After all the photographs of people wearing face masks and stories about runs on Tamiflu and hand sanitizers, we may be overlooking one very personal defense against Swine Flu or any other infectious disease. That defense is our own immune system, which is directly related to how well we take care of ourselves.
We need to sleep enough at least seven hours a night and exercise regularly according to Dr. Jana Klauer, a Manhattan physician and nutritionist. As she explained it to me while sitting in her Park Avenue office, during sleep our white blood cells increase their number and become super efficient soldiers of our immune system. "Exercise makes the white blood cells perform better", says Klauer.
That's the intel on diet an exercise. I knew both were good for you and certainly make me feel better, but I never really knew why.
Now what about food Doc? Chow down on citrus fruits rich in Vitamin C as well as strawberries, which have even more "C" than do oranges. Also, eat colorful fruits and veggies, green, red, yellow, orange, purple. These are rich in vitamins. And there's more. Make sure you get enough protein. It's a body builder. And stow up on anti-oxidants such as the flavonoids contained in black and green teas chock full of the stuff, 25-30%.
Actually, let me digress for a small tea recipe here. Before you go to bed at night, grab two tea bags and put in a pitcher of water. In the morning pour into your biggest water bottle and carry with you all day for a steady intake. "Drinks that claim to contain green tea don't always have enough," says Dr. Klauer.
In addition, add selenium to your diet from food sources such as tuna and Brazil nuts.
"Selenium helps with the respiratory burst", says Dr. Klauer. The respiratory burst is the white blood cells in action combating bacteria. Choose dark flesh tuna since it contains less mercury contamination. If you purchase the tuna packed in olive oil, you'll have the added benefit of alpha-omega, but drain oil to eliminate some of the fat.
And speaking of fat, reduce your belly fat. Too much of it actually suppresses your immune system. Also cut back on sugar. A sugar-rich diet also acts as an immune suppressor. Hey, I didn't make this stuff up. I just asked a few questions while on the subject of Swine Flu.
(If you want to see more of my stories go to: nbcnewyork.com)