It's well-documented that people with a spinal-cord injury SB or disease (SCI/D) have compromised immune systems and are at increased risk of bacterial and viral infections.
Studies show that people with quadriplegia or complete SCI/Ds tend to have greater immune suppression than people with paraplegia or those with incomplete SCI/Ds and approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of people with a SCI/D are re-admitted to the hospital each year for infections. The most common are urinary and respiratory infections and infected pressure sores.
A Comprehensive Approach
Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals can boost your immune system; nutrient deficiencies can significantly impair the immune system and its response to an infection.
This is particularly important for people with SCI/D because they're susceptible to nutrient deficiencies because of poor diet, digestion and absorption dysfunction, stress and increased nutrient needs.
Supporting a healthy immune system requires a comprehensive approach and one that involves stress and relaxation management, lifestyle management, moderate exercise, consumption of a whole foods diet, nutritional supplementation and herbal and glandular support.
Here are a few nutritional strategies to help boost your immune system.
1. Support your thymus
The thymus is a pinkish-gray gland located above the heart. It forms antibodies and T cells.
If you experience frequent or chronic infections you may have an impaired thymus. Taking thymus gland extract increases the tone, function and activity of this gland. This helps address chronic viral infections and overall low immune function.
There are several specific nutrients that support thymus function--vitamins C, B6 and also zinc.
Foods high in vitamin C include parsley, bell peppers, citrus fruits, cherries, alfalfa sprouts, black currants, tomatoes, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and peas.
Foods high in vitamin B6 include avocados, carrots, bananas, lentils, brown rice, sunflower seeds, tuna, shrimp and whole grain flour.
Foods high in zinc include pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, sunflower seeds, seafood, crab, herring, organ meats, mushrooms, brewer's yeast, meats, liver and turkey.
2. Feed the spleen
The spleen is responsible for producing white blood cells and destroying bacteria. It helps clean the blood by filtering out foreign substances and microorganisms as they circulate through the spleen.
Spleen-supporting fruits and vegetables include radishes, watercress, beets, beet 5 greens, red peppers, red cabbage, parsley, cranberries, apples, tomatoes, lettuce and garlic. You can also take a spleen glandular in supplement form, as this can help address low white blood cell counts and bacterial infections.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight is associated with impaired immune function and a higher rate of infection. People with a SCI/D are at increased risk of being overweight, therefore maintaining a healthy weight is crucial in optimizing your immune system.
High cholesterol and triglycerides levels, which are often associated with obesity, can inhibit immune functions, including the ability of your white blood cells to destroy pathogens.
Additionally, many people with SCI/D have diabetes and experience hypoglycemia (drop in blood sugar levels). These conditions can depress certain white blood cells (basophils, eosinophils and neutrophils) and their ability to kill micro-organisms.
4. Increase your killer cells
Natural killer cells help destroy infected cells. So, to improve your natural killer cell activity you should look at doing the following:
* Don't smoke
* Increase intake of green vegetables
* Eat meals and snacks regularly
* Maintain a healthy weight
* Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
* Exercise regularly
* Maintain a predominantly vegetarian-based diet
* Take spleen extract (the compound splenopentin has also been shown to enhance natural killer cell activity)
5. Add Antioxidants
Consuming a diet high in antioxidants can help boost your immune system.
The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) levels are a measure of the antioxidant capabilities of foods. The chart above lists the fruits, vegetables and legumes with the highest ORAC values.
KYLIE JAMES CNP & JOANNE SMITH CNP
ORAC Levels of Fruits and Vegetables Fruits Amount ORAC Value Acai berries 1/2 cup 16,140 Pomegranates 2 whole 10,500 Blueberries 1 cup 9,019 Cranberries 1 cup 8,983 Blackberries 1 cup 7,701 Prunes 1/2 cup 7,291 Raspberries 1 cup 6,058 Strawberries 1 cup 5,938 Red Delicious Apple 1 5,900 Sweet Cherries 1 cup 4,873 Black plum 1 4,844 Vegetables Amount ORAC Value Red beans 1/2 cup 13,727 Red kidney beans 1/2 cup 13,259 Pinto beans 1/2 cup 11,864 Artichoke hearts 1 cup 7,904 Russet potatoes 1 cooked 4,649 Black beans 1/2 cup 4,181 Kale 1 cup 2,540