Your Immune System

Your Immune System Articles

Micronutrients have major impact on health

To maintain your brain, muscle, bone, nerves, skin, blood circulation, and immune system, your body requires a steady supply of many different raw materials—both macronutrients and micronutrients. You need large amounts of macronutrients—proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. And while you only need a small number of micronutrients—vitamins and minerals—failing to get even those small quantities virtually guarantees disease. Nearly 30 vitamins and minerals that your body cannot manufacture in sufficient amounts on its own are called "essential micronutrients." British sailors learned centuries ago that living for months without fresh fruits or vegetables—the main sources of vitamin C—caused the bleeding gums and listlessness of scurvy, a disease that often proved fatal. Even today in many low-income countries, people frequently suffer from a variety of nutrient-deficiency diseases. True vitamin and mineral deficiencies—in which the lack of a single nutrient leads directly to a specific ailment—are rare in the United States because our extensive supply of inexpensive food, and the fortification of many common foods with some key nutrients. However, eating less than optimal amounts of important vitamins, minerals, and other compounds can still contribute to a number of major illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. Hence, concern about "insufficiency"—a controversial topic—is a major driver of both the U.S. dietary guidelines and the mass marketing of over-the-counter supplements. More »

Gut reaction: How bacteria in the belly may affect the heart

The trillions of microbes found in the human gut, known as the gut microbiota, interact with the foods people eat and may influence their risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Altering the gut microbiota might one day lead to personalized diet recommendations or other therapies to lower heart disease risk. For now, experts say that eating a plant-based diet tends to create a healthier, more diverse gut microbiota than eating a typical American diet.  (Locked) More »

The upshot of allergy treatment

Many people try to manage allergies with over-the-counter or prescription medication; however, allergy shots may better control symptoms as well as reduce dependency on allergy drugs. After a three-to-six month build-up phases, people received monthly shots for about three to five years on average.  (Locked) More »

Making peace with your germs

Many of the trillions of microbes that inhabit our bodies are essential to our health. A Mediterranean diet, good hygiene, and wise use of antibiotics promote microbial diversity. Probiotics may help restore beneficial bacteria. More »

Ask the Doctor: Do I need a tetanus booster?

Question: My doctor told me I'm overdue for a tetanus booster. I'm 64, and I wonder if it's really necessary at my age. Can't I just get one if I get a deep cut? Answer: We usually associate tetanus with stepping on a rusty nail or getting a dirty puncture wound. But it can also result from minor injuries such as a pinprick, an animal scratch or a splinter or thorn from the garden. That's why it's important to keep up with tetanus immunizations at every age. (Locked) More »

Should you take probiotics?

Probiotics can be helpful in some cases, but it’s unclear whether they are safe for all older adults. Preliminary information shows that some types of probiotics are safe for healthy older people, but it’s not known yet if probiotics prevent infections in the elderly. If someone has a health problem, especially an immune system weakened by illness or medication, that person could get sick from probiotics. People should not begin taking probiotics without talking to a doctor or pharmacist first. . More »

Fever in adults

The average body temperature is 98.6° F (37°C). But "normal" body temperature varies from person to person. It also changes during the day, rising a bit after you eat or exercise. Body temperature is often higher in the afternoon than it is when you wake up in the morning. Fever means a body temperature of 100.4° F (38°C) or higher. An infection is the most common cause of fever. Examples include the flu, pneumonia, food poisoning, and bladder infection. More »

Celiac disease

Celiac disease (also known as non-tropical sprue, celiac sprue, and gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a genetic, autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly recognizes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, as "foreign." When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, the immune system attacks the gluten when it gets into the small intestine. As the immune system wages war against gluten, it damages small, fingerlike projections in the small intestine called villi. Villi that make it easier for the body to absorb nutrients from food. As villi become eroded and flattened, they have trouble absorbing nutrients. The result is diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as a host of health problems related to malnutrition, including weight loss, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility, and nerve problems. More »

Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, is an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly attacks connective tissue in the body, injuring and sometimes destroying vital organs such as the joints, kidneys, brain, and heart. The word "lupus" is Latin for wolf. Many people with this condition developed a rash on the face over the bridge of the nose and on the cheeks below the eyes that looks like the facial markings of a wolf. Lupus affects several hundred thousand people in the United States. It strikes women more often than men, and blacks more often than whites. More »

10 Flu Myths

The flu is a good example of how medical myths can get in the way of good medical care. When it's flu season, take the necessary steps to stay healthy. That includes separating fact from myth. More »