It’s worth taking care of this issue not only in view of the current situation, but all the time. Unfortunately, we tend to focus more on it in the autumn-winter period or, as now, in the case of increased morbidity, but taking care of the immune system should be a habit that accompanies us all year round.
Remember, we can’t boost our immune system in a week. We work on its level every day.
People who take care of their immune system on a daily basis are less likely to get infections than people who support their immune system only after the symptoms of the disease have occurred.
A poor diet, stress, fatigue or viral infections can effectively reduce immunity.
Immunity is determined by a number of factors, including diet. Physical activity, adequate amount of rest and sleep and many other aspects are also important.
The immune system functions properly with a well-balanced and appropriately planned diet. Certain foods contain bioactive substances that stimulate the body’s immunity. Stimulation of immunity is based, i.a. on increasing the production of antibodies and leukocytes and stimulating macrophages, i.e. cells capable of destroying foreign bodies that enter the bloodstream (so-called phagocytosis).
In case of reduced immunity and/or period of increased morbidity, it is particularly worth to pay attention to food products that boost the immune system.
Vegetables and fruits are sources of numerous minerals and vitamins. Appropriate intake of these nutrients ensures proper functioning of the body. It’s particularly important to include vegetables and fruits that contain vitamin C and ß-carotene in the diet.
Vegetables and fruits which are particularly good sources of vitamin C include: acerola, wild rose, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, kale, red and green peppers, parsley, spinach, cauliflower and kohlrabi as well as black currants, strawberries, wild strawberries, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit and orange.
To provide your body with the right amount of ß-carotene, you shouldn’t forget about: carrot, parsley, kale, spinach, sorrel, chives, red pepper, Swiss chard as well as apricots, melons, peaches and plums.
Allium vegetables include: onion, garlic, leek and chives. Apart from sulphur compounds, they also contain vitamins C, A, E and B vitamins, minerals: sulphur, selenium, magnesium, iron and essential oils. Garlic and onions contain phytoncides, which have a bactericidal and fungicidal effect. One of these substances – allicin present in garlic – is responsible for its specific smell.
Pickling is a natural method of preserving food, as a result of which monosaccharides are broken down into lactic acid. Lactic acid provides ideal conditions for the development of beneficial gut bacteria. Furthermore, it prevents the growth of putrefactive bacteria. Such change in the gut microbiota has a positive effect on immune system. The bacteria mentioned above (so-called probiotic strains) produce vitamin C during fermentation. Therefore, pickles contain much more of this vitamin than raw products.
Fermented milk products include yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk and acidophilous milk. Like pickled products, fermented milk products contain lactic acid bacteria that inhibit the development of pathogens and stimulate the growth of a beneficial gut microbiota. Regular consumption of fermented milk products, such as yoghurt and kefir, can increase the intestinal immune defence.
Remember that a beneficial gut microbiota is essential for the healthy functioning not only of the gastrointestinal tract, but also of the whole body.
An important role in the development of the body’s immunity is also played by unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are mainly found in oily fish. These acids have a positive effect on immune system, increasing the immune response to pathogens. Appropriate intake of omega-3 fatty acids strengthens the immune system, protecting the body against infections and even autoimmune diseases.
In order to provide the body with sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, the diet should include: sardines, salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna as well as walnuts, linseed, linseed and rapeseed oil.
Research carried out in recent years has provided evidence of the important role of this vitamin in the regulation of immune system functions.
Foods containing certain amounts of vitamin D3 include fish oil and oily fish (herring, salmon, sardines).
Zinc protects the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. Moreover, it participates in the maturation and functioning of T lymphocytes. Zinc deficiency increases susceptibility to infections, causes growth impairment, harder wound healing and lack of appetite.
Products rich in zinc include mainly: oysters, beef and other red meat. Pulses, nuts, spinach, asparagus and whole-grain products are also a good source of this microelement, but the fiber they contain may hinder the absorption of zinc from the intestines.
Healthy intestines are not only about proper digestion and nutrition. The intestines are also responsible for IMMUNITY to a large extent, because about 80% of the immune system is located in our digestive tract.
That is why the proper composition of the gut microbiota determines the correct functioning of the immune system, providing us with good immunity.
What supports our intestines? Surely no one will be surprised by the answer that it is primarily a healthy and low-processed diet rich in the products we mentioned above, i.e. fresh vegetables and fruits, pickled foods, fermented milk products, products rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as foods which are a source of dietary fibre.
An imbalance in the gut microbiota can have a negative impact on the functioning of the immune system.
In the same way that you can support your intestines through nutrition, the functioning of the gut microbiota can be impaired through bad eating habits.
In addition to highly processed food, the gut microbiota is adversely affected by frequent antibiotic therapy (the antibiotic kills all bacteria, including those belonging to the beneficial gut microbiota – especially if no simultaneous probiotic therapy is used), smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and chronic stress.
Be ComplEAT dieticians represent a team of experienced nutrition experts who will help you change your bad habits into good ones and rise to the next level.
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