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How Diet Affects Immune Function
10.January.2021

How Diet Affects Immune Function

The food you eat has a huge impact on how your body functions. Everything from organ function to cognitive ability requires a level of adequate nutrition to keep things running smoothly. When it comes to the immune system, it’s particularly important to give the body the nutrients it needs.

Because the immune system is the first line of defense against pathogens, it needs to be at its best at all times. Once a pathogen enters the body, its main goal is to wreak havoc. With a healthy immune system, it doesn’t get the chance.

What are the factors that affect the immune response?

Many factors play into the immune response and how well it functions. Sleep cycles, for example, can have a huge effect on the immune system. While the body is at rest, the hormone cortisol is naturally lowered. Because of this, the signals that are needed for proper immune response become activated. Not getting enough restful sleep can negatively impact how well the body fights against infections.

Nutrition also plays a vital role in the immune response. It has been found that over half of the American population eats too little nutritious food and far too much “junk” food. Myriad studies have proved just how important nutrients are for the immune system. Vitamins such as C, A, E, B6, and B12 are all vital components to overall immune health.

Supplementation can also be a huge factor in boosting immune health, especially if a person does not get enough adequate nutrition. Supplements such as GenBoost’s Immune Boost line contain ingredients such as vitamin C, zinc, echinacea, elderberry, and turmeric to help keep the immune system running as it should.

Other factors that play a big role in how healthy your immune system is include stress levels (cortisol levels), the amount of exercise you get, personal hygiene practices, chronic illness, environmental toxins, and aging.

 

GenBoost - vegetables

Image by Roman Grachev on Unsplash: Since diet and immune function work together to keep you healthy, it’s important to fuel the body with a wide variety of good food.

 

Nutrition and immunity

Every cell in the body needs adequate nutrition to function at its best, and the immune cells are no different. The way that nutrition affects the immune response is by giving the cells what they need to initiate effective immune responses to infections.

The immune system takes its energy from both dietary nutrition and the body’s own stores of certain vitamins and minerals. If any vitamin or mineral is depleted, and/or if adequate levels aren’t being supplied through diet, it can lead to a weakened response and a higher risk of prolonged illness and infection.

Macro and micronutrients and the gut microbiome also play a key role in the body’s immunological response. An example of a specific vitamin that is needed for the immune system to successfully fight off infection is vitamin C. The nutrient is stored in phagocytic cells to enhance the movement of the cell against certain chemical stimulus. Vitamin C can also have a gene-regulating effect, which allows it to aid in the differentiation and proliferation of B- and T-cells.

What foods weaken your immune system?

The immune system is a sensitive part of the body and can be weakened easily when it is not properly cared for. Eating non-nutritious foods, not getting enough exercise, and developing unhealthy habits such as heavy alcohol use can all lead to the weakening of the immune system. Food and drink, in particular, can greatly influence the way the immune system functions.

Alcohol use can have detrimental effect on the immune system. When alcohol enters the body, it has to go through the GI tract. While there, it can change the structure of the tract, leading to an imbalance in the microbes found in the microbiome. As these microbes directly impact the function of the immune system, this disruption in their normal levels can lead to a weak immune response and a higher susceptibility to infection.

Salt and sugar can also upset the immune response. In the case of salt, one study found that the immune system weakens due to increased secretion of sodium from the kidneys. In sugar’s case, it’s not so much about complete avoidance; excess consumption in one sitting tends to be the culprit. When participants of a specific study overindulged in sugar, it was found to weaken the immune cells’ ability to fight off bacteria

Other specific foods that can lower the immune system’s ability to respond to pathogens include white bread, candy, tofu (in high amounts), pasteurized cheese, and processed meats.

 

Image by Adam Wilson on Unsplash: Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to a weakened immune system.

 

Is getting enough nutrients difficult?

Diet and immune function really do go hand in hand, but it can be hard to get all the nutrients you need on a daily basis. Aside from common factors like inadequate vegetable intake and regular consumption of highly processed food, other factors that can lead to a decline in nutrition are harder to tackle.

Soil degradation and monocrop farming have a direct impact on how nutritious food is, because both directly affect the quality and quantity of food production. Since soil degradation can lead to lower crop yields, the demand for proper nutrition grows while the supply continues to dwindle. In the case of monocrops, soil health can be severely damaged and the likelihood of lower crop yields is exponentially higher.

The immune system relies heavily on diet and nutrition to be at its best, and since the body relies on the immune system to keep itself safe from pathogens and other harmful invaders, the best way to keep things on an even keel is by getting all the nutrients you need on a daily basis. Supplementation such as GenBoost’s new Immune range is also available for those who suffer from immunological weakening and need some support for their immune health.

Featured image by Chantal Garnier on Unsplash

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