Investing in building healthy habits is important more than ever. Given the COVID-19 crisis sweeping us all off normalcy, we have to be more cautious in making dietary decisions that strengthen our immune system. Specifically, we may need to reconsider what we believe is essential nutrition.
We understand the struggle – changing your diet isn’t a walk in the park. But, a journal of a thousand miles starts with one step. With that, we’ll make these early steps worth your while.
Today, let’s go over the ways our food affects our immune system through this concise overview.
What Is the Immune System and How Does It Work?
By definition, our immune system works to protect our body from harmful microbes, pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there are two types of physiological immunity. Namely, they are innate and adaptive.
Innate immunity refers to physical protective barriers like the skin or some internal substances like enzymes, acids, and mucus that traps and destabilizes pathogens. This is the body’s first line of defense.
Adaptive immunity is the system that takes over when the innate barrier fails to keep the bacteria and the microbes out of the body. The cells and the organs help regulate the system in a collaborative effort, that when they detect any foreign substance, they alter their functions to adapt.
That said, the body will then naturally produce antibodies to strengthen our immune system and prepare the body for the next time this happens again.
How Fasting Impacts Your Immune System
Now that we’ve discussed how our immune system works, let’s talk about fasting.
Intermittent fasting comes with a lot of benefits. It enhances cognitive performance, reduces fat storage by lowering insulin, induces the human growth hormone to increase muscle mass.
The premise of fasting is quite simple as well. All you have to do is deprive your body of consuming food for 12, 14, or 16 hours in a day. Beginners, however, are recommended to refrain from exceeding the 14-hour mark.
That said, this approach to nutrition can seem quite radical because we’ve always believed that we should eat at consistent and regular intervals.
Generally, we fear that hunger can be detrimental. However, our body adapts to this change quite effectively. So, while we feel the uncomfortable bouts of hunger in the first 4 days, our body is at work to strengthen our immune system.
What happens is that the body stimulates the production of white blood cells and regenerates any damaged cell tissue. This is a presumptive measure in case those viruses and bacteria will find their way into the body.
Once the intermittent fast is done, you start to consume food again. Your body readjusts from protective mode to absorptive mode. In this period of consumption, the body will take the food you eat and efficiently process it to make up for hunger hours.
Now, this is where we incorporate an effective diet to further strengthen our immune system.
What Foods Strengthen the Immune System?
The key to better health is in our nutrition, and we shouldn’t depend on supplements to keep us healthy. That said, here are natural immune system boosters we can eat daily:
- Citrus fruits
- Red bell peppers
- Ginger and turmeric
- Spinach and leafy greens
- Almonds and other nuts or seeds
Vitamins to Boost Our Immune System
Given the food that we mentioned earlier, we recommend them as part of your diet because they are rich in essential vitamins and minerals. That said, here are the vitamins our body needs to strengthen our immune system.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Folates or folic acid
Trace Minerals to Support Our Immune System
In high doses, these trace minerals can be harmful to humans. However, in minute quantities, they can stimulate metabolic processes, support enzyme health, and regulate our internal systems. Here are some of the main minerals that help keep our immune system in check.
Probiotics and Prebiotics for a Healthy Immune System
To define them respectively, probiotics are processed bacteria and yeast that help balance your digestive system, as well as keep other organs in your body healthy. They are also coined as good bacteria.
On the other hand, prebiotics is the fiber that our body cannot digest. Essentially, these substances serve as the nutrition for good bacteria. That said, here are the probiotics and prebiotics you should consume to keep your gut healthy.
Probiotics (fermented foods):
- Lactobacillus drinks
Prebiotics (fiber-rich food or products):
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens
- Our immune system comprises two parts: innate immunity, which is our physical and first line of defense, and our adaptive immunity, which involves an intricate network of cells and organs that produce antibodies.
- When we fast, our body adapts to our hunger and encourages the immune system to produce white blood cells and antibodies.
- Once we start consuming food again, our body fully utilizes what we eat, so we must eat nutritious and healthy food to boost our immune system.