an additional page to how we killed dads cancer Immune boosting foods and supplements - great ideas to help you stay illness free with maximum protection Todays modern 'lifestyle' diets can be lacking in so many of the essential ingredients and nutrients our bodies need to boost our immune system and keep illness at bay - it's a wonder we aren't ill all the time. But a few simple steps will help you maximise the potential of good, nutritious food, giving you the chance of optimum nutrition and the increase in health that goes along with it. Our bodies are constantly trying to fight off invading pathogens like bacteria, viruses, allergens and cancer cells. This creates a strain for our immune system and it is vital that we help it by supplying all the nutrients needed to keep it fighting for us. An underactive immune system leads to an increased risk of cancer and infectious diseases to viral infections and the common cold. Many invading pathogens produce 'free-radicals', dangerous molecules that weaken your immune system. Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin A, C, E and the minerals Selenium and Zinc disarm free radicals and boost the immune system so are important nutrients to include in our diet. Problems associated with a weakened immune system Breathing disorders, frequent colds and flu, itchy watery eyes, irritable bowel syndrome, excessive urination and bladder spasms, diarrhoea and/or constipation, reactions to chemical fumes, smoke, perfume, clothing and cleaners, food allergies, mouth sores, sore muscles, memory loss, yeast infections, gas and bloating after meals, Crohn's disease, quick temper, anxiety and panic attacks, fluid retention, insomnia, aching joints, depression, fatigue, colitis, arthritis. An immune boosting diet is really no different from the ideal diet everyone should aim to eat, as so many nutrients are involved in keeping the immune system strong. Protein Protein is especially important for empowering the immune system as antibodies and T-cells are made of protein and need a constant supply to make sure your body is well defended. However, too much can suppress immunity. Healthy sources are fish (especially oily types like salmon, mackerel and sardines), free range eggs, nuts and seeds, tofu and organic meats and poultry. Minerals Your body needs minerals to transform the protein you eat into tissues and cells. Magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, manganese and calcium are all needed for a strong immune defence. Ensure your diet contains lots of leafy green vegetables, fresh nuts and seeds, wholegrain cereals, shellfish, lentils, eggs, pulses, alfalfa, parsley, mushrooms and fish for a good supply. Vitamin A, C and E are all antioxidants, so vital for immunity. Mucous membranes that line the eyes, nose, lungs and stomach are your immune system's first line of defence against invading cold and flu viruses. Vitamin A helps keep these membranes healthy. Choose foods containing beta- carotene that converts to vitamin A in the body such as, sweet potatoes, oranges, apricots, cantaloupe, yellow squash, mango's, carrots, spinach, peaches, and watercress. Vitamin C is perhaps the most vital nutrient for a healthy immune system as it has so many important roles in boosting the immune system. Your body can not manufacture it's own vitamin C and requirements can double or treble when the immune system is compromised so it is important to obtain plenty throug h the diet and nutritional supplements. Rich food sources include kiwi fruit, watermelon, strawberries, blackcurrants and sweet potatoes. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and can be found in raw wheatgerm, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, wholegrains and eggs. B vitamins are needed for a healthy immune system, particularly B6 that enhances the white cells ability to gobble up nasty pathogens. Brown rice, brewer's yeast, green vegetables, peas, walnuts, bananas, avocado and chicken are rich food sources. Polyphenols and Bioflavenoids These are natural compounds found in plants that have been found to prevent cancer and heart disease in humans. Studies have shown flavenoids can actually stop viruses from reproducing. Best food sources are Red wine, green tea, berries, soy beans, dark vegetables raw and cooked onions, kale, broccoli, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Garlic Garlic contains allicin, which has anti-bacterial, anti-viral properties and contains antioxidant properties too. Too fight infections, you need to eat 4 cloves a day or take capsules. Reishi & Shitaki mushrooms Reishi mushrooms contain potent antioxidants, anti-tumour properties and compounds that help the immune system recognise and attack harmful yeast's, bacteria and viruses. Shiitake mushrooms contain anti-viral properties that stimulate the immune system to produce more interferon, a natural compound know to fight cancer and viruses. Like Reishi mushrooms, Shiitake contain anti-tumour properties too. Exercise A healthy immune system is not only dependent on a healthy diet. A number of lifestyle factors play a hug e part. Exercise is great for a strong immune system, however it must be the correct type. Less strenuous types such as Yoga and Tai Chi can be very beneficial but vigorous training and overtraining can suppress immunity. Psychological states can influence the immune system greatly. Stress, depression, grief and anxiety all depress the immune system so it is important to address these factors if they are prominent in your life. Learning to cope with stress and to relax is vital to health.