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May 19, 2020

Can Your Diet Boost Your Immune System and Provide Better Protection?

Amidst the dangers of this lockdown, it’s no surprise that there is renewed interest in boosting the immune system. But can you boost your immune system with certain nutrients or supplements? For decades, Immuneti+ has funded studies to look into how eating habits can reduce cancer risk, improve survivorship and impact our immune system in general.

Let’s look at some common questions and misconceptions regarding the role of nutrition in strengthening the immune system.

Can you boost your immune system through nutrition?

When you envision your immune system chasing after a virus or cancer cells, perhaps you picture it like the video game when Pac-Man is running through mazes gobbling up dots. Can what you eat super-energize those immune cells to provide better protection for your body?

How can your diet affect immune health?

Your body produces highly reactive molecules called free radicals as part of normal metabolic processes and in response to exposures like pollution and tobacco smoke. Immune cells produce them as a way to fight infections, too. High levels of free radicals trigger inflammation, which creates more free radicals and further increases oxidative stress and inflammation. This amplifies an unhealthy cycle.

Actually, the immune system is far more complex than Pac-Man. Yes, there are certain immune cells that do “gobble up” bacteria and abnormal cells that the body has destroyed (including cancer cells that have been triggered to self-destruct).

But our immune system is more than that. It is made up of different types of immune cells, antibodies, receptors and organs that all work together to defend the body.

Picture your immune system like your car’s engine, which needs gas to run. Adding more gas to your tank does not suddenly enable the car to run any more powerfully than the engine capacity allows.

Like gas for your car, a healthy diet is crucial to provide the nutrients your immune system needs to keep functioning. It may even slow the gradual decline in immune function that tends to occur with aging. However, this doesn’t mean you can load up on nutrients to super-charge your immune system.

Stock Up On Antioxidants

‘Antioxidant’ is a buzzword that often makes an appearance in health and wellness rhetoric. And it’s not surprising – these potent compounds are poised to defend your body from those reprehensible, DNA-attacking villains: free radicals.  Free radicals are unstable molecules that wreak havoc with your body, damaging membranes, DNA and enzymes – or, as it’s more scientifically termed, causing ‘oxidative stress’.    Free radicals are normal. They are important signals within cells and “turn on” body antioxidant defenses, but excessive levels of free radicals can damage cells and promote inflammation.   Many areas of the body are vulnerable to free radical damage, but the immune system is especially sensitive .

The hero of the hour that jumps to your defense? Why, those do-gooders, antioxidants, of course. These little guys neutralize and eliminate free radicals from the bloodstream in a bid to keep your body functioning optimally. In most cases, however, those pesky free radicals outnumber the concentration of naturally occurring antioxidants in your body.

To maintain a happy, healthy status quo, you need a constant supply of antioxidants from external sources. You need to make sure you are constantly supplying yourself with Vitamins because they are antioxidant rich nutrients.  Some major vitamins like C and E have been reported to boost up the immune system by strengthening the activity of immune cells during any pathogen attack or in the case of the intrusion of some toxic materials either inhaled from air or that may be present in the foods.  Vitamins C, and E mainly aid in enhancing the skin epithelium barrier function, which are claimed to be essential for antibody production. 

What's The Bottom Line?

To stay healthy, you need an immune system that can attack harmful bacteria and viruses, as well as abnormal cells when needed. But an immune system on over-drive results in allergies and autoimmune diseases, and promotes chronic inflammation.

Of course, some people who have weakened immune systems due to illness, surgery or malnutrition may benefit from immunonutrition. The immune system can be weakened by cancer or its treatment. This is an emerging field that holds exciting promise, as it explores how increasing specific nutrients might be used to fine-tune immune function in certain situations. But there is still much to learn and optimal approaches are not yet known.

The European Society of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism guidelines on nutrition in cancer patients  emphasize that their nutritional needs should be met through a balanced diet, adjusted as needed to meet each individual’s condition and needs. For some, that could involve supplements to increase particular nutrients.

You would have determine based on your condition whether or not you want to be proactive with your health. Supplements are not cures to health problem, but it can definitely help you out if you want to keep need your body to be sufficiently nourished. Most people do not account for the type of nutrients that are in their diet, but rather focus on the calories.

Supplements are great alternatives to supplying you with the proper nutrition your body desires to maintain a health immune system. If you are trying to find a sustainable solution to keep your body well-nourished without having to worry that you are getting your essentials every meal, we have a solution down below.