Activate immune system with a nutritious diet

A well-functioning immune system is mandatory for survival and better well-being. Our gut constitutes about 80% of our immunity.

Published: 29th July 2023 07:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th July 2023 07:20 AM   |  A+A-


For representational purpose

Express News Service

KOCHI:  A well-functioning immune system is mandatory for survival and better well-being. Our gut constitutes about 80% of our immunity. The immune system must be constantly alert, monitoring for signs of invasion or danger.

A healthy and balanced diet is essential for the correct function of every part of our organism, including the immune system. Additionally, some dietary factors also possess immune-regulatory properties, including micronutrients such as Vitamin D or macronutrients such as fatty acids.

The effective deployment of the immune system against pathogens or harmful signals and the swift resolution of the immune response is required for survival. The instigation of an immune response and the activities of the immune cells results in inflammation (seen as redness, swelling, and the feeling of heat and pain), which are signs of damage to the tissue going on whilst the immune system does its work.

This is an expected outcome of an effective immune response. Increasingly, there is concern that modern lifestyle changes have promoted ongoing, low-grade, whole-body (systemic) inflammation caused by immune and other cells. Such exposures may include diet quality and quantity.

Role of nutrition

Adequate and appropriate nutrition is required for all cells to function optimally, including the cells in the immune system. An “activated” immune system further increases the demand for energy during periods of infection, with greater basal energy expenditure during fever for example. 

Thus, optimal nutrition for the best immunological outcomes would be nutrition, which supports the functions of immune cells allowing them to initiate effective responses against pathogens, resolve the response rapidly when necessary, and avoid any underlying chronic inflammation.

Some micronutrients and dietary components have very specific roles in the development and maintenance of an effective immune system throughout the life course or in reducing chronic inflammation. Undernutrition is well understood to impair immune function. A tolerant gut microbiome can reduce inflammation and protect against sensitisation to food allergens.

Diet diversity is of extreme importance when it comes to reduced allergies. Diet diversity is defined as the number of different foods or food groups over a reference period, and should ideally include frequency of consumption and the health value of the food.

Nutrients for immunity

Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats: Both omega-3 and omega-6-derived metabolites have important immune-regulatory functions. Due to their anti-inflammatory properties and their ability to produce alterations in gene regulation, they are an effective source of immunity through food.

Food sources: Oily fish, seeds, nuts, oils.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D can modulate our immune responses. Deficiency of this vitamin is associated with increased autoimmunity and an increased susceptibility to infection.

Food sources: Oily fish, mushrooms, egg yolk, fortified foods and sunlight exposure.

Fibre: Fibres as non-digestible parts of fruits, vegetables and cereals are an important energy source for bacteria that, by fermentation, lead to the production of Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) as essential nutrients for humans. 

A high-fibre diet favours microbial diversity and production of SCFA and prevents the fermentation of less favourable substrates such as proteins and amino acids, leading to a reduced risk for colorectal cancer and Crohn’s disease. A long-term fibre-rich diet has been shown to improve lung function and lower the risk for COPD.

Other micronutrients (vitamins and minerals): Vitamins A, C, E, B6, and B12, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium, play vital, often synergistic roles at every stage of the immune response. Adequate amounts are essential to ensure the proper function of physical barriers and immune cells.

A balanced diet with good amounts of fibre and good fats along with a mixture of essential micronutrients is essential and the best way to boost your immunity. 

Include all the food groups into your diet and colourful fruits and vegetables to attain the same along with adequate hydration.

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