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Mobilizing Your Defenses

By Winston J. Craig
Common colds and the flu account for about one-third of all absenteeism from school and time lost from work. With the colder months approaching, it is important that our immune system functions at an optimal level, so that we are protected against the many infections we face.

There are a number of lifestyle factors which can lower our resistance to disease such as high stress levels, lack of sleep, excessive fatigue, alcohol, and a high sugar diet. A healthy immune system is safe guarded by having a positive mental attitude, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in protective anti-inflammatory agents, and drinking plenty of water. Echinacea and garlic can enhance immune function and protect against upper respiratory tract infections. Vitamin C supplements do not reduce the incidence of colds, but they can diminish the severity and duration of colds to some degree.

Regular exercise is an important way to stimulate the immune system. Sedentary women who walked 45 minutes a day, five times a week, had less severe upper respiratory infections than the women who did not exercise. In fact, the colds and flu experienced by the exercising women lasted only half as long.

Winston J. Craig is Professor of Nutrition at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. All rights reserved © 2007