Boosting immunity (continued!)

In the last few issues of Natural News we’ve looked at how simple diet and lifestyle changes can help boost your immunity during the long, cold winter months. This month we’ll explore how rinsing rather than soaking vegetables, hiding the remote control, partying, holding hands and downloading music can make a big difference to your immunity.

Rinse, don’t soak

Rinsing rather than soaking fresh fruits and vegetables is an effective way to remove immune-depressing pesticide residues.


Pesticides are chemicals used to protect crops from bugs, fungi, rodents and bacteria. If you use pesticides to rid your house of rodents or in the garden to remove weeds or insect blight then you too can be exposed to their dangerous effects. Pesticides may also be found in some plastics, household products and industrial chemicals. Animal and lab research suggests that these substances – which are potent, extremely toxic chemicals – can damage your health, especially in high doses or with extended exposure, and may also degrade immune function. Other studies have found that people who work with pesticides may have weakened defences.


Although you are exposed to pesticides every day, thankfully there are things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Rinse and gently scrub, but don’t soak, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Trim the fat from meats or ideally avoid meat altogether.  Some pesticides collect in animal fat.
  • Peel fruits and vegetables before using them. Remove and discard the outer leaves of cabbages and other greens. If you buy organic, you need only scrub the skins.
  • Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as specific pesticides are used for specific crops. This way you’ll avoid eating too much of one specific pesticide.
  • Use home, lawn and garden pesticides sparingly or alternatives where possible.
  • Consider buying organic produce when it’s available and affordable. Not only is organic produce pesticide free but it can be more nutrient rich which can give your immune system a boost.  If you think organic produce is too expensive, consider buying just one item a week to get you into the habit of looking at it as an investment for your health. Specifically look for organically grown peaches, peppers, strawberries, apples, cherries, celery, apricots, green beans, grapes and cucumbers as according to the US Food and Drug Administration the non-organic forms of these foods consistently contain the highest concentration of pesticide residues.

Hide the remote

Unplug your TV, hide the remote control and break your square-eyed habit. Cutting down on the amount of TV you watch will give your brain and your immune system a significant boost.


Research has shown that over-indulgence in watching TV leads to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease caused by lack of exercise. Other risks include poor concentration – as the brain cells governing attention span are impaired – and learning problems, as a result of poor intellectual stimulation.


It can work the other way too. Some types of TV programmes – as well as video games – over-stimulate the senses and can upset sleep patterns. Meanwhile, the light from TV and computer screens can suppress the key hormone melatonin, raising the risk of cell DNA mutations that can cause cancer.


There’s no need to stop watching the TV altogether; just get out of the habit of switching it on the minute you get home or whenever you are bored. Sit down with the viewing guide and pick out the shows you want to watch that week. Watch only those shows, and when they’re over, turn the TV off and keep it off. If the shows you watch regularly are cancelled, don’t replace them with new shows. Instead, decrease the time you spend in front of the TV and do something active instead. Read a book, go for a walk, ride a bike, or take part in some other kind of healthy physical activity for at least an hour before you turn on the tube.


And try getting rid of your remote. It’s impressive how much less television you’ll watch if you have to get up every time you want to change channels or adjust the volume. In addition, it eliminates all those wasted hours you spend channel surfing.


Get out and mingle

Your immune system likes it when you spend time with your friends. Studies suggest that having friends helps people live longer. Research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health indicates that socialising with friends is beneficial. Not only can good friends encourage you to take care of your health but their presence can actually help you live longer, according to this research. Australian scientists have shown that having friends around in old age can increase life expectancy, and that friends may encourage people to look after their health, helping reduce feelings of depression and anxiety at difficult times.


There is a large amount of data showing the value of nurturing, social support and camaraderie. In one study, researchers exposed people to a cold virus and then monitored how many contacts those people had with friends, family, co-workers, and members of church and community groups. The more social contacts people had – and the more diverse the contacts – the less likely they were to catch the cold.

Another 2005 study adds further weight to the theory that social support networks may strengthen the immune system. This study found that social isolation and loneliness can actually impair the immune system. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that lonely and socially isolated first-year students mounted a weaker immune response than other students.


The same study also showed that it’s not the number of friends you have that impact on immunity the most, but the quality of those friendships. You can have very few friends but not feel lonely. Alternatively, you can have many friends yet still feel lonely. It seems that feelings of loneliness impair the immune system’s response, while having fewer friends does not as clearly affect the immune system.

All this research contributes to a growing body of evidence that meaningful relationships and social support can enhance the functioning of the immune system. So whether you have one good friend or fifty, spend more time with them.


Hold hands

Hold hands with someone you love. Give or get a hug from a friend or treat yourself to a regular massage. Your immune system will thank you for it. Touch is important for boosting immunity too. It seems that giving or getting hugs or other forms of touch can boost the activity of the natural killer cells that seek out and destroy cancer cells or cells that have been invaded by viruses. Your skin is the largest sense organ of your body and stimulation of the skin is an important part of healthy immune system function. Unfortunately, many of us are too busy for hugs and become touch starved.


Studies show that appropriate touch in childhood benefits growth, development and immune function. In a series of animal experiments, those frequently given touch digested their food better, developed more rapidly, learned more efficiently and showed greater stability when presented with stressful situations. Animals that are touched or handled extensively in infancy also show more developed immune systems than animals who have received less touch. They suffer fewer infections and have a lower mortality rate than their lesser-touched counterparts.


Is it possible to enhance your own immunity with a regular massage, and the immunity of your partner, friends and/or children by touching or hugging them more? All the evidence suggests that touch does positively benefit numerous aspects of human health and immunity is definitely one of them.


Compose yourself

If you haven’t got one already, invest in an Ipod or similar MP3 player and download and listen to your favourite music as much as you can.


Music’s ability to alter mood and emotional state has long been known anecdotally, and more recently has been scientifically documented. Likewise, it’s well recognized that mental and emotional states can alter autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and balance. The ANS, in turn, can modulate virtually every aspect of immune function. The interaction between feeling states, immunity and autonomic function has been highlighted by a number of studies showing that negative emotions such as anger and hostility stimulate sympathetic activity, increase the cortisol/DHEA ratio and suppress the immune system, while positive emotional states such as appreciation, love and laughter enhance parasympathetic activity, increase physiological well-being, reduce the cortisol/DHEA ratio and boost immunity.


In short, listening to music can boost your immunity, but it has to be music you love. Something that calms one person might stress another person out. Whether it’s Beethoven or Britney, the secret lies in finding music that soothes your soul. Scientists at Montreal’s McGill University found that listening to music that sent shivers down the spine or that gave people goose bumps stimulated the same feel-good parts of the brain that are activated by food and sex.


Music therapy is now an established health service similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy. It is used to treat patients with a variety of disorders, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, autism, immune deficiencies and chronic pain. The American Music Therapy Association adds that the benefits of music therapy also include anxiety and stress reduction, pain management and positive changes in mood. These can lead to improved respiration, lower blood pressure, lowered heart rate and a reduced need for pain medication.


But even better than listening to music, is actually making or composing it yourself. Research has found that found that people who took part in an amateur group-drumming session had greatly enhanced natural killer-cell activity afterward.


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