Is your immune system up to the task?
By Dr Andre Comrie
March is TB awareness month, and when our awareness of something makes us look into it, we often get a nasty shock. So it is with tuberculosis.
South Africa is one of the worst-affected countries in the world. And KwaZulu Natal is the worst-affected province! About 80% of our population is infected with TB bacteria. It is a leading cause of death here, often in association with HIV, and the emergence of a drug-resistant form of the disease has increased the fatality rate.
The good news is that most of the 80% have the latent form of the disease, which is not contagious, and those who are undergoing treatment can also not infect others. The bad news is that living in an area with a high rate of infection is one of the biggest risk factors for catching the disease, which happens when a person with the untreated active form coughs, sneezes, or spits, or just talks, laughs or sings, and microscopic droplets are released into the air.
Another high-risk factor is a weakened immune system. Your body can do a good job of fighting the TB bacterium, but not if your resistance is low. And the good news here is that you can do something about your immune system.
At this point, you may be thinking that if your chances of being infected with TB are low – and they are – why read further? But remember, winter will soon be with us and colds and flu are lurking around the corner. Just as the late summer rains have filled Midmar Dam before the dry winter months, so you need to top up your immune system before winter ailments threaten.
So here are some tips.
Eat your fruits and vegetables. They contain phytonutrients and antioxidants that help strengthen your immune system. Carotenoids, found in the bright red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, as well as the leafy greens like spinach, are particularly rich in these nutrients.
For me, I take a very specific supplement to ensure that I get all the carotenoids I need on a daily basis. It has been my insurance policy ever since my cancer diagnosis many years ago. And I add a potent Vitamin C to ward off colds and flu.
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