National Nutrition Month, according to the Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics. So for the next few weeks, this
column will address your questions and comments. Letís get
from Jefferson City, Mo., writes: "I often see in
nutrition columns, ads and on labels that certain foods Ďstrengthení
the immune system. What does that actually mean?
years ago, my immune system started raging and attacked
connective tissues, muscles and lungs. My immune system is now
under control with immune-suppressant drugs, but it comes
raging back whenever I try to reduce my dosage of these drugs.
I am concerned when I hear that something Ďstrengthensí my
immune system. That appears to be exactly what I DONíT want
to happen. I would appreciate your perspective on this."
that strengthen the immune system are those that provide the
substances needed to maintain the bodyís defense system
against foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. We need
adequate protein and zinc in our diets, for example, to help
defend ourselves from unwanted "bugs."
unknown reason, the body sometimes gets confused and begins to
attack its own tissues ó a condition known as an autoimmune
disorder. Examples of autoimmune diseases include type 1
diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
there is no special diet to treat autoimmune diseases,
specialists do stress the importance of a nutritionally
balanced diet and adequate exercise. And although researchers
are not sure if inflammation causes autoimmune disorders or
vice versa, most recommend a diet high in anti-inflammatory
foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.
Adequate vitamin D may also be important, at least in the
prevention of autoimmune diseases, according to recent
studies. Stay tuned; this is an area of continuing nutrition
from California asks: "Can you please tell me what you
think of taking St. Johnís wort? My doctor suggested I try
it as an alternative to antidepressants which I donít want
to take. Also, is turmeric tea safe?"
the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (nccih.nih.gov)
St. Johnís wort may help some types of depression although
it is not an absolutely proven therapy. As such, it has not
been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as a
medicine for depression.
cautions accompany the use of St. Johnís wort since it
contains a compound that interferes with the action of many
medications. Since your doctor is probably more aware of your
particular medical needs, you are wise to rely on his
tea is generally considered safe, says the NCCIH. Tumeric gets
its yellow color from curcumin ó a compound extracted from
the rhizome of the tumeric plant. Although not approved in the
U.S. as a therapeutic agent, a recent analysis of clinical
trials found that curcumin may help ease some symptoms of
depression. Again, check with your doc.