Diet For Immune System
Like any fighting force, the immune system army marches on its stomach. Healthy immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment. Scientists have long recognized that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Whether the increased rate of disease is caused by malnutrition’s effect on the immune system, however, is not certain. There are still relatively few studies of the effects of nutrition on the immune system of humans, and even fewer studies that tie the effects of nutrition directly to the development (versus the treatment) of diseases.
There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals, as measured in the test tube. However, the impact of these immune system changes on the health of animals is less clear, and the effect of similar deficiencies on the human immune response has yet to be assessed.
· Zinc is a mineral that’s essential for good health. It’s required for the functions of over 300 enzymes and involved in many important processes in our body. It metabolizes nutrients, maintains your immune system and grows and repairs body tissues. Your body doesn’t store zinc, so you need to eat enough every day to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements.
· It’s recommended that men eat 11 mg of zinc per day, while women need 8 mg. However, if you’re pregnant, you’ll need 11 mg per day, and if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need 12 mg.
· Some people are at risk of a zinc deficiency, including young children, teenagers, the elderly and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
· However, eating a healthy balanced diet that includes zinc-rich foods should satisfy everyone’s needs.
Zinc Rich Foods — Legumes, Seeds, Nuts, Dairy, Whole Grains, Potatoes, Green Beans , Kale, Dark chocolate.
So what can you do? If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs — maybe, for instance, you don’t like vegetables — taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may bring other health benefits, beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system. Taking megadoses of a single vitamin does not. More is not necessarily better.
Improve immunity with herbs and supplements?
Walk into a store, and you will find bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to “support immunity” or otherwise boost the health of your immune system. Although some preparations have been found to alter some components of immune function, thus far there is no evidence that they actually bolster immunity to the point where you are better protected against infection and disease. Demonstrating whether an herb — or any substance, for that matter — can enhance immunity is, as yet, a highly complicated matter. Scientists don’t know, for example, whether an herb that seems to raise the levels of antibodies in the blood is actually doing anything beneficial for overall immunity.
What “Immune Boosting” Really Means + 18 Ways To Stay Healthy
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a growing public health concern. In the midst of uncertainty, many people are looking for quick fixes, sometimes dubbed “immunity boosters.” But what does it actually mean to “boost” your immune system, and is it possible?
Our immune system is made up of so many moving parts. Boosting’ really just means balancing it. And like all things balanced, there’s no single, fast-acting solution.
To start, you have to work on the lifestyle factors first. The main lifestyle factors we need to concentrate on, are sleep, stress management, nutrition, and maintaining a super-healthy microbiome. And to ensure these lifestyle shifts are sustainable, the practices should fulfill you rather than feel like a chore.
Beyond washing your hands and getting more sleep, which are incredibly important practices, here are 18 unexpected but effective activities that can help strengthen your immunity, not just supercharge it.
To enhance your nutrition:
1. Stay hydrated.
Drinking water will help keep lungs moist and mucus flowing, clearing lungs of the gunk that can collect and create conditions for opportunistic infections to thrive.
2. Drink tea.
Certain teas, like green tea and black tea, have antioxidant polyphenols, which have been known to support the immune system by fighting free radicals.
3. Limit your sugar intake.
Eating a healthy diet, and limiting (or eliminating) inflammatory foods, like sugar, not only helps your body recover faster, it also helps build up your immune military so it’s more resilient and dynamic.
4. Opt for a mocktail.
Avoidance of drugs and alcohol is one of the most important ways to strengthen our immunity, as it affects both sleepand hydration. Limit your alcohol intake by swapping a cocktail for a mocktail.
5. Buy a new cookbook, and get creative with your recipes.
Pull out a cookbook, or find a recipe online and commit to cooking at least one new dish each week. Not only will this break the monotony of healthy meal prep, but you’ll introduce your body to new foods, which can increase the diversity of your gut microbiome.
To promote quality sleep:
6. Read more books.
Reading a book before bed rather than looking at your phone, laptop, or an e-book will limit your exposure to blue light, which has been known to suppress melatonin and interfere with sleep.
7. Listen to music.
Studies have proved music across all genres can induce physical and mental states conducive to sleep.
8. Make sure you sleep soundly.
If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep, consider taking a supplement before crawling into bed. Magnesium glycinate (or magnesium bisglycinate), for example, acts as a natural calcium channel blocker, which promotes muscle relaxation.*
9. Take a warm bath.
According to research, warms baths can help maintain your body’s natural temperature, which supports your circadian rhythm.
10. Try aromatherapy.
To help manage stress:
11. Focus on your breathing.
Deep breathing helps to activate the vagus nerve, which turns on the parasympathetic nervous system and helps manage anxiousness or stress.
12. Practice meditation.
People who practice meditation are able to recover from physiological stress responsesmuch more quickly than those who don’t meditate.
13. Consider stress supplements.
Taking a hemp multi+ supplement can help manage anxious thoughts and daily stress, and the addition of vitamin D helps support healthy immune function.*
14. Go on a walk in the sunshine.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to people with anxiety and depression, so soaking up natural sunlight whenever possible can help to improve mood and overall health. Walking is an added cardiovascular bonus.
15. Call a friend or family member.
Having a social support system has been proven to help people manage feelings of anxiousness, so if you’re staying inside to avoid potential exposure, calling friends and family is one way to maintain that quality social interaction.
To support your microbiome:
16. Stream a new workout class.
If you’re trying to avoid contact with infectious germs, going to a workout class might be out of the question for you. However, exercise can increase short-chain fatty acids, are “key to gut health,” even if it is in the comfort of your home.
17. Get all your pre- and probiotics.
Prebiotics help nourish your gut’s healthy bacteria, and probiotics help feed those good bacteria and support gut health. Getting enough of both is helpful for immunity since, a healthy gut makes the rest of you less vulnerable to bacterial and viral invaders.
18. Spice up your meals.
Certain spices, like clove, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and cumin not only make your meals more interesting, but they also have antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can help support immunity.
What’s the bottom line?
You can do and take things for each of these areas, but there is no magic bullet for immunity. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by implementing some of these practices can help strengthen your immunity and prepare your body for exposure to unwanted pathogens.
What Healing Your Gut Can Do For Your Immune System
We must examine the whole person and try to find the root causes of chronic ailments. Often, this course of investigation leads me to the gut. In fact, the gut is being increasingly connected with issues as diverse as Alzheimer’s,multiple sclerosis, and arthritis.
If this surprises you, you’re not alone. But it turns out that around 70 percent of the immune system lives in the gut and gut bacteria help your immune system’s T cells develop — teaching them the difference between a foreign substance and the body’s own tissues. This is an extremely important process that determines how and what your immune system responds to, and the success of this critical process is determined, in part, by the health of your gut. When there’s a mistake in the process, for instance, if there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria, it can lead your body’s immune system to start attacking your own cells, the hallmark of autoimmune disorders.
Leaky gut: The connection between your immune system and your gut.
The gut is also important for another reason: It regulates which particles pass through the intestinal lining into the rest of your body. Healthy digestive tracts are designed with small gates that allow digested foods to pass while keeping out larger food particles and other antigens (foreign particles that cause immune reactions). However, many of the patients that I see with arthritis or autoimmune conditions don’t have a healthy gut. Instead, they have a condition we call leaky gut. In leaky gut, the gates in the intestinal lining become damaged, allowing large food particles and unwanted substances to enter the rest of the body. Once inside, they are treated as foreign invaders and cause immune reactions that trigger inflammation and pain.
When leaky gut develops, you can become unwittingly sensitized to foods. For example, you’ll eat a piece of cheese or soy, and particles will slip through the intestinal barrier and set off an immune reaction. Continuing to eat these foods can lead to chronic inflammation and pain because the immune system will continue to see these particles as invaders. Suddenly, you are in constant pain and can’t figure out why.
With its roles in training your immune system and acting as a gatekeeper to the rest of your body, the gut is arguably the center of your health. For those with arthritis and other autoimmune conditions whose symptoms are exacerbated or created by poor gut health, healing the gut can reverse their conditions. For everyone else, healing the gut makes developing an autoimmune condition, food sensitivity, and inflammation less likely.
Finding the food culprits behind your symptoms.
To illustrate a basic treatment, let’s continue with the example of arthritis, which is at the front of my mind as the release of my book Healing Arthritisapproaches. When people with arthritis eat foods they have a sensitivity to, the subsequent pain and inflammation is likely to be found in the joints. The first step of cutting off this source of pain is to identify the food culprits.
An elimination diet is the best way to do this. For first-timers, we suggest an elimination dietthat removes these foods: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, sugar, processed foods, and especially for arthritis sufferers, the nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers). The second step is to heal the gut, with steps including balancing the microbiome; identifying if your bile acids, pancreatic enzymes, and stomach acid are working correctly; and using supplements like l-glutamine powder to repair the gut lining. These two steps are critical to every treatment case .
How to improve your immunity by healing your gut.
More steps that you can start today to improve your gut health and reduce and reverse illness include:
1. Take a probiotic.
Probiotics can assist in rebalancing your microbiome.
2. Eat fermented and cultured foods.
Foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and fresh pickles. Not only do these foods contain probiotics, but they are also full of digestive enzymes, which can compensate for your stomach, liver, or gallbladder.
3. Eat sprouted vegetables.
Sprouted veggies contain dramatically increased amounts of enzymes compared to their unsprouted counterparts.
4. Eat radishes, artichokes, dandelion, and chicory.
These foods and other bitter greens stimulate the liver to create bile.
5. Try a demulcent.
Demulcents soothe irritated or inflamed tissues and include foods like almonds, barley, coconut oil, figs, parsley, prunes, and sage.
6. Avoid alcohol and coffee.
These substances can adversely affect your microbiome — the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
7. Try ghee.
Ghee (clarified butter) has been used in India for thousands of years to treat digestive problems. It can reduce inflammation and is high in gut-healing butyrate.
8. Eat more fiber.
Fiber helps regulate your digestive tract and also acts as food for your good bacteria.
Armed with the right information about the triggers of chronic ailments, there will be nothing to stop you from feeling better.
3 Ways To Improve Immunity, From An Infectious Disease Specialist
In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, it might be easier to overlook the severity of the flu, but in reality, the two aren’t that different. In fact, there have been about 16,000 flu-related deaths in this season alone.
That number is not meant to induce fear but rather to remind us just how important it is to keep our immune systems healthy.
1. Reduce stress.
Stress can affect everything from brain health to body weight, and of course, immunity. When patients are otherwise doing everything right but continue to get sick, It’s almost always because of stress.
This is because when cortisol levels aren’t kept within their normal range, whether in early childhood or throughout aging, it can physically disrupt the body’s healing properties.
From slowing wound healing to diminishing the protective effects of vaccines to increasing your susceptibility to infection, “stress is the ultimate immune-modulator.”
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
While this partially overlaps with stress reduction, it also includes “getting enough sleep and eating well.”
Sleep is when your immune system repairs itself, the mitochondria clean themselves up, and the liver does most of its detoxification. Which is also why our bodies feel so run down when we’re sick. Getting a full seven to eight hours each night can help keep our bodies alert to any dangerous pathogens.
Studies have proved that eating nutrient-rich diets, high in fruits, vegetables, and other anti-inflammatory foods, has a direct impact on our body’s immune response and can help protect against diseases.
3. Practice balance when it comes to sanitizing
During flu season, it’s not impractical to wipe down heavily trafficked surfaces, like doorknobs and airplane trays, but overdoing the cleaning can be just as bad as underdoing it. You have to strike that balance.
It might seem scary, but some exposure to germs is good for our immune systems. If you live in a sterile environment, you will be more susceptible to infections when exposed.”
So yes, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when necessary, but unless you’ve touched something visibly dirty, you’re about to eat a meal, or you’ve gone to the bathroom, you probably don’t need to rush to the sink. If you wash your hands 50 times a day, your skin will get dry and cracked,which is a perfect portal of entry for infection.
When it comes to flu season, though, there’s only so much control we can have. Practicing regular infection control methods and taking care of your overall well-being (from the brain to the body) are currently the best, natural methods for boosting immunity.
12 All-Natural Ways To Boost Your Immune System
How can we strengthen our immune system naturally? In reality, it’s about training our immune system to do its job correctly. That is, we want to be able to fend off the things that can hurt us — such as viruses, pathogenic bacteria, and parasites — while remaining nonreactive to benign things like pollen and foods. In addition, we want to prevent our immune system from attacking our own body, as is the case in autoimmune disease.
The bottom line is that a healthy body is dependent on a strong immune system. There are many ways to perform immune-system upkeep and not just by avoiding some destructive habits, stressors, and toxins but by embracing natural immune supporters and adopting behaviors that encourage immunity.
The most important thing one can do to cultivate strong immunity is to start where the immune system really resides: the gut. Whether you have chronic allergies, frequent infections, or autoimmune problems, you likely have some damage to the health of your microbiome and digestive tract. This is where about 80% of your immune cellshang out, and it’s where our bodies decide what is friend and what is foe. By strengthening our gut health, we are much less likely to get sick, have allergies, and develop autoimmune disease. These are some of the key ways we recommend all to support their immune function:
1. Take a probiotic that has a broad array of species.
Lactobacillusand Bifidobacterium are two of the most important families of bacteria that populate our gut from birth, and they have been shown to positively affect our immune health.* Look for one that has 30 billion colonies (total). Double this dose if you’re coming down with a cold or have to take antibiotics. Remember, these are live organisms, and it pays to spend a little more on a good-quality brand. In addition, adding fermented foods — like sauerkraut, naturally fermented pickles, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, tempeh, miso, natto, and kombucha — to your everyday routine is crucial.
2. Avoid drugs and over-the-counter medications if you can.
It takes three to six months for our microbiome to recover from one week of antibiotic treatment, so talk to your doctor about alternative routes if antibiotics are suggested. Many times they’re needed, but sometimes you can take a wait-and-see approach, or try another option first. For example, most upper-respiratory infections are viral and won’t get better any faster with antibiotics. In addition, if you eat meat, try to make sure that it’s organic so you won’t be ingesting antibiotic residues from chemically treated animals. It’s also important to try to avoid drugs that lower stomach acid, such as proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Nexium. You need healthy stomach acid to kill the parasites, viruses, and bacteria that we accidentally ingest on a daily basis. Limit your use of painkillers like ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) that damage the gut and weaken our immune health.
3. Take this triad on a daily basis.
Although there are several vitamins and minerals that support our immune system, these three really pack a punch. Take them daily if you suffer from chronic infections, get sick frequently, or are feeling run down. Note though that not all supplements work the same with all conditions; for example, there is some evidence that vitamin D might be harmful when treating the novel coronavirus, so check in with your health care provider if you have symptoms.
Zinc: 15 to 30 mg a day. Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system and even acts as an antioxidantby fighting off free radicals. It’s also a very common deficiency worldwide.
Vitamin D: 2,000 IU daily. Although you can get vitamin D through some fortified foods and sunlight, our modern lifestyle doesn’t always allow for a lot of time outdoors, and many adults don’t get the levels of vitamin D required to modulate the immune system. This is a very important vitamin for the treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases, in particular.
Vitamin C powder: 1,500 mg daily. Vitamin C is really a powerhouse vitamin for immunity. A deficiency in vitamin C has been associatedwith an increased frequency and duration of colds, along with immune system defects. It’s also a crucial free-radical scavenger that significantly protectsagainst infectious disease.
4. Try colostrum.
One of the benefits of being breastfed as a baby is the protective antibodies we get from our mother. These antibodies get us through the first years of life while our own immune system is learning the ropes. This is why breastfed individuals are generally healthier and have fewer allergiesas they get older. Colostrum is the “first milk” from nursing mammals, and it’s a rich source of these protective antibodies, as well as anti-inflammatory substances like lactoferrin. Luckily, we can harness the power of colostrum even as adults to help fight inflammation and strengthen our immune system. In powder form from grass-fed cows, goats, and other mammals, it can be mixed into smoothies and juices.
5. Incorporate bone broth.
Our grandmothers knew what they were talking about, seeing as how the bone broth industry has exploded. The benefits of drinking and cooking with organic bone broth have far-reaching effects on the immune system. The natural gelatin, collagen, and amino acids tend to the gut, improve wound healing, and help support the health of individual immune cells such as lymphocytes. So, there is definitely good reason to drink homemade chicken soup when dealing with a cold or the flu.
6. Investigate fungi.
Some of the most powerfulimmune-supporting, antiviral, and anti-cancer substances are found in mushrooms. Like vitamin D though, there is some evidence that mushrooms might be harmful when treating the novel coronavirus, so check in with your doctor before trying them.
Reishi:Although not edible, these mushrooms have powerfulantiviral and anti-cancer properties. They are best taken as a dried capsule supplement or in a tea or tincture.
Shiitake:The delicious mushroom easily found in grocery stores contains substances called beta-glucans, which stimulate the immune systemand strengthen our white blood cells.
Maitake:These are also called “Hen of the woods” and are not only delicious but increaseour immune cells’ ability to engulf bacteria.
Mushroom supplements should be organically sourced and can be taken in tincture form as well as dried capsules.
7. Harness the power of the sun.
Immune cells are favorably affected by vitamin D levels, and natural sunlight is the best source of natural vitamin D. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is associatedwith increased frequency of infection as well as autoimmune disease.
8. Sweat it out in a sauna.
Several studies show that using an infrared sauna on a regular basis not only improves the health of our protective white blood cells, but the increase in body temperature can actually make it harderfor bacteria and viruses to survive. They may also have the power to decreaseincidence of the common cold. In addition, when you sweat in a sauna, you’re sweating, and this is your body’s natural way of removing many toxins that would cause increased inflammation.
9. Use natural antimicrobials to ward off infection.
One of the best ways to build your immune strength daily is through a few key superfoods. These foods can be incorporated on a daily basis so that you are constantly improving and supporting your immunity while eating yummy foods.
Raw garlic:This superfood has very strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties. The potent sulfur compound allicin in garlic is known to treat serious GI infections such as SIBO (small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and killparasites and yeast infections. At the first sign of an infection, start taking one raw garlic clove daily, or use concentrated allicin extract.
Oregano oil:This oil has a long history of being used and an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal. It can also be usedtopically to treat antibiotic-resistant staph infections of the skin (MRSA) as well as taken internally to combat yeast infections.
Manuka honey: Quite a bit of researchexists on the benefits of honey as a natural immune supporter, natural anti-inflammatory agent, and antimicrobial agent. Manuka honey, in particular — native to New Zealand and Australia — is even registered as a wound-care product in those countries. Manuka honey has substancesthat can kill bacteria topically, and when ingested, it can even work synergistically with antibiotics to improve their efficacy.
10. Get your exercise on.
Beyond the obvious cardiovascular, mood, and weight management benefits of regular exercise, moderate physical activity can improve our antibody response to infections. It’s important not to overtrain; however, as chronic strenuous exercise without recovery days has been associated withan increased susceptibility to infections, as well as frequency of injury. Try cortisol-conscious workouts, which are effective without over-stressing your body.
11. Take to your bed.
Chronic sleep deprivation and disruption of the sleep-wake cycle cause an activation of the inflammatory immune response. Lack of sleep decreases the activity of T-cells (a crucial type of immune cell) and weakensour immune response to vaccines. Studies of identical twins showthat the sleep-deprived ones had increased inflammation markers and worse immune markers. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis and avoid all-nighters. If you travel through time zones frequently, use small amounts of melatonin (2 to 3 mg) to reset your circadian rhythm.
12. Manage your stress.
Chronic stress actually suppressesour immune response by releasing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol itself interferes with the ability of specific white blood cells called T-cells to proliferate and get signals from the body. In addition, cortisol also lowers an important antibody called secretory IgA, which lines the respiratory tract and gut and is our first line of defense against invading pathogens. In fact, studies showthat even a short course of meditation can increase levels of IgA and improve immune function.
For both men and women, taking stock of the health of your immune system on a regular basis is not only going to keep you from getting sick, but it will help you age more gracefully, look better, and prevent the development of diseases down the line.
The primary goal of traditional Chinese medicineis to create inner harmony by helping the body’s qi, or energy force, flow unimpeded. This qi consists of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water. When balanced, these elements promote health. A qi imbalance in the body can lead to lethargy, muscle pain, high stress levels, and a tendency to catch the flu easily.
A holistic traditional Chinese medicine healing plan typically involves herbal therapy, acupuncture, dietary changes, and lifestyle shifts. These eight herbs and ingredients are the ones TCM practitioners rely on to bring balance to the body, boost the immune system, and promote overall health:
This antiviral and antibacterial herb contains polysaccharides that increase the body’s production of white blood cells, which fight infection. Echinacea is available in an extract or tablet form, making it easier to get your daily supply of this immunity-boosting flower.
Adaptogenic astragalus is thought to combat stress, and it contains anemia, which can improve blood counts. Add this herb to soups to fight fatigue and boost your immune system during cold and flu season.
3. Yin Chiao (Honeysuckle Forsythia)
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners often prescribe this nine-herb formula, which contains soothing licorice, nasal-clearing peppermint, perspiration-stimulating Jing Jie, and Lu Gen, which soothes the lungs and stomach.
Garlic is a powerful antioxidantwith antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibiotic properties. It’s also a natural decongestant! The sky really is the limit with this flavorful ingredient, and you can work it into pretty much any meal.
Elderberries are packed with quercetin, an antioxidant with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory effects. A teaspoon of elderberry syrup can combat flu symptoms and help people with sinus pains or chronic fatigue find relief.
Andrographis is a plant commonly used in Asian countries to prevent influenza and soothe digestive issues, liver conditions, fever, and sore throats. This herb’s detoxifying properties cleanse the blood and strengthen the immune system to fight infection.
This pungent root is a powerful antihistamine and decongestantthat delivers a one-two punch against cold symptoms. Add it to stir-fried dishes or boil it to make a cup of ginger tea with some added lemon and honey for a pleasant and healing hot drink.
8. Medicinal mushrooms
Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine practitioners have used medicinal mushroom for centuries, and blends containing shiitake, reishi, and maitake mushrooms are great for strengthening the immune system.