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How Antioxidants Help You Avoid Getting Sick and Reduce Symptoms of Illness

How Antioxidants Help You Avoid Getting Sick and Reduce Symptoms of Illness

Most of what you read about antioxidants describes their long term benefits. Indeed, they are needed to help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer, and to slow down the effects of aging.

Less well known is how antioxidants help you avoid getting sick each day. They are an important part of your body's natural defense system against harmful bacteria and viruses, such as the flu.

Whether you decided to get a flu shot or not, it is critical that you give your immune system extra support during the winter months by taking more of the key antioxidants. Namely, you need extra glutathione, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E and N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC).

These cellular antioxidants help your body ward off infection when you are exposed to a virus. And if you do get the flu or a cold, studies have shown that by having an abundance of antioxidants available, you can significantly reduce the duration and severity of symptoms and the length (days) of the illness. The role of each of these antioxidants is summarized below:

Glutathione: This is your body's most powerful antioxidant. It protects against viruses in several ways. First, researchers at Emory University showed that glutathione inhibits the spread of cells infected by the flu virus. It does this by preventing oxidative damage to certain enzymes that an infected flu cell needs to deactivate in order to spread the virus.

Glutathione also rids you of free radical-oxidizing agents and heavy metals that accumulate in the body during illness. With glutathione cleaning up the free radicals in your body, your immune system is freed up to fight viruses instead of cleaning up systemic trash.

Low glutathione levels enable viruses to replicate rapidly. A healthy system that is working hard to fight a viral infection uses glutathione rapidly and is in need of additional glutathione support.

Selenium: Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that the influenza virus mutates and spreads more quickly in animals deficient in the trace mineral selenium.

In the study, selenium deficiency also resulted in more severe lung inflammation, often the difference between mild pneumonia and severe pneumonia, which can be a life-threatening consequence of the flu.

In addition, a two year nutritional supplementation program showed that selenium and zinc significantly reduced infections in elderly residents of nursing homes and enhanced the immune response of the residents to influenza vaccination.

Vitamin C - It is well known that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and this protective activity is now proving vital in recovery from infection. In addition to being an important free radical fighter, vitamin C helps your immune system by stimulating anti-bodies and white blood cells that are needed to fight influenza.

A number of studies have found that, during infection, there is a marked decrease in vitamin C levels in plasma and white blood cells caused by increased usage of vitamin C to fight viruses. Vitamin C needs to be replenished and available for you to stay healthy.

Vitamin E: Tufts University researchers found that vitamin E bolsters your immune system against the cold and flu by strengthening the immune system's response.

Similarly, in another study involving 47 subjects, aged 61 to 79 years, researchers reported that those receiving a supplement containing vitamin E, and other micronutrients, showed a significant increase in immune response compared to the group taking a placebo.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) - Like other sulfur-containing nutrients, NAC is a powerful antioxidant. It also helps your liver break down hazardous chemicals. An Italian study of more than 250 men and women examined the effects of daily intake of NAC during cold and flu season. Only 25% of NAC users came down with flu, and even then, the majority experienced mild symptoms. By contrast, nearly 80% of the participants in the placebo group not taking NAC became ill with mild to moderate flu symptoms.

You can bolster your immune system during the dangerous winter months by giving your body extra antioxidants to fight viruses and the flu!
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