SUPPORTING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM WITH NUTRITION
Colds, flu and infections are nobody’s friend, they destroy productivity, get in the way of everyday activities and just leave you feeling lousy. Our immune systems fare our body’s defence against these unwanted visitors. Let’s look at how we can go about strengthening our immune systems.
WHAT IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
You can think of your immune system as that army of cells in your body that try to protect us from all the germs out there and when we do get sick, the immune system will fight off the infection. But too often our immune system is weakened by our lifestyles and we end up with the sniffs and sneezes.
So, how do we strengthen the immune system? Well for one, by eating the right foods! Your immune system is dependent on a healthy diet including, but not limited to, good fats and sufficient intake of vitamin and minerals such as vitamin A, B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, selenium and zinc.
HOW TO TRAIN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is crucial for immune defence. It has been scientifically proven to help protect against diseases such as measles and other viral infections. Vitamin A helps to keep your front line of defence (your stomach lining, lungs and cell membranes) healthy to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering the body. In addition, Vitamin A is a good antioxidant that helps to neutralise the free radicals produced by foreign agents such as those produced from smoking, pollution, etc.
The B-Vitamins often work together in a team known as the B complex. B complex play several different roles in the immune system such as: Vitamin B2 enhances resistance to bacterial infections, Vitamin B6 and B12 helps to make and mature different types of T and B cells important in the immune response and Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid, also plays a critical role in developing and maintaining the immune system.
Vitamin C is our super hero nutrient. How often have you been told to drink orange juie when you have a cold? This is not an old wives’ tale. Citrus fruits contain great amounts of Vitamin C. Vitamin C plays important roles in immunity have such as helping to mature immune cells, improve the performance of immune cells and even killing viruses and bacteria. In addition, Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can detoxify toxins produced by bacteria.
Getting some sunshine can increase your Vitamin D? Researchers have found that vitamin D, which is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight, signals an antimicrobial response to the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis. Thus, vitamin D may have a similar ability to fight off other diseases and giving your skin a few minutes in the sun daily would be a wise move.
Vitamin E is an all-rounder. It improves B-and T-cell function within the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant. Its immune boosting power increases when given with selenium.
Selenium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc are minerals that are all involved in neutralising those nasty free radicals and have all been shown to positively affect immune power. Of these, selenium and zinc, are the most important. Zinc is needed in the rapid production of immune cells and necessary for the proper function of these cells. Zinc is often used in creams for skin infections. Studies have shown that Iron deficiency can weaken the immune system so be sure to make sure you are getting enough.
Fats can also make your immune system stronger. More specifically those world-famous omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 and 6 help the immune system to “balance” its anti-inflammatory, pro-inflammatory responses which are necessary in disease and injury protection.
Before you run out and buy an expensive multivitamin, consider that the above-mentioned nutrients are better absorbed by the body as part of a food. The best way to get all these lovely immune boosters is through a healthy, complete and balanced diet. Eating a variety of foods including 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables can help you get all these nutrients.
To avoid infections, make sure your immune army is well equipped. Stock up on nutrient-rich foods so that when your surroundings bring invaders, your body can win the battle.