Improving your immune system one T-cell at a time

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With everything going on in the world right now concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all witnessing our external response to it. This got me thinking, "What in the world is going on inside our bodies? How are we reacting to this new threat internally?"

Naturally, I considered our immune system, the body's first line of defense against pathogens, and what we can do to help protect ourselves and others.

The human body has seven main parts that make up our immune system: white blood cells, antibodies, complement system, lymphatic system, spleen, bone marrow and the thymus.

All of these are incredibly important, but we will, for the sake of keeping it brief and you awake, focus on two specific cells of the immune system.

The first is the Helper T-cell, which, as the name implies, helps other immune cells carry out their functions. The second is the Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte cell, or the cooler and easier-to-say name "cellular assassins," which seek out and kill abnormal cells.

Unfortunately, as we age, T-cell function decreases and in turn lowers our immunity and ability to combat disease and infection. However the good news is that we can, at any age, take measures to improve our health and boost our immune systems.

So what can you do to bolster your immune system? Well, you've heard it all before, and for good reason ... because it's the undeniable truth: Your body and immune system thrive on a healthy diet.

For starters, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, specifically ones high in folic acid, vitamin B6 and thiamine, such as leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli and strawberries. Include healthy fats and protein, which your immune system needs to create T-cells.

Limit foods that cause inflammation such as sugar, margarine and processed carbohydrates. The inflammation that these foods create adds to an increased risk for illness and disease.

Sideline the processed food (chips, cookies, crackers) and give some of these healthy foods a try. Green tea contains polyphenols, which science has shown can increase the number of T-cells. Papaya has 200% of the recommended Vitamin C dosage and is a great source of vitamin A fiber and minerals.

Include garlic in your diet. Allicin is garlic's active ingredient and it stimulates white blood cells. Mushrooms, especially shiitake and reishi, increase the activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive.

Try some pumpkin seeds for a dose of zinc. Zinc has a mineral that is essential to the normal development of B-cells and T-cells.

In addition to the healthy diet, let's all give our "cellular assassins" the advantage by observing the current normal precautions of social distancing and hand washing like surgeons.

Holly Wright of Bluffton is a Reiki Master, reflexologist, NASM certified personal fitness trainer, and co-owner of Trinity TheraSpa in Moss Creek Village. trinitytheraspa.com

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