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Nutrition & The Immune System

The immune system has an essential role in the body; it fights foreign, harmful microbes and any disease-sourcing changes in the body.

By

Jennifer Maeng, MS, RD, CDN, LD, CNSC

Jun 24, 2022

The immune system has an essential role in the body; it fights foreign, harmful microbes and any disease-sourcing changes in the body. It also detects and counteracts toxic substances from the outside environment. The immune system is made up of several cells, proteins, tissues and organs. Specifically, white blood cells, antibodies, bone marrow, the lymphatic system and more. There are several things you can do to care for your immune system; one being, eating a healthy diet. Eating a good, balanced diet is crucial because it provides the body with all the essential nutrients it needs to function, thus allowing the immune system and its counterparts to perform optimally. The immune system relies on nutrients such as vitamins and antioxidants from the diet, to operate effectively. Studies have found that even deficiencies in single nutrients have inhibitory effects on the immune system.

Every nutrient contributes to the functioning of the immune system. However, some nutrients are more important for immune function than others. Vitamin C is the best known nutrient for the immune system. It supports both innate and adaptive immune cell function and helps to kill harmful microbes. Oranges and bell peppers are two great sources of vitamin C that you can easily incorporate into your diet. Another vitamin that is crucial for immune function is vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to regulate innate and adaptive immune responses. Additionally, vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to higher occurrences of infection compared to those with good vitamin D levels. Good sources of vitamin D include salmon and egg yolks. 

One mineral that is crucial for immune function is zinc. Zinc is needed for innate immunity cells, natural killer (“NK”) cells and white blood cells to properly grow and function. Additionally, zinc deficiencies have been found to interfere with the development and functioning of T and B cells which are crucial for immune function. Red meat and legumes are good sources of zinc. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid vital for immune function. NAC has been found to suppress the replication of viruses, thus aiding the immune system. Cruciferous vegetables and lean proteins are good sources of NAC. Finally, Quercetin is an antioxidant that has been found to have anti-allergy agents which can prevent and relieve allergy symptoms. Quercetin occurs naturally in berries, grapes and some herbs, such as dill.

While nutrition is important, it is not the only component that can help foster a healthy immune system. Managing stress and getting enough sleep are also very important. Stress suppresses the immune system. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol. Which, when released, reduces inflammation which is necessary to activate immune cells.However, when cortisol levels are high for an extended period of time, it causes excess inflammation. Additionally, cortisol hinders the activity of white blood cells which are what detect microbes in the body and initiate immune attacks.Measures you can take to help manage your stress include meditation, regular exercise and avoiding excessive use of alcohol or other substances. Getting enough sleep every night is also very important for a healthy immune system. A clinical research study has shown that sleep deprivation is associated with lower NK cell activity. NK cells are particularly important for killing tumour cells. However, sleep deprivation has been associated with a higher risk of a variety of other infections and a decrease in antibody production.

Some people choose to supplement some nutrients to ensure they are meeting their body’s needs. That being said, it is possible to consume a diet rich in all nutrients to fuel your body and immune system. However, if you find yourself wanting to supplement nutrients for optimal immune health, Twinlab’s Daily Immune Support supplement is a good choice. The supplement was carefully formulated and contains vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, beta glucagon echinacea and NAC to help boost the immune and respiratory system.

Click here to shop our Daily Immune Support Caps.


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