HCA Midwest Health
January 18, 2017

By: MaryAnn Lillig, DO, Geriatric/Internal Medicine

We all know lots of things slow down as we age. One of those, unfortunately is our immune system.

That's the bad news. The good news is there are things we can do to keep our army of disease fighters strong and healthy, even as we get older.

First, stay current on vaccines. This first line of defense against pneumonia, the flu and other diseases can go a long way to keeping us healthy.

Second, did you know that 70 percent of our immune system is in the digestive tract? That's right.  Evidence suggests a strong connection between overall digestive health, stress levels and our immune systems. A few simple lifestyle changes can help bolster our digestive and immune systems. Remember though, talk with your doctor before drastically changing your diet or taking supplements. But as a general rule:

  • Maintain a diet rich in antioxidants -- think veggies, organic if possible.
  • Make sure some of your veggies are high in Beta-carotene (carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes) and supplement with a Beta-carotene vitamin if needed
  • Cut out sugar. Sorry, but it stimulates an inflammatory response which works against a healthy immune response
  • Probiotics can keep your gut healthy and productive 
  • Think letters:
    • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids is one of the safest and most effective nutrients, and may  protect against immune system deficiencies
    • Vitamin D is also great for your immune system
    • Vitamin E with tocopherols protects the fat in the body which helps cell membranes (good for the brain!)
  • Consider fish oil for heart health 
  • Zinc helps with hormone production, growth and repairment, improves immunity and digestion.
  • Try to keep your stress levels low
  • The benefits of lots of water and rest can't be overstated
  • Finally exercise!  Walking, Yoga, weights, whatever works for you, just move!