When we talk about eating to “stay healthy,” we’re talking about eating food that supports our immune system. After all, it’s our immune system that keeps us healthy.
Many people see naturopathic doctors to better understand what they need to do to strengthen their immune system.
Here are a few tips to make your immune system’s job easier.
What Does Your Immune System Do?
Your immune system is your body’s defense against illness and infections.
Its job is to recognize structures that don’t belong in your bloodstream, work to remove them, and then remember this foreign structure so it’s properly equipped to fight it off if it comes back.
There are conditions where the immune system functions too weakly, and then other conditions when the immune system works “too well”.
One example when this system works too well is seasonal allergies. Pollen will trigger an immune response (when not necessary) that causes all the symptoms we endure.
Another example of this is in autoimmune disease. Your immune system becomes confused between what is foreign and what is “self” and starts attacking your own cells. This can cause all kinds of difficult-to-manage symptoms.
What Happens When Your Immune System Is Weak?
The immune system needs to get the right nutrients to be in fighting form.
When it’s starved of what it needs, it grows weaker and weaker, until it is unable to properly combat viruses or illnesses.
Your body uses white blood cells – called macrophages – to patrol your body. They’re your first line of defense.
A healthy body will make upwards of a billion white blood cells every single day. But if it can’t produce enough, it can’t mount an effective defense response.
Viruses are more likely to get past the macrophages if there aren’t enough of them to patrol properly.
If your body doesn’t produce enough T cells and B cells, it may not be able to give you the “acquired immunity” to the virus. This means the same viral strain could make you sick again in the future.
5 Nutrients To Strengthen Your Immune System
So you see why it’s so important to ensure that your immune system gets the fuel it needs to function.
The good news is a healthy diet rich in the nutrients can help.
Read on below for our top five recommendations for a healthy immune system.
1. Vitamin C
We’ve heard it for years growing up: if you’re getting sick, you should start taking vitamin C.
But the truth is that if you’re getting sick, it’s too late – you need preventative vitamin C to stave off a cold.
You can get your vitamin C from citrus fruits, as just about everyone knows. But there are more plentiful sources, like kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries.
Last tip for vitamin C: save your money on supplementing. Many foods contain enough to keep you healthy.
Instead, take that money and invest it in other supplements for vitamins your body CAN’T absorb as easily, such as our next vitamin.
2. Vitamin D
Your doctor may have recommended vitamin D to you. This is because if you live in Canada, you’re probably deficient in vitamin D
Do your best to take in vitamin D in the form of flax and fatty fishes, such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. But for most, you’ll need to supplement.
Not only can it help with your immune system, vitamin D can lift your mood. This can, in turn, have a positive effect on your immune response.
Although vegetarians and vegans have to be extra mindful of their iron intake, it might surprise you how much iron you can get from non-meat sources.
Kale, broccoli and beans are all excellent sources of iron.
For omnivores, you can get a massive dose of iron from oysters and other seafoods, or from lean poultry such as chicken and turkey.
Zinc is a superhero among immunity-boosting vitamins. It helps slow down overactive immune responses, while also controlling inflammation.
Slowing an overactive immune response may seem like a counterproductive action for when you’re sick. You may be surprised to learn, though, that most of your symptoms while you’re sick is produced by the immune response, not the infection itself.
Slowing down the immune response means that Zinc can keep the immune system active enough to fight off the infection, but control the immune response enough that your symptoms are not out of control.
Oysters once again top the list, as well as lean meats and poultry, crab, beans, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, and yogurt.
Like zinc, selenium can slow the overactive immune response.
Get your selenium intake through sardines, tuna, garlic, broccoli, and Brazil nuts.
Contact Annex Naturopathic
If you’ve been feeling under the weather more often than not lately, it could be a problem with your immune system.
It might be time to boost your immunity with supplements and an improved diet.
Call Annex Naturopathic now to book an appointment. Let’s create a personalized, targeted strategy to boost your immune in time for winter.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND