Nutrition and Immunity
A balanced diet bringing to your body vitamins and minerals, combined with healthy lifestyle factors, good sleep, exercise and low stress, most effectively help the body to fight infection and disease.
how is our immune system organised?
Innate immunity is a first-line defence from pathogens that try to enter our bodies, those barriers are: our skin, the mucus in our nose that trap pathogens, the acidity of our stomach, our white blood cells that target and destroy foreign cells entering the body.
Acquired immunity is a system that learns to recognise a pathogen. These cells (white blood cells) and organs (liver, spleen, bone marrow..) create antibodies that are specific to the pathogen attack and destroy it.
There are a number of substances that trigger our immunity: they are called antigens.
Allergens are one type of antigen and include pollen, dust, certain foods (nuts, shellfish, celery...) or pet hair. Sensitivity to antigens varies and often lead to Inflammation which is our normal immune response. Pain, swelling, and a release of fluids are the main effects our body's immune response. Chemical transmiters like histamine trigger the production of more white blood cells to fight pathogens. Unfortunately this can lead to the overwhelm of the immune system in certain individuals causing sometimes an anaphylactic shock (that can lead to death).
Not everybody react the same and certain factors affects the immune response:
The older age, obesity, chronic diseases, poor health style (lack of sleep, stress, smoke, pollution etc) may decrease our immune response.
What can we do about it?
Some specific micronutrients are vital for our immune system among them we can cite: vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, the amino acid glutamine. That is why our food must be varied as the micronutrients come mainly from our alimentation. The first step in improving our immune response is to ban the ultra-processed food, decrease the refined sugar, reduce the red meat and increase the fruits and vegetables, restore our gut microbiome. A high-fibre plant-rich diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes appear to support the growth and maintenance of beneficial microbes in our guts.
A Healthy Immune System: a few simple steps to improve it.
1- adopt as much as you can the Cretan Diet* (refer to our article on the Cretan or Mediterranean diet), plenty of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, no red meat, poultry, fish twice a week, plenty of water.
2- no alcohol (or with moderation red wine preferably)
3- regular exercise (no need to run the marathon (30 minutes 3 times a week is enough).
4- try to reduce your stress, sleep a minimum of 7 hours.
Where to find the main micronutrients?
Vitamin A: dark green vegetables (spinach), orange coloured fruits carrots, beetroots, banana).
Vitamin B6: Poultry, fish, banana, avocado, seeds, nuts
Vitamin B12: meat, fish, soya, oats, almonds
Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, green vegetables (kale)
Vitamin D: oily fish.
Copper: wholegrains, cereals, quinoa, beans, lentils, dried fruits, nuts
Folate: green vegetables, orang, berries, cheese, wholegrain bread
Iron: red meat, nuts, seeds, dried fruits (apricot)
Selenium: nuts, eggs, fish, shells
Zinc: red meat, shell fish, nuts, seeds wole grain bread