Can Your Nutrition Impact Your Immune Health?

No one likes to be sick. Whether it’s a headache, fever, sore throat, or vomiting, one accidental exposure to the wrong pathogen could take you out of commission for days, weeks, or even longer. When we’re ill, most of us will try anything, and pay top dollar, to feel better, whether it’s sipping herbal teas, taking immunity shots, or a secret family soup recipe. But how does the food we eat truly impact our immune health?

Long story short? There is no one specific nutrient or food that will act as a miracle cure when you’re sick. Even still, good nutrition does play a role in your overall immune health. A balanced diet full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy portions, combined with healthy lifestyle decisions, can improve your overall immune health. Think about it this way: food gives our body the fuel it needs to function normally. Take away a healthy, nutritious diet and you’re sure to encounter immune difficulty because your body won’t have the energy it needs to fight off infection and other ailments.

How Does the Immune System Work?

Our immune system acts as the body’s first line of defense against all sorts of harmful foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. This intricate system, comprised of a complex network of organs, white blood cells, chemicals, and proteins, keeps germs out of the body, destroys dangerous threats that enter our system, minimizes the damage of harmful pathogens and other invaders, promotes healing from damage those invaders have already inflicted, and bolsters the body’s defense against future foreign invaders. Similar to a home security system, when operating effectively, it will promptly alert your body when intruders come knocking, and assist in identifying and eliminating those foreign intruders.

A weak immune system will leave your body vulnerable to many kinds of infections. Since our immune systems are so complex, strengthening them often involves time to build up immunity. Additionally, our immune systems aren’t all created equally. Some of us naturally have a better immune response than others. Certain medications, immune system disorders, and diseases can also play a role in your immune response.

What Should We Eat to Support Our Immune System?

The same diet that can help your immune system function at its best will also promote your overall health. Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins like chicken and fish, and whole grains. You’ll also want to be sure you are getting enough nutrients. This can be achieved by eating three balanced meals a day. Try not to snack in between. Find healthy portions of your favorite foods and try to limit your consumption of processed foods. It all comes down to balance.

“A diet lacking in proper nutrition can definitely impair your production of immune cells and their activity,” says Gale Pearson, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Newport News, VA.

There are no superfoods that will help fight off bacteria, but there are nutrients that can assist immune cells. Vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin A, and vitamin E will all help your immune system. These vitamins can be found in a diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. While a cup of chicken soup or a medicine ball tea may provide relief from a sore throat or roiling stomach, there’s not much they can do beyond providing energy or some nutrients.

If you’re looking to improve any part of your health, not just your immune health, start by speaking to one of our registered dietitians in Newport News and Williamsburg, VA. These trained professionals will be able to identify areas in your diet that need improvement, teach you strategies to plan healthy meals ahead, and provide education on what foods can give you the nutrients your body needs to function normally.

What Else Can We Do to Boost Our Immune System?

To boost your immune health, you need to do more than simply eat better. There is no magic bullet that can cure your system of a cold or other infection. The key to avoiding and fighting off illness lies in living a healthy lifestyle. Here are some other general lifestyle tips that will help keep your immune system functioning normally.

  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Adding physical activity to your daily routine
  • Managing your stress levels
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Avoid smoking or the use of other tobacco products
  • Staying up-to-date on flu shots and other recommended vaccines

Even if we take proactive measures to boost our immune health, anyone can fall ill given the right circumstances. If you do fall ill, don’t despair. Maintain your healthy lifestyle habits as best you can and don’t hesitate to reach out to a primary care provider, if needed. Nobody enjoys being sick, so begin strengthening your immune system today to prevent future illness.

Gale Pearson

About Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES

Gale Pearson, MS, RDN, CDCES is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 25 years of experience working with patients on dietary and nutrition wellness planning. Gale received her undergraduate degree from Hampton University and her Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Howard University.

With extensive experience in nutrition counseling, Gale works with her patients to develop strategies to improve their eating habits and lifestyles, in turn helping them to manage their weight and medical conditions. She credits witnessing her patients’ symptoms and overall health improvement as a result of the lifestyle changes as one of the most gratifying and rewarding aspects of her career.

At TPMG Nutrition Services in Newport News and Williamsburg, Gale provides one-on-one consultations, nutrition and weight management counseling, and diabetes education.

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