It is no secret that the world is in a unique and unsettling state at this moment. With the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly growing, health is at the top of everyone’s minds, particularly immune health. The immune system supports our bodies rather than only fighting disease but protecting it from getting ill in the first place.
While things such as a pandemic and seasons altering may remind us of immune health, it is really of extreme importance all year long. The good thing is that even though several things are out of your hands, there’s still much that you can control, specifically what you eat, what supplements you take, and how you treat your entire body.
The importance of eating a healthy diet and limiting sugar
What we eat plays a large role in how well our bodies can protect us from disease and fight off it. A number of the greatest nutrition advice that may not go off is to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, ideally from many different colors. In other words, eat the rainbow! Eating many different foods from other food groups will also help make sure your body receives the ideal mixture of nutrients since different foods contain different nutrients.
Because eating a diet high in sugar can suppress the immune system and lead to inflammation within the body, sugar ought to be restricted, primarily from additional sugar sources. Pairing a healthy diet along with other elements including stress management, sufficient sleep, and exercise is the best way to support the immune system and an overall healthier lifestyle.
Below, we’ll highlight 10 popular foods and supplements you should know that can help keep your immune system healthy and strong. Bear in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA until they hit pharmacy and grocery store shelves. So make sure you talk to your healthcare provider or nutritionist and look for high-quality products that have been individually tested.
Antioxidants are chemicals your body makes or are found in foods that help fight damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can damage your body tissues, and they come from normal metabolism but also exposure to things like pollution and other toxins. A buildup of free radicals within the body may lead to oxidative stress, which is thought to be linked to disease.
Consuming high amounts of antioxidants in the diet can protect and encourage the immune response of people exposed to environmental sources of free radicals. Antioxidants which you can find from foods include vitamins C, E, and A, and specific plant compounds. Antioxidants come from fermented foods.
Good food sources include:
- Red grapes
- Red cabbage
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Particular beans
Protein consists of amino acids, and amino acids are used as fuel for the immune system. They play a significant role in supporting the immune functions of our cells. Not getting enough protein is associated with weakened immunity and also a greater risk of developing the disease. How much protein you want will depend on your age, body size, health status, and stage of life, so it’s ideal to reach out to a healthcare provider that will assist you to ascertain how much you need each day.
Good food sources include:
- Poultry like chicken and turkey
- Minimally processed beef and pork
- Beans and soy products
While vitamin D is perhaps best known for its role in bone health, it has an important role in the immune response too. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with autoimmunity and an increased risk of getting infections, including flu. Vitamin D was used to treat infections like tuberculosis before the invention of antibiotics. Vitamin D can help both cure and prevent illnesses by playing an important part in protective immunity.
We get vitamin D in two forms: vitamin D2 out of foods and Vitamin D3 from sunlight and animal products. Unlike with other vitamins, there are hardly any natural food sources for vitamin D, which can include:
- Fish like tuna, trout, and salmon
- Cod liver oil
- Portabella mushrooms that have been exposed to light
- Frequent foods which are fortified with vitamin D (i.e., have Vitamin D added) include:
- Plant-based milk like almond, soy, and rice
- Orange juice
- Some cereals
Also, your body can convert vitamin D3 from sunlight into usable vitamin D. However, many factors can influence how much we could consume, such as:
- Time of day
- How much clothing you’re wearing
- Just how much skin pigment You’ve Got
- Use of sunscreen
Many people do not get as much vitamin D from the sun as they may think. It’s estimated half of all people globally have insufficient vitamin D status and 1 billion people have vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, supplementation with vitamin D is justified. Research has shown that supplementing with vitamin D3 might be more effective at increasing blood glucose levels compared to vitamin D2. How much to take changes greatly so it’s best to reach out to a trusted healthcare practitioner for advice.
Vitamin C is an important vitamin and a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C supports barriers that keep germs like viruses and bacteria from getting into the body, helps kill germs which do get in, and supports immune cells so that they can do their job properly.
Good food sources of vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes
- Tropical fruits such as kiwi, mango, and papaya
- Bell peppers
- Leafy greens
Note that while vitamin C may and should be obtained from food in the diet, dietary sources generally are not enough to fully reap the benefits for immune health. Though the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is only 75 milligrams a day for adult women and 90 mg a day for adult men, how much is needed for a therapeutic effect may be a lot greater than that.
Zinc is an essential mineral that we get from our meals, and it helps our bodies produce immune cells. Research shows that zinc plays an important part in lessening the risk, severity, and length of infectious illness, and it also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Even mild zinc deficiency may cause immune dysfunction.
Good food sources of zinc include:
- Whole grains such as oats and bran products
Zinc is also available in supplement form, including pills and lozenges. Remember, however, that zinc lozenges aren’t a miracle cure for viral infections, despite recent information in the media that may make it look like that. Short-term utilization of oral zinc was shown to shorten the length of viral colds in adults when roughly 75 milligrams is taken over the first 24 hours of symptoms. However, it is possible to overdose on zinc, and the National Institutes of Health indicates that carrying more than 150 mg of zinc every day can weaken the immune system.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are critical for both gut and immune health. It’s worth pointing out that about 80% of the immune cells are situated in the gut! Some research has shown that probiotics may help treat and protect against seasonal allergies. And other studies suggest that probiotics may have some benefits for immune-related diseases and viral infections.
The effects of every probiotic item are determined by what bacterial strains it’s, therefore not all will work for the immune system. Scientists have discovered that the probiotic mixture of lactobacillus and bifid bacterium has been especially valuable in treating hay fever symptoms and providing general support to the immune system.
There are several ways to take probiotics through nutritional supplements or perhaps foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut. Which form and dose you need to choose will depend on your unique needs. Be sure to go over this with your supplier.
This powerful plant has historically been used for a variety of medicinal uses and health benefits, specifically for its antiviral properties and role in helping to activate the immune system. One research of 60 adults with flu symptoms who took 15 mL of elderberry syrup 4 times a day experienced improved symptoms 4 days sooner than those who didn’t take elderberry.
Elderberry is most commonly taken in syrup form but can also be found in lozenges and tinctures. Consult with a healthcare provider for dosing specific to you.
This spice has become popular in recent years – and for good reason. It’s most positive health effects come from the chemical curcumin, which is found in turmeric. Turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory effects, but it’s been recently shown to encourage the immune system by activating many kinds of immune cells. A chemical called piperine in black pepper was proven to help boost the absorption and availability of turmeric in the body by up to 2000%. Eating a source of healthy fat might also aid its absorption.
A variety of foods and nutritional supplements can play significant roles in supporting immunity. Keep in mind that not all of the foods and supplements above should be obtained. However, you could pick and choose according to what you enjoy, what’s sensible for you, and also what your health care provider recommends. While pandemics and seasons will come and go, even though all times of this year.