The flu is the worst its been in years.
Your immune system is a complex system of interconnecting cells, tissues and organs that play a central role in your health. Your immune system is designed to recognize foreign invaders and mounts a response to destroy and eliminate these before they cause health issues. Your immune system develops antibodies so that your body can more quickly destroy these invaders should you be exposed to them again. Staying healthy means giving your immune system the help it needs so that it can protect you all year long. Supporting your immune system with great nutrition is one of the best ways to get a leg up in keeping you well.
Start by taking care of yourself.
Good sleep, stress reduction, exercise, and rest can all go a long way to helping support your immune system.
Next, head to the grocery store.
Help to ensure your body is getting enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein is especially important and essential for the health of the immune system. Healthy fats (including Omega-3 fatty acids) are important to the immune system as well. When choosing foods, make sure you focus on fruits and vegetables because they contain nutrients your body needs like antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, and minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
Many foods have immune supporting properties. Try to include some of these in your diet:
- Mushrooms (shiitake, matsutake, reishi, and others) have a long history of helping support the immune system. Modern science has shown that mushrooms contain substances (such as beta-glucans) that can enhance immune system function.
- Garlic and onions not only taste great, but research suggests they have the ability to help modulate immune function.
- Herbs such as turmeric, ginger, and others have long been used as spices and to preserve foods; these herbs also have benefits for our immune system.
A good multivitamin is always a great place to start because filling nutrient gaps in your diet can help keep your immune system strong. Vitamins B6, B12, folate, C, E, and minerals zinc, copper, and iron all support a healthy immune response.
After a multivitamin, you may want to consider adding in some support with the following:
- Beneficial bacteria: Since 70 percent of your immune system is located around your digestive tract, it makes sense that having good gut flora would benefit the immune system. Research supports a relationship between pre- and probiotics and good immunity.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D has been the focus of much research on optimal immune system function. Vitamin D plays a role in the improving mucous membrane barrier functioning, the production of antimicrobial peptides (small proteins), and overall immune support.
- Vitamin C: While there has been some controversy regarding the usefulness of vitamin C, a recent review of evidence suggests vitamin C may help the immune systems of people who are exposed to extreme physical stress.
- Herbs: There are a number of herbs that have been used traditionally for immune system support. Research indicates there are immune modulating properties of Echinacea, larch, elderberry, and others.