, even people with serious diseases such as cancer. For example, colon cancer patients have been shown to have better odds of survival if they walk regularly.

> Get plenty of rest and sleep. Lack of sleep can impair immune function and predispose us to all kinds of ailments. Plus, it just makes us feel lousy.

> This one is tough, but try and avoid stress. Or, if there is unavoidable stress in your life (and who DOESN’T have some stress?), try and find healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise (!), relaxation techniques, or spending time outdoors.

> Phone a friend – or better yet, get together with one. Social relationships can have a positive effect on our immune system.

So externally and internally, there is a lot we can do to strengthen our immune system and keep it working for us and our workouts!

Source articles:

Mother Earth News
NIH
Prevention
Weight Training

Photo: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells. Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

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