A healthy immune system is the backbone of physical wellness, protecting against illness and speeding recovery from illness. People typically look for unique foods or vitamin supplements during flu season or times of illness that are supposed to increase immunity. Examples include vitamin C and meals like citrus fruits, chicken soup, and honey-sweetened tea. However, our immune system is intricately constructed, and it is controlled by a delicate balancing act of many variables, not simply diet, and certainly not by any one food or nutrient. However, the body is best prepared to combat illness and disease when a healthy diet rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals is paired with other lifestyle variables like sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and low stress.
What Is Our healthy Immune System?
Each day, we are subjected to a barrage of potentially dangerous bacteria. A complex series of stages and pathways in the body known as the immune system serves to defend us from pathogenic germs and diseases. It can quickly identify and eliminate threats such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Both innate and adaptive forms of immunity exist in humans.
The immune system is your body’s protective network of;
- Systems, (such as immunity system, digestive systems, respiratory systems), and
- Organs (such as skin, respiratory and digestive tracts)
Our bodies natural defences, known as innate immunity, provide a first line of protection against invading microorganisms. Among these obstacles are:
- Protective skin that prevents the bulk of germs from entering
- Congealing mucus that ensnares infectious agents
- Antibacterial stomach acid
- Antibacterial substances produced in part by enzymes in our perspiration and tears
- T cells, which are part of the immune system, destroy any and all invading cells
Acquired immunity, also known as adaptive immunity, is a defence mechanism that evolves to identify and counteract new threats. Cells and organs like the spleen, thymus, bone marrow and lymph nodes control this process. These tissues and organs are responsible for producing antibodies and stimulating the growth of immune cells (such as various types of white blood cells) that target and kill foreign substances after they have entered the body. The immune system learns from this experience and stores information about the foreign substance, making future attacks on that substance by antibodies and killer cells even more effective.
The immune system also reacts to other circumstances
Antigens are chemicals that are identified by the immune system as alien and potentially hazardous. The antigens in grass pollen, dust, food ingredients, or pet hair are examples of allergens. Antigens can trigger an overreactive immune response, wherein an excessive number of white blood cells are produced. Antigen sensitivity varies widely across individuals. For instance, a person with a mould allergy may experience wheezing and coughing, while those symptoms may have no effect on someone else.
As part of the body’s innate immunological response, inflammation plays a crucial role. Mast cells are an immune cell type that releases inflammation-inducing histamines in response to pathogen attacks on healthy cells and tissue. Pain, swelling, and the secretion of fluids to assist flush out the germs are all potential outcomes of inflammation. Histamines are also involved in signalling the release of additional white blood cells to combat infections. However, chronic inflammation can be harmful to tissues and can tax the immune system to the point of dysfunction.
Hypersensitivity is partly inherited and leads to autoimmune diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes, in which the body’s immune cells mistakenly attack and destroy healthy cells.
Immunodeficiency diseases are either inherited or acquired and can weaken or fully cripple the immune system. Aids and malignancies like leukaemia and multiple myeloma are examples of the more prevalent acquired types. In these states, the immune system is compromised to the point where the host is easily infected by foreign pathogens or antigens.
Is There Such a Thing as an Immune-Boosting Diet?
All cells, including immune cells, rely on getting the nutrients they need as part of a balanced diet in order to thrive and operate properly. While it is possible that certain dietary patterns better prepare the body for microbial invasions and increased inflammation, it is unclear that certain foods offer exceptional protection. Numerous micronutrients are required at various points in the immune response process. Vitamins C and D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein are only a few of the nutrients known to be essential for the development and function of immune cells (including the amino acid glutamine). You can get them by eating a wide range of plant and animal products.
A lack of variety in the diet, as well as an abundance of ultra-processed foods and a deficiency of minimally processed foods, can have a deleterious effect on the immune system. Chronic inflammation of the intestines and lowered immunity are thought to be two additional outcomes of a Western diet high in refined sugar and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables (The Microbiome).
The human microbiome consists of billions of bacteria or microbes, most of which are found in the gastrointestinal tract. Scientists have shown that the microbiome plays a crucial role in immune function, making this an area of significant and active research. The gut is a hub for immune response and antimicrobial protein synthesis. What kinds of bacteria call our intestines home is largely dependent on what we eat. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, as well as other plant-based sources of fibre, may help promote the health of your gut microbiome. Beneficial microorganisms convert fibres into short-chain fatty acids, which have been found to increase immune cell function. Some people refer to these fibres as “prebiotics” because of their ability to sustainably nourish microorganisms. The inclusion of probiotic and prebiotic items in the diet may therefore be advantageous. Live probiotic bacteria are found in probiotic meals, but the fibre and oligosaccharides in prebiotic foods are what keep probiotic bacteria colonies flourishing.
Do Herbal/Vitamin Supplements Help?
A nutritional deficit, even of one specific nutrient, can have a profound effect on the immunological response. Lack of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and the vitamins A, B6, C, D, and E has been shown to affect immunological responses in animal studies. Several aspects of the immune system benefit from these nutrients, including antioxidant protection, immune cell proliferation and activity, and antibody production. Scientists have found that people who are undernourished are more likely to contract bacterial, viral, and other diseases through epidemiological research.
Except as otherwise prescribed by a doctor, one can meet these needs by taking a standard multivitamin/nutritional supplement that contains the RDA for each nutrient. Supplements given at megadoses (many times the RDA) don’t seem warranted and may be detrimental or even inhibit the immune system (e.g., as with zinc). Keep in mind that no supplement contains all the benefits of a healthy diet, thus vitamins should not be used as a replacement for a balanced diet.
You have a dynamic immune system. Multiple factors, including nutrition, affect whether it strengthens or weakens. Keeping to a nutritious diet isn’t a failsafe against illness, but it is a great first step toward preventing illness and maintaining your health and well-being.