If you’ve read our other blogs on how to create a healthy immune system, you know that nutrition is an important part of it. These days, the internet is so crowded with articles about fad diets that it can be challenging to sift through them all to get the information you need. Let Teramune explain how your diet impacts your immune system, the best foods that boost the immune system, and which foods that weaken the immune system to avoid.
How Does My Diet Affect My Immune System?
To understand the relationship between your immune system and your diet, we first need to establish how food interacts with your body in general: how it is processed, and what your body uses it for.
First, let’s start with digestion. Digestion starts when you first ingest your food, which is then broken down into tiny nutrients small enough to pass through the intestines and into your bloodstream.
There are two types of digestive processes: physical and chemical. Physical transformation is the process of your body breaking down solid foods into liquid, while chemical transformation is when your body converts this liquid into a chemical slurry that it can break down into nutrients.
The epithelium, tissues that line your organs, blood vessels, and body cavities, then acts as an entryway for these nutrients, which diffuse through its surface. Most epithelial tissues are defined as “large sheets of cells covering all the surfaces of the body exposed to the outside world and lining the outside of organs” and “forms much of the glandular tissue of the body.”
A common misunderstanding is that people think skin is the only surface of the body that is exposed. However, this is not actually the case. Many other areas of the body are exposed as well, including the digestive tract, airways, and urinary and reproductive systems. All of these parts of the body are lined by epithelial tissues.
There are five different types of epithelial tissue:
- Enterocytes (of the small intestine), also known as absorbing cells, are the basic epithelial cells. These cells are held together by "tight junctions."
- Calciform cells, or mucus cells, secrete mucus, which your body uses to protect the integrity of the mucosa (a membrane that lines the surface of the body’s internal organs), from proteolytic enzymes and acids, both of which can be destructive to it. These cells serve many valuable purposes in your body. For example, they allow it to properly heal wounds.
- Paneth granulation cellsand basal granulation endocrine cells secrete “antimicrobial peptides and proteins,” which are a crucial part of your body’s immune system.
- DB lymphocytes and plasma cells produce immunoglobulins, proteins that function as antibodies. This means that these proteins act as your body’s defense system, fighting off any suspicious, invasive substances to prevent you from getting sick. As stated above, these proteins are produced in the intestine, which is the first organ in the body’s immune system. The intestine is crucial to the immune system, containing 50% of immune cells. It protects you from any bacteria, parasites, or bacteria that might enter your body via food.
- Lymphoid follicles: Lymphoid follicles are best known as Peyer's patches. They are made up of cells called M cells, which capture antigens from the environment and present them to lymphocytes, which then destroy them.
The body gets its fuel from the nutrients we eat. That’s part of the reason why eating nutritiously is so important; proper nutrients allow our body to function well and helps our digestive systems be more efficient in the process of converting food into energy.
Nutrients get delivered to every part of our body, and when we have a deficiency in one nutrient (glucid, lipids, proteins, vitamins, minerals) or an excess of one of them, the body has difficulty adjusting or compensating.
Does an Immune System Diet Exist?
Is there really a cure-all immune system diet? Many studies have shown that in some remote areas, where people live more balanced lifestyles and eat simpler diets, the population tends to live longer and suffer fewer health problems. The most famous study to show these findings was taken from a town in Japan, and a similar study was done in Greece.
Another example of this phenomenon is known as the “French paradox,” in which France has a healthier population than America despite engaging in behaviors which many Americans consider to be unhealthful, such as consuming buttery foods. Again, this goes back to one simple fact: In France, people’s diets and lifestyles are simpler, resulting in them eating smaller portions of better quality food and exercising more than the average American.
All of these studies have concluded one thing: that eating healthfully will ensure your body functions properly and your organs operate effectively, which is the first step in having a strong immune system. Additionally, studies have shown that certain foods can even make a difference in strengthening the immune system and preparing against microbial and viral attacks or inflammation.
17 Foods to Boost Your Immune System
Here are the best foods to boost your immune system, plus the best foods for fighting infection. Like any diet, including a diet to boost the immune system, you should make sure you are eating from a variety of food groups in healthy portions while not making any single food taboo to discourage unhealthy bingeing.
- Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts
- Other veggies: beets, hot peppers, red bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, artichokes
- Leafy greens: kale, arugula, spinach
- Spices and herbs: cilantro, parsley, turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, cumin
- Fruit: citrus (lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges), berries, apples, kiwi
- Healthy fats: avocado, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, almonds
- Green tea
- Fatty fish: salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies
- Dark chocolate
- Fermented foods:kimchi, yogurt, kombucha
- Foods high in resistant starch:
- Legumes: beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Green Bananas
Foods and Drinks You Should Try to Cut Out of Your Diet
Just as there are foods you should eat more of, there are those that you should limit as part of your immune system diet. Here are some important tips.
- Your consumption of processed fats such as refined oils, hydrogenated margarine, creams, and "low fat" butters rich in saturated or "trans" fat. These are especially bad for you as they can deplete your Vitamin A and E levels.
- Cold meats
- Late-night consumption of dairy products such as fatty cheeses, butter, and crème fraîche. These foods are rich and take time for your body to digest. That’s why it’s better to consume them earlier in the day, in the morning or early afternoon. Additionally, these fats shouldn’t be consumed with fast sugars.
- Alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Fried foods
- Pastries containing hydrogenated margarine and refined oils
- Foods that make you feel:
- Uncomfortable (e.g., pains, loose bowel movements)
- Artificial sweeteners and as much sugar as possible. You can start by eliminating sugary drinks like juice and soda.
Other Healthy Eating Patterns or Habits to Improve Your Immune System
In addition to the nutrition tips above, follow these healthy practices to enhance your overall wellness.
Monitor Your Diet
Make sure you are consuming foods that provide the protein, lipids, glucids, and vitamins that your body needs. If you feel deficient in any of the above, consider taking supplements to boost your levels.
Limit Saturated and Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acids
There are three categories of fatty acids: saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. In excess, these fatty acids turn into the shape of triglycerides and get stored under the skin. This tissue should not weigh more than 10% of the weight of an average man and 20% of the weight of an average woman.
Avoid Processed Food
Make sure to buy quality foods, preferably organic, non-GMO, and with no added preservatives. Try to buy food that isn’t too processed as processing food often dilutes its nutritional value.
- Use quality fatty acids when you cook such as organic oil and ghee
- Cook without fat (for example, steam or bake). If you need fat, use something less harmful than dairy-based products such as olive oil or coconut fat.
- Consume whole or semi-whole grains with a low GI
- If you consume sugar, make sure it's whole sugar with a low level of GI
Opt for Cold-Pressed
Season your veggies and salads with a cold-pressed oil to ensure a supply of omega 3. Cold-pressed oils are typically made from nuts or rapeseed.
Alternate your intake of vegetable and animal proteins, as well as your sources of calcium, to preserve the acid-base balance in your body. This will improve your body’s digestion and allow it to tolerate foods better.
In conclusion, nutrition does have an impact on how well your body functions. Some foods will help strengthen your immune system, while others will negatively impact it. If we look at how we humans used to eat—mostly unprocessed, homemade, varied food—we will realize how much healthier we were then. People used to rely on consuming natural foods and exercising to boost their immune system, rather than drugs. Consider this when you decide what kind of lifestyle you want to live and how you want to feel tomorrow.
A Healthier Today for a Healthier Tomorrow
Although we are busier in today’s society than ever before and may not have the time to cook every night or only eat fruits and veggies from our gardens, it's still important to be mindful of the impact that the food you eat has on your body and your health. Remember, making even just one of these changes can have a huge payout!
As the basis of a healthy, happy life, it’s time to start prioritizing your immune system and giving it the foods it needs. Start by adding Teramune’s organic immune support supplement to your diet, made from the highest quality essential oils. Shop our entire collection and learn how to use our supplements, then take the next step in your health journey by learning how exercise enhances the immune system in combination with proper nutrition.