Often when we think about our immune system, we think of the ability to fight off illnesses. This is very true as our immune system is responsible for protecting us from infections and toxins. However, we miss the connection between our immune system & our diet. The saying – “we are what we eat” hits the nail on the head on this one. According to a publication by Chandra RK on PubMed, the deficiency of single nutrients may result in altered immune responses, even when the deficiency is relatively mild. Over-nutrition and obesity, on the other hand, will equally reduce our immunity.
Dr.David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.N., chairman, Herbalife Nutrition Institute, goes on to state that malnutrition leads to the suppression of the immune system and causes infections, while increased abdominal fats and obesity lead to the immune system’s hyperactivity, consequently causing inflammation. Dr. Heber further advised on how to boost our immune system by having a balanced diet, practicing a healthy, active lifestyle and supplementing with vitamins and minerals.
The first thing according to Dr. Leonard Calabrese, a rheumatologist in Cleveland Clinic, is to eliminate the negatives that pull your immune system down. These include smoking, excessive alcohol intake, drugs and excessive sun exposure. The other thing is to change our diet to an anti-inflammatory diet, which is more of a plant-based foods.
Wholesome foods rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, and other nutrients strengthen the immune system and ultimately support optimal health. Fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that protect the body from free radical, improve the immune system, and lower the risk of cancer. They also act as anti-aging elements and energy boosters.
For centuries, garlic has been used as a herb and for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It contains a chemical compound, allicin, which prevents the growth of Candida albicans fungus in humans.
Garlic fights off cold and flu by increasing the rate at which natural killer cells are produced. These cells kill off any invaders trying to attack the immune system.
It also has powerful antioxidant properties that help reduce cholesterol as well as naturally lowering your blood pressure.
You can benefit greatly from consuming 2-3 garlic cloves per day. Alternatively, you can supplement your diet with doses ranging from 600 to 1,200 mg daily.
Fruits and vegetables contain bioactive compounds such as antioxidants, phytonutrients, fibers, oil, and acids. All these compounds contain health and immune- modulating properties. The body uses these compounds to fight inflammation, infections and support the immune cell function.
Citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, according to a research published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry”, are not only high in vitamin C, which helps in protecting and maintaining healthy tissues and cells, but also have multiple flavonoids. These flavonoids have shown the ability to target immune malfunctions such as cancer development and excessive inflammation.
Green, leafy vegetables are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, while berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and goji berries are full of vitamins C and E.
Incorporating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet will provide a good and healthy mix of nutrients to boost the immune system.
A Norwegian study states that oats and barley contain a powerful antioxidant capability. Oats and barley contain a fiber called beta-glucan, which contain antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds. These compounds are responsible for speeding up the healing of wounds, promotes the function of antibiotics as well as boosting our immune system.
To make the most of your immune system,the ideal daily intake of oats and barley should be at least three servings.
Fatty fish and seafood such as tuna and salmon are packed with important nutrients, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, which strengthen the immune system. These foods fight inflammation and you should consume them on a regular basis. This is mainly because chronic inflammation is known to weaken and disrupt the function of the immune system.
Apart from fighting inflammation, these foods also help increase airflow in the lungs, to help fight flu and cold symptoms. Seafood such as oysters, clams, crabs, and lobsters, are loaded with selenium and zinc which also helps clear flu virus from the body through the production of cytokines by the white blood cells.
Loaded with vitamins C and A, magnesium, calcium, iron, gelatin, phosphorus, and antioxidants, chicken soup promote a strong immune system. Chicken also provides protein, supplying amino acids used to build antibodies that help fight infections.
Studies show that chicken soup help fight cold and flu viruses through nasal secretion, which in turn fight pathogens naturally.
Both green and black tea contains the L-theanine in abundance, an amino acid known to boost the immune system. In fact, according to Dr. Jack F. Bukowski, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School, it may even be possible to isolate and refine the L-theanine further and use it as a drug to improve the body’s infection defense.
Drinking at least two cups of either black or green tea each day will ensure that you get enough antioxidants that boost your immune system.
Water plays a vital role in your immune system. It transports essential oxygen to your body cells for the proper functioning of the body systems. Additionally, water helps reduce toxin build up in the body by flushing them out. Therefore, it is very important to keep well hydrated for the immune system to do its job well.
Our lifestyle in general directly impacts how well the immune system works to protect our body. However, approximately 70% of our immune system is in our digestive system. It is, therefore, important for us to practice mindful eating. A fusion of a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet with foods such as the ones we listed above will go a long way in improving our immune system.