Nutrition & Immune Health
Supporting the Immune System
Not only is a healthy immune system important in the fight against COVID-19, but it’s also critical for our survival. Nutrition plays a huge role in how our immune system operates, and so it’s imperative that we support it through our food choices.
Adequate and appropriate nutrition is essential for all cells in the human body (including the immune system) to function optimally. This is especially true during periods when the immune system is “activated”, such as with infection. Immune cells require optimal nutrition to allow them to effectively initiate responses against pathogens, resolve those responses in a timely manner, and ward off chronic inflammation.
Proper diet, body stores, and specific nutrients play very specific roles in reducing inflammation and keeping the immune system healthy. Malnutrition, or undernutrition, is linked with impaired immune function and the extent of impairment is based on how severe the deficiency is and other co-factors such as age or infection.
Nutrients For Immune Health
Some nutrients that are critical to immune health include:
- vitamin A, C, & D
- specific amino acids, like glutamine, are essential for the growth and function of immune cells
Sources of these nutrients include:
- Citrus fruits, peppers, berries, cruciferous vegetables, fatty fish (like salmon), egg yolks, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, oysters, poultry, whole grains, legumes, brazil nuts, seafood, organ meats, dark green leafy vegetables (like spinach), dried apricots, beets, and parsley – to name a few.
Supporting Your Gut
Over 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, so it is of utmost importance to keep digestive function in good condition. One should also consistently support the microbiome through proper diet and good lifestyle habits. Probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, miso, and kombucha, plus prebiotics and fibre in the diet are helpful for maintaining a healthy microbiome that supports immune health.
The Best Diet To Support Your Immune System
Sticking to a primarily whole foods diet with plenty of plant foods and a good variety of nutrients supportive to the gut can be very effective at keeping your immune system healthy. Additionally, supplements may be introduced to address any nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin D in the winter months.
Reducing your consumption or avoiding those foods and drinks which can suppress the immune system is also recommended:
- Refined sugar/carbohydrates and/or excess sugar (e.g. pop, candy, cereal, pastries, etc)
- Highly processed foods
- Excess salt
- Excess caffeine
It is important to note that no specific food or supplement will prevent you from catching COVID-19, but a proper diet will surely help with the normal functioning of your immune system so that it can better support your body through infection.