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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Gerontologist

Powering Up Our Immune Systems

Building up our immune system to fighting fitness always ranks as our first choice of defense against disease. Not to get sidetracked, but even the leaders in cancer research have finally recognized that strengthening the immune system offers the best protection against disease. (More about that in future posts.) Now, before the temperatures drop and stay down, adding these supplements to our daily routine will help us stay well. As always, check with your health care provider to be clear of any contraindications.

Vitamin C

powering up immune system

At the top of the charts is an old favorite, vitamin C. Some of the latest stats show more than forty-three million adults from the age of twenty to sixty are deficient in vitamin C. That number jumps up drastically for seniors. Why? The short answer is we don’t eat enough fresh fruits and veggies, and the depletion of the nutrients in the soil over the last fifty years has lowered the nutrient content of our agricultural products. As many respected experts tell us, we now cannot get all the vitamins we need by simply eating the right foods. Added pollution, stress, and medications have also contributed to our deficiency.  We get some Vitamin C in our food, but now supplementation is a necessity. Taking 1000 milligrams, in 2 or 3 doses throughout the day, perhaps at mealtimes, will boost your immunity system. Don’t take it all at once, as it absorbs and is eliminated each time we visit the loo, and so spread out the doses. Try different types to see which you tolerate best. My personal favorite is  1000 milligrams of time-released vitamin C.

Zinc

Adding this mineral to your daily regime gives you an edge against illness, and it becomes a even bigger gun if you actually get sick. If a bug finds you, zinc lozenges should be a go-to. Make sure the lozenge contains at least 50 milligrams of zinc; ideally 75 to be effective, but cap the strength of each lozenge at 10 milligrams. Taking more interferes with the absorption of copper. Some great advice: pop a lozenge just before you get on a plane!

Vitamin D

New research points to vitamin D as a frontline fighter against illness. The Institute of Medicine suggests 4,000 IU a day for people nine to ninety-nine. I take that much every day.

To this list I add a great Multi-Vitamin with Minerals. To insure you are getting a good quality one, the smart money is on buying ones from a health food store, versus say, the drug store or a big box store. Talk to the store manager or people who work there and ask questions. The popular one isn’t always the best one.

If you are already working with a nutritional expert, you are in great shape. For the rest of us, these recommendations will be a good start for super-charging all your disease-fighting systems

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

Powering Up Our Immune Systems

In drilling deep into breast cancer prevention for women, I find recommendations based on several factors. In aiding prevention for women before mid-life, prevention for postmenopausal women, and what suggestions help postmenopausal women who have had breast cancer, there exists some common approaches which are very encouraging.

Regular, focused exercise across the lifespan wins the day as the number one risk reducer. I know this seems like I never get off this one subject, but think of how many positive benefits we get from regular exercise, not the least exciting result is a trimmer figure and higher metabolism–allowing for the occasional pizza splurge, since isn’t the holy grail about having pizza? For me it is, but, I digress.

On the subject of diet, the latest research reveals some strong pros and cons for what we put on our plates. Several very large studies from both the US at the National Cancer Institute and The Oregon Health and Science University, and in China through The Shanghai Breast Cancer Study (SBCS), and including research from Vanderbilt University, indicate making friends with vegetables is a great idea, especially a family of veggies call cruciferous vegetables. Don’t ask me to pronounce it, but I know them when I see the on the produce aisle:

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Watercress
  • Wasabi

This wide variety of vegetables can lower our risk of breast cancer (50%) and pancreatic cancer (38%), and a man’s risk of prostate cancer (46%) or pancreatic cancer (35%). One serving a day for postmenopausal women without a history of breast cancer gave them a 50% advantage over non-cruciferous vegetable eaters. That’s some heavy leafy armor. More studies are going on as I write, and I am hopeful the above finding are further supported by these study results. If the vegetables were rated for firepower, the Bazooka Award would go to the simple cabbage and humble turnip, both vegetables readily available in many, many parts of the world and still pretty much ignored by Top Chefs.  

To give us a little protein, eat fish, but stick to low mercury fish. A list of these low-mercury swimmers is regularly updated on www.nrdc.org, the top contenders by potency: mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring and oysters. Red meat does not make the list, and on the big no-no list is charred (grilled) red meat. It seems that crusty, (slightly) burned areas are very carcinogenic (poisonous) for us humans and turn the breast cancer risk-meter way up.  Cutting out food which appears high on the glycemic index (www.dlife.com), something, along with insulin resistance, I discussed in my blog post Move it and Improve It can trim our risk.

The science dovetails nicely with what we know makes up a healthy diet, providing many crossover benefits which raises our resistance to breast cancer, while making our hair shinier, our skin clearer, lowering inflammation throughout our bodies, and helping us sleep better, and last, but such a bell-ringing winner, feeding our brains to improve our cognitive functions. Give those veggies a gold medal! (Cue national anthem ;-).

Until next time…Be Vibrant!