After proper hygiene, you may wonder how else can you promote immune health? Several lifestyle and dietary habits may help boost your immune health, says research. Here’s what you want to know.
Make sleep a priority – a lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Tired adults are more susceptible to catching a virus, such as the common cold than those who get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, shows research.
A very complicated relationship, our understanding of the gut microbiome is growing steadily. It’s clear that the types of microbes found in the gut impact the immune system. Evidence supports the gut microbiome’s critical role in the training and development of major parts of the immune system. The gut microbiome is more likely to host probiotic species (microbes scientifically proven to elicit health benefits to the host) when the diet eaten contains prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers that are indigestible to humans, found in many whole foods, that probiotics need to flourish.
More than 300 research papers illustrate the intricate relationship between stress and the immune system. Stress-reducing techniques, such as deep breathing can lower stress. Research notes effective results after two months of incorporating deep breathing into one’s daily routine. If breathing isn’t cutting it and you’re still struggling with stress, consider learning more about adaptogens, such as Ashwagandha.
For some, movement helps reduce stress, with researchers noting it enhances your resilience to it. When you exercise, a number of things in your body happen: anti-inflammatory (and pro-inflammatory) messages are released and both lymphocyte circulation and cell recruitment increase. In people who practice regular physical activity (done with correct execution to avoid damage) lower incidence of viral infections has been observed in studies.
Eating more whole foods promotes immune health. Studies show eating more whole foods lowers the risk of upper respiratory tract infections. Upper respiratory tract infections include the common cold and influenza, affecting the nose, sinuses, larynx, and pharynx. Whole foods are unprocessed, thus retaining all of their health-promoting nutrients, including fiber. Fibers in plants are known to support a healthy gut microbiome which plays a role in immune health.
Garlic and mushrooms may be good food choices for some. There is traditional evidence of garlic being used as a Herbal Medicine to help relieve symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infections, according to Health Canada. Fungal polysaccharides are a type of starch found in mushrooms that appear to have immunomodulatory effects, according to results from human clinical trials.
The following foods contain nutrients needed for immune health:
Alarmingly, the immune system is triggered by high fat/calorie food in a way similar to how the body reacts to infectious bacteria, shows nutritional researchers. The researchers discovered the immune system stayed in a heightened state after, with subsequent responses being more aggressive. How does this happen? The inflammation triggered by eating unhealthy foods appears to cause pieces of DNA to unwind – one can imagine it like a loop hanging out of a neatly wound ball. These changes to your cell’s DNA can cause the cells to react to stimuli with a stronger inflammatory response. In turn, these inflammatory responses can accelerate the development of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
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Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system. Clin Exp Med 2020 Jul 29: 1-14.
Western diet triggers NLRP3-dependent innate immune reprogramming. Cell 2018 Jan 11; 172(1-2):162-175.
The role of vitamin E in immunity. Nutrients 2018 Nov; 10(11):1614.
Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1211.
Magnesium in infectious disease in older people. Nutrients 2021; 13(1).
Role of dietary fiber in promoting immune health – an EAACI position paper, November 2021.
Effects of vitamin B6 deficiency on the composition and functional potential of T cell populations. J Immunol Res 2017; 2017: 2197975.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.