Why Nutrition is Important
- 1 Why Nutrition is Important
- 1.1 What is the Immune System?
- 1.2 Immune system structure
- 1.3 Immune System Facts
- 1.4 There are foods that harm the immune system
- 1.5 How to strengthen our immunity and to maintain a healthy immune system?
- 1.6 Foods that can boost a weak immune system
- 1.7 Natural treatments for a compromised immune system
- 1.8 Foods that enhance immunity
A good nutrition is an absolute requirement for a better and stronger immune system. You don’t have to trust this statement implicitly but we will present in this article all the arguments you will need to understand and approve it yourself.
Strengthening the immune system must be a priority when we want to have good health. For strengthening the immune system, three factors are important – exercise, mood and diet. It is easy, therefore, to have a strong immune system strengthened if we eat healthily, we are optimistic and we exercise.
You have to pay attention to what kind of exercises you do as grueling workouts can actually weaken the immune system. To strengthen it the more relaxed exercises are recommended rather than stressful and very heavy kind. This is because of corticosteroids, substances produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress (and also administered as cortisone drug), suppress the immune system.
Many tests have shown that psychological states of stress, depression or sadness affect the immune system. So as a tonic is recommended relaxation, eliminating stress and optimism. It has been found, for example, that meditation increases the number of T-cells and suppressor T-cells/T helper cells ratio improves. A diet based on whole grains, organic fruits, and vegetables, fresh fish, olive oil, and probiotics is vital to have a strong immune system.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system has a very important role in the body, to fight “invaders” (such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses) and destroy cancer cells when they occur. Our ability to interact with the environment and to maintain our health is strictly dependent on the proper functioning of the immune system.
It has been proven that consuming low-quality food carry an increased risk of infection, delayed healing and susceptibility to symptoms and complications of immune system dysfunction.
The immune system often decreases as we age, and recent research suggests that this decrease is also linked to nutrition and may be slowed or interrupted by maintaining a healthy diet. Medical science has established that one of the best things you can do to strengthen the immune system is to ensure a good quality nutrition. Healthy food can help keep the immune system healthy, alert, and ready to work flawlessly when needed.
The immune system is like a well-planned military force whose purpose is to defend the body from the attacks of an unhealthy environment. As an army has several detachments, as well the immune system contains several different tools that work together harmoniously to achieve a singular purpose: to protect the body from any foreign intrusion that can cause damage.
The main elements of the immune system are the immune cells and the molecules acting as messengers, they call the immune cells when help is needed.
Immune system cells are quite varied and include the T cells, which battle directly with invading molecules and lymphocytes, B cells that form molecules or antibodies that can attack the invading toxins. The antibodies produced by B cells can bind to a molecule or potentially harmful virus or bacteria surface to remove them from the body.
The immune system also includes phagocytic cells – macrophages and neutrophils such as those that remove the debris created by destroying cells and tissues from the infection site. Immune system cells circulate in the blood or lymph nodes, located throughout the body; therefore, immune cells are found everywhere and can travel quickly when required.
The immune system is positioned so that it can minimize the entry of foreign invaders in the body, that can cause infections and diseases, and can respond quickly and attack any invaders who manage to enter our body.
Immune system structure
Skin and mucous membranes together represent the first line of defense of the immune system. The nasal way prevents the penetration of foreign agents inside the lungs. The mucous membranes of the digestive and respiratory tract are the first line of defense against invading agents.
Lymph nodes can be seen as some fortresses or castles where immune cells but also the invading cells are stored to be destroyed. The axial lymph nodes located in the neck and groin become inflamed during an infection, a sign that they do their job. Because the lymphatic system has no pump system, lymph is moving through muscle contraction and exercise is very important for lymphatic drainage. The thymus gland is found in the upper torso, it trains T cells and helps differentiate between beneficial and the harmful agents.
There are three types of T lymphocytes: T-helper, T-suppressor and natural killer (NK). The spleen filters the blood and destroys bacteria.
The liver produces lymph and Kupffer cells that destroy bacteria, fungi, and toxins. The marrow produces stem cells that originate all the cells of the immune system. Strengthening the immune system means supporting and maintaining the health of all components mentioned.
Immune System Facts
An average person ingests more than 25 tons of food throughout his life so imagine how much work has our immune system located in the gastrointestinal tract.
The gastrointestinal tract is like an internal skin, only has an area of approximately 150 times greater than that of the outer skin. It also contains the largest number of immune cells throughout the body, which constitutes about 60% of the entire immune system.
Food intake can help this barrier in the gastrointestinal system or it can damage it. Alcohol, for example, irritates the stomach.
Some anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen can damage the intestinal mucosa.
Antibodies are part of the family of molecules called immunoglobulins. They play different roles in the body:
- IgG designed to “clothe” the microbes, speeding their destruction by other immune cells.
- IgM is effective at killing bacteria.
- IgA is found in body fluids, tears, saliva, etc.
- IgE is designed to protect us from infection with parasites and are “responsible” for allergies.
- IgD remains attached to B cells and is designed to initiate a rapid response
There are foods that harm the immune system
Immune system’s role is not only to fight against the invaders but also that of reacting when we eat foods that are allergic or we have an intolerance. Some allergic reactions to foods can be quick as anaphylactic shock very often is for peanuts or shellfish, but other allergic reactions may be delayed and can cause a range of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, rash and so on.
Foods that cause allergies most commonly are nuts, mollusks, and crustaceans, cow’s milk, wheat and soy. How we respond to allergies, however, it is different, depending on each individual and or immune system. Prepared foods and those produced on an industrial scale with pesticides or that are not organically grown can also be a problem for the immune system. Toxic metals such as cadmium, lead, and mercury are immunosuppressive. Some pesticides and preservatives can adversely affect the gastrointestinal mucosa.
Food additives may also have undesirable side-effects and can damage healthy nutrients. For example, sulfites destroy thiamine – vitamin B1 in foods to which they were added.
Research and clinical observations suggest that obesity is associated with dysfunction of the immune system. For example, the increasing incidence of mortality due to infectious diseases and infections are often traced in obese individuals.
Some studies have also shown an association between high cholesterol and susceptibility to infections. Therefore, maintaining an optimal weight and low levels of cholesterol may also be beneficial for the immune system.
How to strengthen our immunity and to maintain a healthy immune system?
To strengthen our immune system must first have a good digestion. The acidic environment of the stomach and digestive enzymes can destroy some bacteria and viruses bad that we can ingest with food and therefore provides protection for our body.
[highlight color=”orange”]Eat proteins and healthy fats
To maintain balance immune function and inflammatory process. Clinical studies have shown that maintaining a healthy balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 is one way to help balance the immune system and the inflammatory process. Research indicates the optimum ratio of 1: 4 between Omega-3 and Omega-6.
- Provide sufficient micronutrients and phytonutrients.
- Eat foods rich in probiotics (yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut juice, kefir, olives) or take capsules with insulin and probiotics.
- Do not eat foods that contain toxins and allergens. It is recommended the consumption of whole grains, fresh fruits, and organically grown vegetables, wild fish, meat and eggs from animals grown in an environmentally friendly manner.
- All this helps to minimize the consumption of unhealthy toxins and molecules that can inhibit the immune system’s ability to protect our health.
- Let’s not be neither too fat nor too weak. Say no to high cholesterol.
Louis Pasteur, who discovered in the nineteenth century that infections are caused by microorganisms, and realized that to strengthening the body is much better tactic than fighting invading microorganisms. However, in the last few hundred years, medicine concentrated on medications designed to destroy invaders, namely antibiotic agents and antiviral chemotherapy.
By their nature, these drugs are poisonous to the body. AZT, the first drug that has been prescribed for HIV is damaging and less effective than vitamin C. Though for a short while antibiotics can fight bacterial infections, in the long run, they do more harm because they can encourage the development of other types of drugs resistant bacteria.
Chemotherapy weakens the immune system, and even in the happiest situations, the battle is won with a great price, “says Patrick Holford in the Optimum Nutrition Bible, the chapter about the immune system.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect the body from disease is to consume food and drinks that contain substances that activate the immune system. Some unsaturated fatty acids have the power to increase immunity when associated with a balanced diet and here we highlight Omega 3 and Omega 6 whose main function is the regulation of immune cells. For this, we need to introduce in our diet as many seeds and nuts as possible.
Carotenoids, which are found mostly in yellow, orange and red vegetables and fruits, quickly activate the immune system, improving the body’s defenses. In some conditions, supplementing the intake of carotenoids by eating these foods can be helpful.
Foods that can boost a weak immune system
Foods rich in probiotics like inulin (chicory, yogurts, kefir, pickles) promotes overall and immune system’s health. Essential fatty acids such as those that can be assimilated in cold-water fish, and monounsaturated fatty acids such as those in olive oil, help us to have healthy gastrointestinal cells. Last but not least, foods rich in fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables helps strengthen the weakened immune system.
Fiber helps in the formation of healthy bacteria in the intestines and eliminate toxins. A diet that strengthens the immune system must also contain complete proteins such as those from eggs, fish, shellfish and game meat. Many vegetables and whole grains are also good sources of amino acids immunostimulants.
Vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin cells, the gastrointestinal tract and lungs – epithelial cells – which constitutes a barrier against external environment and helps form the protective mucous.
You can find an extensive coverage online about the role of vitamin C in supporting the fragile immune system. This is due, in part, of promotion done by the scientist and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling.
Vitamin C helps decrease the time and severity of symptoms associated with respiratory viral infections, promotes phagocytic cell functions and supports T cell function. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps heal inflammation.
Many of the B vitamins are also very important in supporting a healthy immune system. For example, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) helps the production and release of antibodies from B cells while vitamin B5 deficiency leads to reduced levels of circulating antibodies. Deficiency of B9 (folic acid) leads to a decrease in T cells, B6 deficiency affects T cell function consistently and leads to a decrease in the number of lymphocytes in the blood.
Lack of vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin) might affect the normal antibody response. If the level of vitamin B12 is low, phagocytic cells no longer function optimally. Here’s how important it is to eat foods that contain B vitamins! Almost all whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in their natural state are an excellent source of B vitamins.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and an important component of all cell membranes and promotes the overall healthy functioning of cells. Vitamin K enhances the blood coagulability being useful for isolating areas of infection and helping the healing process.
All these vitamins have an important role in a healthy nutrition that promotes a better and stronger immune system so you should seek foods containing them.
Minerals also support the immune system and strengthen it when it is vulnerable.
Zinc is a potent immunostimulant and zinc deficiency can lead to cancellation of T cell function. Excess zinc also has undesirable effects on the immune system, it can inhibit phagocytic cells (macrophages and neutrophils). To have enough zinc in the body we must ensure that our weekly diet includes lamb, calf liver, crimini mushrooms or zucchini.
Iron, copper, selenium, and manganese minerals are also important in supporting the immune function. Make sure you eat tofu, fish, whole grains, spinach, asparagus, beans, peas, calf liver and use spices such as thyme or cinnamon. These are all good foods to strengthen our immune system.
Omega 3 fatty acids are important for the immune system. Diets that involve low levels of Omega 3 are associated with chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
To qualify for an optimal intake of omega 3 fatty acids in the body, it is important to reduce the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. This can be achieved by reducing the consumption of meat, dairy products, and refined foods while increasing consumption of foods rich in omega 3 such as wild fish like cold-water trout, salmon oil, flaxseed, nuts and leafy green vegetables.
Probiotics are a natural antibiotic. Probiotics are substances playing a protective role because they stop the growth of bacteria by producing lactic acid or hydrogen peroxide. Probiotics keep beneficial bacteria in check (such as Escherichia coli or Enterobacteria) and create difficult conditions for germs such as staphylococcus, which causes inflammation of the throat, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, which are responsible for producing food poisoning. Worldwide, more than one million people die annually due to food poisoning so it’s recommended to eat more yogurt and pickles, known to provide high levels of probiotics.
Natural treatments for a compromised immune system
Natural treatments for an immune system most often mention Echinacea. You can find Echinacea in many forms, usually found on a leaflet or recommended by a doctor specialist in herbal treatments. Also, natural treatments can be made with grapefruit seed extract and grape seed. Ginger tea also helps strengthen the weakened immune system.
Vitamin C intake could also help and if you are not a big fan of vegetables or fruits you should consider taking supplements containing vitamins and minerals (choose supplements that contain extracts of berries and shock)
Foods that enhance immunity
- Garlic is one of the best natural antibiotics can be used in any dish, helps to prevent colds, prevents gastrointestinal diseases. It contains a compound called allicin, a volatile sulfur oil that stops the growth and multiplication of bacteria, fungi and stimulates the flow of digestive enzymes.
- Hot peppers or paprika, stimulate the metabolism. They are also rich in beta-carotene that is converted to vitamin A in the blood and fights infections.
- Ginger contains an active component, gingerol, which is particularly effective in the fight against colon cancer. It is also good for fighting colds or flu.
- Turmeric: apart from the fact that we can use turmeric in cooking, as a spice, it has been used for centuries as part of Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine. It is powerful in the fight against colds and flu.
- Cinnamon: This is a basic spice in any Indian kitchen. Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants that inhibit the growth of bacteria and blood clots. It also helps stabilize blood sugar thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, also fights against bad cholesterol and controls bad breath.
The liver is the organ that requires special attention in order to have a good immunity because it provides the ability to defend ourselves against diseases and to eliminate toxins from the body.
Aspects to consider in order to have a good immune system:
- Avoid saturated fats
- Avoid constipation
- Eat plenty of plant proteins, not animals.
- Drink plenty of water
Many fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can strengthen the immune system and you can use them in nutritional juices that are extremely beneficial for our body. By ingesting these drinks regularly, you will have fewer health problems and a much stronger immune system.
Lemon is one of the fruits that you can find in the supermarket or market and can bring amazing benefits for your health. This fruit contains large amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C, which can enhance the immune system and also balance the levels of alkaline/acid in the body. As such, if you regularly drink lemonade, your body will become much less susceptible to disease.
The main ingredient in apple vinegar is the apple, which has a wide range of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to the body, including calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, sulfur, iron and fluoride.
Cranberry juice is not only a delicious drink. It is also a powerful source of vitamin C and flavonoids, which are very effective in protecting the immune system. Cranberry juice may also help to prevent heart diseases and improves the urinary tract health.
Beet juice not only improves the immune system. Among the essential nutrients present in the beet juice, you will find beta-carotene, vitamin C, carotenoids, sulfur, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. This drink can improve brain function, cleanse the blood and strengthens the gallbladder and liver. In general, beet juice is consumed mixed with apple juice or carrot, as it is highly concentrated.
Carrot juice is a sweet drink, much appreciated by both adults and children. Apart from that, it tastes extremely pleasant, carrot juice strengthens the immune system. It contains vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, iron, sodium, and phosphorus. All these are ideal for preventing disease, improving liver function, nervous system.
So we can have a better and stronger immune system just by adjusting our nutrition, adding vegetables and fruits, for the most part, will do the trick. Constant attention to the signals that our body is sending leads to a more precise nutrition because as we all know, food can be a medicine for our body.