The immune response is how the body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and substances that appear foreign and harmful.
Humans have two immune mechanisms: acquired (specific) immunity, which responds to specific stimuli (antigens) and is enhanced by repeated exposure.
These antibodies defend against foreign invaders: bacteria, viruses and germs; and innate (non-specific) immunity, which do not require stimulation and is not enhanced by repeated exposure.
A strong immune system requires a healthy diet. Having a well-balanced diet will supply you with all the essential nutrients the body needs for a healthy immune system such as zinc, vitamin A and C, selenium and iron.
The diet needs to be made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds because they are abundant source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
(Reavley, N. 1988) processed foods should be avoided as much as possible because they contain unnatural substances that impact health such as genetically modified foods (GMO), insecticides, pesticides, irradiated foods, artificial colours and flavours, food additives and preservatives, etc.
No one really knows the effects of the various additives when used together in the thousands of combinations inside our bodies over time. Processed foods can also mean large amounts of hidden trans fats, sodium, and sugar, which are always bad news.
Carotenoids are turned into vitamin A in the body, and they have an antioxidant effect to help strengthen the immune system against infection. (Cleveland Clinic 2016)
Fruit and vegetables provide most of the carotenoids in the diet. Include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, squash and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, peas and Romaine or cos lettuce.
Eat well if you want to have a healthy immune system. Food is so important to having great health.
Vitamin B is part of nearly 200 biochemical reactions in the body. It is essential for optimum immune system functions.
Food sources of vitamin B cereals, rice, legumes and dark green leafy vegetables bananas, chickpeas, split peas, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, baked potatoes, lean chicken breast, cold-water fish such as tuna, and eggs. (Cleveland Clinic, 2016)
Include avocados and butternut squash as they are good sources of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body fight off infection.
This vitamin helps maintain the health of most of the body’s cells and tissues, thus helping to repair damaged cells. (Reavley N. 1988) Add cold-pressed oils into the diet such as extra virgin olive oil. These will help boost immunity and keep the cell membranes functioning well.
Include iodine it is needed to make essential thyroid hormones. It is found in salt, seafood and seaweed. (Reavley N. 1988)
Selenium seems to have a powerful effect on the immune system. It is found in garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna, Brazil nuts and barley, among other foods. (Cleveland Clinic, 2015)
Zinc is another important mineral needed for healthy immune function. (Mayo Clinic, 2016) Zinc deficiency affects multiple aspects of innate and adaptive immunity.
Zinc is found in foods such as oysters, shellfish, fish, red meat, chicken, dairy foods, eggs, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Include lean cuts of meat which are a good source of protein as are poultry such as chicken, turkey, and duck. Fish is a high quality protein and contains healthy Omega 3 essential fatty acids.
The body cannot produce Omega-3s, we need to source them through diet. These essential fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory. Include:
You can read the FULL version of this article in our quarterly eZine, ‘Holistic Living Magazine,’ look for Edition 5 on this archive page. There’s many more articles about the immune system waiting for you too!
Irene Vervliet – Naturopathic Doctor