A strong immune system helps to protect you from illness. If you do get ill, your immune system helps to fight it off so that you can recover. When your immune system isn’t working as well as it should be, it can leave you vulnerable to more serious consequences when you experience an illness. There are certain things that may affect the functioning of your immune system in serious ways, such as having chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressant medication. However, many people can support the health of their immune system by caring for their bodies, including having a balanced diet. You can include a number of things in your diet to help ensure a healthy immune system.
Which Nutrients Do You Need?
If you want to make sure your diet will support your immune system, you first need to know what nutrients are most important. In general, having a healthy and balanced diet will help you to support your immune system, but it helps to have some knowledge on more specific things that you should be watching out for. There are several vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that you can focus on if you want to boost your immune system.
Most people are aware that vitamin C is one of the nutrients that play an important role in a healthy immune system. You might have had cold medications containing vitamin C or taken supplements. We know that if you don’t get enough vitamin C, you could get scurvy, but that’s not the only problem that might arise from a lack of vitamin C. Vitamin C contributes to the production of white blood cells that secrete antibodies and help to fight off infections. It’s unlikely that high doses of vitamin C will do much for you, but you can easily get your required vitamin C by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin D is usually associated with mood and healthy bones. It helps us to absorb calcium, which is important for strong bones. But it can also help to boost your immune system and might even help to prevent certain types of cancer too. We get some of our vitamin D by being exposed to the sun and some of it from our diets. It’s more difficult for our bodies to absorb the vitamin D that comes from food, which is why many people use a supplement to boost their vitamin D levels. You could deliver the benefits of spray vitamin D or vitamin D in the form of a tablet. This can help to ensure you get enough vitamin D and that it keeps your immune system and other parts of your body healthy.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to protect against damage to the immune cells and strengthens them. Vitamin E can help to increase the number of T cells, important white blood cells that destroy infections. You can get vitamin E from a number of different foods, including sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, and avocados.
Zinc is an important mineral for the immune system. It helps with the development of neutrophils and natural killer cells, which help to heal wounds and infections. Zinc is present in lots of different foods, including beef, seafood such as crab and oysters, chickpeas, cashew nuts, lentils, and pumpkin seeds.
Probiotics, the good bacteria in your gut, can also help to support a healthy immune system. Most of your immune system is in your digestive tract, and probiotics influence the microorganisms there to help strengthen immunity. If you want to support your gut health, you can try adding certain foods to your diet, including fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, and more.
Balance Your Diet
So how can you make sure you get these important nutrients into your diet? You don’t necessarily have to think about it in detail. If you have a varied and balanced diet, it’s likely that you’re getting what you need, or at least most of the nutrients required to be healthy. However, you can also take a closer look at what you’re eating and drinking and purposefully add some things to your diet. This can be especially important if your diet is restricted in any way, whether by choice or due to medical or financial reasons. Take a look at the recommended amounts for different nutrients and compare them to your usual diet. You can find apps that allow you to keep track of your food and see the nutrients you’re getting.
Check Your Levels
Not sure if you’re getting enough important nutrients to support your immune system? Apart from tracking your food, you can also consider having your levels of certain vitamins and minerals checked. You could visit a doctor for this, and there are also kits you can buy and send to a lab to get the results back. This is generally done with a blood test, which you can do with a finger prick at home. It can highlight issues like low vitamin D levels or low levels of B vitamins, among other common deficiencies.
Add Supplements to Your Diet
Some people can find that using supplements can help them support their immune system. This might be useful if you aren’t getting the nutrients that you need from your diet, whatever the reason for that might be. Some people choose to take a multivitamin to give them some of the important vitamins that they need. You can also find supplements that will give you just one of the vitamins or minerals you require. Just remember that high doses aren’t necessarily going to benefit you more than simply getting your daily recommended amount.
Support Good Nutrient Absorption
As well as making sure you get the right nutrients to support your immune system, you also want to make sure that you are absorbing those nutrients properly. There are several things you can do to help make sure this happens. Start with pairing your foods well so that one nutrient helps with the absorption of another. For example, to absorb non-heme iron from plant-based foods, you need vitamin C. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins D, E, and K need fats in the body to work.
Another thing you can do is make sure you chew your food properly. Eating mindfully will not only help you to chew slowly and adequately, but it will also help to reduce stress and boost the digestive process. Some nutrients may be absorbed better if you drink them, rather than eat them. For example, carotenoids (a compound of vitamin A) may be absorbed better from orange juice, rather than whole oranges.
Support Your Immune System in Other Ways
Your diet is only one of the things that can help to support a healthy immune system. There are other ways to keep your immune system healthy. Smoking can affect your immune system, so avoid it or stop doing it if you’re a smoker. Sleeping well can be an important part of supporting your immune system, so getting plenty of quality rest is important. Regular exercise will help you to keep your immune system healthy, and managing stress is also an essential step for being healthier. Make sure you keep up good hygiene to protect yourself too, washing your hands regularly, but avoid excessive cleaning.
The right diet can support your immune system and help you to stay healthy, as well as be prepared to fight off illness.