Did you know our immune systems age and become less effective as we get older? The Covid-related data we are inundated with every day is proof that older people are more victim to a less responsive immune system. Data from CDC and the World Health Organization clearly shows that there is a significant jump in Covid-related illness and death from the 45-54-year-old age group to the 55-64-year-old age group.
Here’s the breakdown of what happens to our immune system as it ages:
- Our immune systems become less able to differentiate foreign threats to the body from our bodies themselves. So, we are more susceptible to autoimmune disorders.
- We all have specialized cells that destroy bacteria, cancer cells and other threats. These cells become slower at doing their job.
- T Cells are a type of white blood cell that fights antigens—invaders or threats to the body. T Cells have memory. They remember antigens that they have previously encountered. As we age T Cells become slower at recognizing these previously encountered antigens.
- We also generate fewer white blood cells as we age. White blood cells, which are found in our Lymph Nodes and in our blood, are critical to fighting illness.
- We also have less “complement proteins.” Complement proteins are a group of proteins that trigger each other in sequence and perform multiple, critical immune fighting functions. They kill bacteria directly. They attach themselves to bacteria and make it easier for other cells to destroy antigens. They neutralize viruses and help cells like T Cells to remember previous threats.
There is no magic bullet to keep our immune systems from weakening as we age, and boosting our immune systems is important no matter what age we are. Here are a few basic things that we can all do at any age to help our immune systems remain strong. Not rocket science, but good sense and good health practices!
Sleep remains critical at any age so that our bodies can regenerate. Even as we age, we still need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. So, having good sleep habits and having a routine that helps prepare you for sleep will help to ensure that we get quality, restful sleep. Be sure to begin to wind down a couple of hours before bed by turning off the TV or the computer, do some gentle stretches, have a cup of herbal tea.
We all need to move. Remaining active throughout our lives is critical for both our wellbeing and our immune systems. It helps our circulatory, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and other systems functioning well. Also, getting outside and getting sunshine generates Vitamin D, which is critical for healthy immune response.
We under-estimate how much drinking enough water helps us to stay healthy. Staying hydrated helps with quality sleep, exercise, digestion, and overall energy. Drinking adequate amounts of water supports the immune system by facilitating the elimination of waste.
Chronic stress can affect your immune system, decreasing its effectiveness. When under stress, the body increases the production of cortisol. This is a hormone that helps the body deal with stressful situations. It also limits bodily functions that aren’t essential in a fight-or-flight situation. Short-term stress is normal and not harmful to our bodies. Chronic stress, on the other hand, lowers our immune system response, which leaves us more susceptible to getting sick with common illnesses like colds and flu, and to more serious illnesses and disease like cancers.
To help reduce your stress level, engage in relaxing like reading or gardening, or develop a regular mediation practice.
Good nutrition is important at any age. As we get older, we find that we are eating less and that we may not feel as much hunger as we used to. So, it becomes even more important that we ensure that we are eating high quality, whole foods that are dense nutritionally vs. processed foods, foods with less sugar, fat and salt, etc. We need to be eating the right combination of foods to ensure that we are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals. We already know that we need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, eat a “colorful” range of foods, along with lean proteins, whole grains, and plant-based fats to feed your body the building blocks for a solid, healthy foundation.
The recipe below from Sarah Gold Nutrition for Carrot, Ginger and Turmeric Soup is delicious, colorful, nutritious and full of immune-boosting ingredients! The main ingredients in this soup—Turmeric, Ginger, Carrots and Onions--are all known anti-inflammatories and immune boosters. So, you can support your immune system and slay your hunger with this comfort food. And it is a 1-pot meal!
Over the last 2 decades, research shows that Curcumin activates T Cells, and other natural pathogen-killer cells. Chronic inflammation can reduce your immune system responses and potentially increase your chances of illness. Ginger’s inflammation-reducing properties may combat inflammation and help to keep your immune system healthy.
Carrots are a wonder food! They contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, and minerals, all of which are super immune supporters. Vitamin A helps to maintain mucosal barriers in the respiratory tract that prevent germs from entering the body. Vitamin C increases the levels of antibodies released during the immune response, stimulates the production of the white blood cells that destroy foreign bacteria and viruses and protects white blood cells from damage caused by free radicals. B Vitamins ensure the growth of white blood cells that fight infections. Vitamin E protects cell membranes throughout the body, including those in the immune system and reverses some of the age-related problems in T cells and may improve their ability to fight infections as we age. The Zinc, Iron and Copper in carrots are critical for our immune systems. Zinc is essential for the development of cells that attack bacteria and foreign substances. Iron supports the inflammatory process, as well as the cells that destroy viruses and some tumor cells. Copper helps white blood cells to respond to foreign substances.
Ginger and Turmeric Soup
Sarah Gold Nutrition
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 lb carrots, diced into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1-inch knob ginger, finely diced
- 1/2 inch knob turmeric, peeled and finely chopped. Or 1 tsp turmeric powder.
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- Freshly ground pepper
Instant Pot Instructions:
- Turn on Instant Pot to sauté on high and set to 10 minutes. Add olive oil then onion and carrot and sauté until they soften, about 5-6 minutes. Then add ginger and turmeric and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly. Turn off sauté function.
- Add salt and broth. Then set Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Add cover and seal and let Instant Pot do it’s thing. When it finishes, release pressure by turning pressure valve – steam will release. Once steam is done releasing, remove lid.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it’s a smooth consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer soup in batches to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in coconut milk and season with freshly ground pepper.
- Leftovers can be kept in refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat Add olive oil, onion, and carrot and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until soft. Then add ginger and turmeric and sauté for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add broth and salt. Bring to a boil and boil and then turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes to let flavors meld and carrots get really soft. When done, follow step 3 in directions above to blend and add coconut milk/pepper.
Eat up and enjoy--you will be healthier for it!
These days, in the midst of Covid madness, we all need to do whatever we can to take care of ourselves. So, even if I don’t have time or the ingredients on hand to make dishes with Turmeric and Ginger, I do make sure to get a daily dose of both with IN:MOTION. IN:MOTION is an easy, delicious way to get the immune-boosting support from Tumeric and Ginger!
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