Your immune system is a defense system you have to fight infection. There are many lifestyle factors that can strengthen or weaken your immune response.
Factors that weaken your immunity:
- Inadequate sleep
- Chronic stress
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive exercise (more than 90 minutes daily with no rest days)
- Antibiotic use
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Imbalanced gut microbiota
- Certain health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer
- Nutrient deficiencies (over time, even a slight deficiency in one nutrient can weaken
your immune system)
Although there are foods that are helpful for your immune system there is no one “super food”. An eating plan that supports immunity consists of a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy and whole grains. Food contains naturally occurring substances that protect health, and nutrients are better absorbed from food compared to supplements. As the Greek physician Hippocrates quoted “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. However, supplements may be necessary based on medical conditions, surgical history or dietary patterns.
10 Nutrients that support immunity:
Probiotics may inhibit growth of pathogens, modulate immune response and reduce risk of respiratory infections. Good food sources include fermented foods such as yogurt, aged cheese, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, miso and sauerkraut. It may be difficult to get the probiotics you need from food therefore a supplement may be beneficial.
2. Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is involved in the production of a protein that kills infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses. A vitamin D deficiency impairs immunity and increases the risk of developing viral infections. Food sources include fortified milk, egg yolks and fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. Many people are deficient in vitamin D and require a supplement.
3. Vitamin C.
This vitamin supports immune function and may prevent upper respiratory tract infections. It is found in oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli and dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. If you are eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis you probably do not need to take it as a supplement. Taking vitamin C supplements in large dosages is not helpful since the body is not able to absorb large amounts at one time.
Zinc is needed to activate immune cells and may shorten the duration of symptoms of the common cold. A deficiency may weaken immune function and increase risk of infections. Zinc is found in beef, chicken, pork, mushrooms and seafood. When you start to feel sick it may be beneficial to take a zinc supplement.
Protein is the building block for all tissues in the body including immune system cells. Protein can be found in many foods such as milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. You should aim to consume protein at every meal.
Quercetin has been shown to reduce the incidence and severity of upper respiratory tract infection symptoms. It can be found in black tea, onions, kale, broccoli, oranges, apples and blueberries.
Whole garlic has a compound called alliin. When alliin is crushed or chewed it changes into allicin. Allicin helps your immune system fight germs by strengthening the disease fighting response of white blood cells when they encounter viruses.
8. Beta Carotene.
Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A which is essential for immunity to help antibodies respond to toxins and foreign substances. Sources of beta carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, mangos, apricots, spinach, kale, broccoli and squash. Vitamin A from supplements can be tricky because excessive vitamin A can be dangerous. However, you never have to worry about toxicity from foods.
Ginger has antimicrobial, antibiotic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects. Here is a recipe to mix together to drink if you feel you might be getting a cold:
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 pinch of cayenne
It is important to stay well hydrated to enable mucous membranes in nasal passages to stay moist to help prevent illness. Dehydration results in cracks in nasal passages that enable a virus to enter your body.
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It is suggested to consult with a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist prior to any purchase. I can offer this service to you remotely via my Telehealth platform!