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Diet’s Influence On The Immune System

What we eat, when, and how, are all factors that have an impact on our health.

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What we eat, when and how are all factors that have an impact on our health. As in all other aspects of health, studies show that a person’s diet influences their immune system. Therefore, in order to understand this unique relationship between nutrition and immunity, its best to consider regular dietary patterns, lifestyle habits and the incidence of disease. A well-functioning immune system is critical for survival.


The immune system must be constantly alert, monitoring for signs of invasion or danger. As we age, a decline in immune function is observed among older adults. This is because ageing is also associated with increased inflammation and has been found to predict longer hospitalization and morbidity rates.


2012 study that included 562 non-diabetic adults aged 85 years and older found that the participants who had higher blood sugar levels had lower innate immune responses. They also had higher levels of CRP, which is a marker of inflammation. This is interesting simply because it indicates that having a blood sugar reading that is high yet not in the Diabetic range is sufficient to trigger inflammation. Therefore, uncontrolled diabetes complicates matters and will be detrimental to your immunity.


About Functional Foods or Super Foods

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Foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Proponents of functional foods say they promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease.


A familiar example of a functional food is oatmeal because it contains soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels. Some foods are modified to have health benefits. An example is orange juice that's been fortified with calcium for bone health.


The Food and Drug Administration regulates the claims that manufacturers can make about functional foods' nutrient content and effects on disease, health or body function.


Claims to boost your immunity by eating certain types of foods have become overwhelming but is that really the case? We would all like to think so. But there is no single entity superhero foods or nutrients. It’s our metabolism that actually determines whether a nutrient is a superhero or not! These foods are also known as functional foods.


If you want to try functional foods, choose wisely. And keep in mind that while functional foods may help promote wellness, they can't make up for poor eating habits.


Changing Our Diet For Better Immunity

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A nutrient-balanced diet is important for supporting your immune system. You need sufficient energy and nutrients for the immune system to function properly, and poor nutrition can compromise it. Consequently, what changes should we make to our diets to get better immunized?! The simple rule is to focus on Variety-plan your food intake to encompass as many colors of the veg and fruit group as possible.


The color of a plant is determined by the phytochemicals it contains. The wider the variety of different colored plants you eat, the more types of phytochemicals you’ll consume. These can be converted by your gut microbes into beneficial metabolites that fight inflammation.


Red, orange, yellow and green plants contain carotenoids, which have been associated with improving immunity. Wider the variety of plant fiber you eat, the healthier and “more diverse” the bacteria in your gut will be.



Your Gut Bacteria and Immunity

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A healthy microbiome is essential to immune function because gut bacteria play a critical role in the development and function of the immune system. Studies indicate that diets high in saturated fat may promote inflammation, modify gut bacteria, and inhibit the functioning of white blood cells. These foods increase levels of inflammatory proteins which also interfere with the function of protective immune cells, including neutrophils and phagocytes. Also, diets predominant in refined sugars and refined carbs may adversely alter gut bacteria, leading to dysbiosis, which involves digestive disturbances, such as bloating. So keep your gut bacteria happy to stay infection-free. 


Diets that tend to contain high levels of saturated fat, ultra-processed foods, added sugar and salt, and overall calories are often low in foods associated with better health, such as vegetables, fruits, and fatty fish, and have strong links to an increased risk of chronic disease. Research suggests that this type of eating induces inflammation and alters the immune system function, promoting disease development. Additionally, unwholesome diets result in a deficiency or insufficiency of nutrients essential to immune function, including polyphenols, phytoestrogens, flavanols, amino acid arginine, Vitamin A, C, E, D, and zinc.


Nutritional intake influences the microbiome and gut barrier function. Every micronutrient has a say in your immunity status. No single nutrient can surpass the other. Some micronutrients and dietary components have very specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system throughout the life course. Therefore, its best to focus on a varied balanced form of eating rather than selective eating practices.