We all know our bodies are potentially exposed to invading pathogen substances which make us ill, like viruses, bacteria fungii, etc. Luckily, the human body counts on a highly sofisticated system to resist against those strange agents: the Immune System. Specific defenses are found there and they’re called such way because they use specific cells in our bodies.
So, from Nutrition’s point of view a good condition of the immune system is decisive to stay healthy. An inappropriate diet is an external factor which can affect our defenses, especially when they interact with other factors such as an abrupt temperature change in autumn, chronic stress, lack of sleep, aggressive emotions and attitudes, as well as the intake of drugs and other chemicals, etc. At the end of the day, it is through our diet how we obtain the essential substances our immune system needs to function properly.
To face season changes it is essential to watch what we eat to strengthen our immune system. Some signs warn us that our defenses are low: smokers can suffer from a rough throat as in a bad cold that never hits them; they can also get lip sores, they can feel more tired than usual , wounds take longer to heal, suffer from muscle pain without having exercised, weak hair…
In cold weather we become more susceptible to suffering colds and flu and it could be due to the immune systems condition. A good diet is essential, as an inappropriate diet can weaken your defenses.
GENERAL RULES TO KEEP YOUR DEFENSES HIGH
Here are some general rules to keep our defenses high:
- Following a balanced diet, based on fresh food rich in vitamines and minerals
- Stepping into baths of alternating temperatures which improves lymph blood and circulation
- Sleeping enough hours to support the proper functioning of our defense system.
- Physical exercise is important.
- Learning to lead a more relaxed life style and to avoid stressful situations, as this is one of our immune system’s worst enemies.
- Food supplements either in the form of syrups or softgels, play an important role if our diet is unbalanced, always under the supervision of a medical professional, bearing in mind at the same time that it is meant to progressively improve eating habits.
WHAT TO EAT AND NOT TO EAT
Most immune troubles come as a result from torturing the digestive system with inadequate food – with a lack of fiber and excessive fried food and saturated fats – as well as from abusing on coffee, milk, sugar or alcohol, not to mention an excessive antibiotic, corticoid or immune-depressor abuse and intestine infections.
In the same way that there are foods which depress the immune system, there are others which contribute to increasing our defenses. The Mediterranean Diet protects our bodies, as it is rich in nutrients, vitamines, antyoxydant substances and undoubtedly due to the health benefits of olive oil.
- Olive oil is very rich in Vitamine A, which increases the body’s defenses.
- Moreover, it has been shown that it significantly increases the number of natural protecting cells.
- Raw fruits and vegetables for their vitamines minerals and phytonutrients; especially those with antyoxydant and revitalisng activity.
- Yogurts. Bateria in yogurts contribute to improving our immune system.
- Probiotics modulate and stimulate the immune system.
- Other especially protective foods are seasonal fruits, onion, pumpkin, carrots, pollen, honey, parsil, avocado, tomatoes and fish. Likewise it is convenient to have blue fish twice a week.
APPROPRIATE FOOD SUPPLEMENTS FOR OUR DEFENSES
Here are some substances we can take as food supplements to improve our immune system:
- Vitamine C: Several assays have shown that Vitamine C contributes to the good function of the immune system. Certain molecules involved in its mechanisms – mainly protein molecules – are found in body fluides, as well as in certain cells.
Food sources: Guava, kiwi, mango, pineapple, persimmons, citrics, melon, strawberries, other berries, peppers, tomato, family vegetables like cabbage, fruits and vegetables in general.
- Vitamine E: It is a stimulant of antibody and cell-mediated immune activity . Food sources: Wheat germ oil, soy, oil cereal germ or cereal grain, olive oils (mainly the cold pressure extra virgin one), leafy green vegetables and nuts.
- Folic Acid: The lack of folic acid reduces the lymphocyte response as well as the amount of antibodies.
Food sources: B group vitamines are present in most vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, cereal, and beans) and animal foods (meat and entrails, fish and seafood, eggs and in dairy products). Folic acid found in leafy green vegetables and legumes, fruits breakfast cereal and liver must be taken into special consideration, and animal foods especially liver and seafood, which are also rich in B12 like meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
- Flavonoids: They are present in several vegetables and especially in propolis. Pure propolis contains 500 times as many bioflavoids than oranges which are nowadays considered quite beneficial in convalecent periods.
Food sources: All types of cabbage, leafy green vegetables, red and purple fruit and citrics.
- Iron: The simple lack of iron is relatively frequent and it mainly affects young people and pregnant women; it affects cell proliferation and reduces the immune response. Food sources: Liver, meats (especially horse meat), fish, eggs and dairy products in less proportion.
- Zinc: También se asocia a una mayor susceptibilidad frente a infecciones. Zinc deficiency mainly takes place in countries, whose source of protein is cereal. Its deficiency significantly affects the immune response. It is also linked to a higher susceptibility against infections.
Food sources: Meat, guts, fish, eggs, complete cereal and legumes.