Boost Your Body's Immunity Through Nutrition
Our immune system is one of the most effective forms of defense against viral infections. There are two categories of immune functions in everyone's body - the innate immunity which prevents diseases from entering the body and adaptive immunity which eliminates or prevents the growth of pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, in our body.
There remains much about the immune system that researchers are still working to understand, but what we do know is the tangible connection between the immune system and nutrition.
What we eat, where we live, how much we sleep, how we exercise, and even who we live with, all causes chemical reactions that can alter our health status. Added to the mix is our microbiome, which are the microorganisms we depend on to protect us against germs, break down food for energy, produce vital vitamins and bolster our immune system.
The largest part of the immune system - approximately 70% of it - is located near the intestines, which monitors the intake of food and how the body uses it. This makes it critical for us to consume a balanced diet with the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This requires more than just changing the intake of one or two nutrients but involves balancing the entire diet to ensure that there is optimal nutrition intake at a cellular level.
Four essential groups of nutrients to help individuals strengthen their immune system:
Also known as the basic building blocks of the body, protein allows the body to manufacture antibodies that it requires to defend against invading viruses and bacteria. To ensure that we have sufficient levels of protein in our diet, we can eat more healthy protein foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, lean meats, soy foods and low-fat dairy products.
Vitamins and phytonutrients
Vitamins A and C, as well as phytonutrients are key
players in immune system health. As one of the biggest
immune system boosters, Vitamin C encourages our
body to produce antibodies that fight diseases. It is
essential to maintain a daily intake of vitamin C as the
body does not produce or store it. Vitamin A supports
the health of our skin, tissues of our digestive tract and
Phytonutrients, which are found in vegetables and fruits,
reduces our body's oxidative stress, which may weaken
its ability to fight off illnesses. A number of
phytonutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of
cancer and cardiovascular diseases, fight inflammation,
lower blood pressure, and boost the overall health of
our immune system.
Probiotics and prebiotics
The digestive system plays a central role in supporting immune function. The intestinal tract is the main route of contact with the external environment and is a pathway that contains microbiomes that aids digestion as well as the absorption of nutrients. Having the right gut bacteria has been associated with benefits such as weight loss, improved digestion, healthier skin, and most importantly enhanced immune function, although research in these areas is not conclusive or universally applicable.
Studies have shown that probiotics, which are 'good bacteria', are useful in maintaining the digestive system, and prebiotics, types of fibre that the human body cannot digest, serve as food for these probiotics.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, are healthy and essential types of fat which can be found in food such as chia seed and supplements such as fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the functions of immune cells, which plays a large role in both the innate and adaptive system that responds to infections.