Eating a diverse diet, rich in colourful vegetables and fruits, will ensure that you are getting a sufficient range of antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the structural elements of the immune system and the gut itself:
- by protecting against free radical damage
- maintain structural integrity of membranes
- protect against DNA damage
- support a healthy gut microflora.
Here are examples of how specific foods (amongst others) that might affect the immune system:
- Garlic – optimises the immune system by stimulating some of the special immune cells including macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, dendritic cells. Garlic modulates cytokine secretion, immunoglobulin production, phagocytosis, and macrophage activation.
- Fermented foods – recent research has found that humans have a receptor identifying metabolites from lactic acid bacteria (commonly found in fermented foods) which signals to the immune system mediating anti-inflammatory actions.
- Mushrooms – research has shown that eating shiitake mushrooms daily for 4 weeks optimises the immune system by enhancing the activity of specific T cells and reduce anti-inflammatory proteins#
We’ve known for a long time that drinking alcohol and eating a diet high in sugar can weaken the actions of the immune system, but we didn’t know how this might occur. Recent research has shown that alcohol is toxic to some of our immune system cells (dendritic cells), which are critical to activating the adaptive immune system via the T cells by recognising specific antigens. A diet high in sugar, as shown in experiments using fruit files, abnormally activated the innate immune system causing inflammation. If you are looking to enhance the activity of the immune system (and overall health), reducing both alcohol and added sugar intake in food could help.
As we are not always able to get all the micronutrients and antioxidants we need from our diet, using a supplement such as Tonic Health with the optimal levels of micronutrients can help support a healthy immune system and protect against winter cold and flu viruses.