Is your immune system really protecting you?
Our immune system is pretty amazing, it helps to protect our body from unwanted bacteria, pathogens and viruses on a daily basis in order to keep us healthy.
How does the immune system really work?
Your immune system works in two very important ways. Our innate system is our first line of defence from the outside world. When we are exposed to pathogens this system switches on. It signals the release of histamine which helps to kill off bacteria, while also helping to increasing the flow of white blood cells to areas of the body that are under invasion. The pathogens are found by the immune system, proteins then help the body break things down, macrophages come in to gobble up the pathogen and remove it from the body.
Think of it like PAC man trying to catch the bad guys and then gobbling them up.
Our adaptive immune system has specialised cells called B-cells and T-cells that can store information and remember it. They can then attack an invader over and over because they recognise it when it enters the body, think of them like a police force protecting you from the bad guys. When things get a bit more complicated is when this system starts to attack the cells of the body because it doesn't recognise the difference. This is know as an autoimmune response - body attacking itself (rheumatoid arthritis, hashimotos, psoriasis, eczema, MS).
This is when things become a bit more complicated, but very important because if our body is in this state then our immune system is over reactive and less able to protect us.
Why? Because 80% of our immune system can be found in the gut which can be influenced by all of these factors. If we continually expose it to these lifestyle choices, then the lining of the gut goes out of balance (dysbiosis) and can then lead to leaky gut (or a permeable gut lining). This means that our immune system becomes over reactive and less able to protect us when we need it to.
With the growing concern of viruses it's evident that we need to take some important steps to protect ourselves and that means giving our body and our immune system what it needs to function well.
So what can we do to protect ourselves?
Important nutrients to consume daily that help support your immune system and digestive health:
Vitamin C - Is required for our immune system to function well, it supports a number of different cellular functions involved in our bodies defence system. Low levels impair the immune system and make us more susceptible to infections.
Great sources include: strawberries, kiwi, citrus, lemons, limes, red and green peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, ginger
Vitamin D - Since this hormone (not a vitamin) is so important to our immune system we need to make sure we get enough of it all year round. The best source is THE SUN, which 6 months out of the year we don't get enough of. So supplementing with D3 is advisable for most people along with K2. You can get your levels checked to see where you are at.
Vitamin E - Aids in the adaptive immune system helping the T cells to identify threats as well as being a very strong antioxidant that protects our cells from free radical damage.
Great sources include: Avocado, sunflower seeds, squash, spinach, kiwi, almonds
Vitamin A - Has an anti inflammatory effect on the body which enhances the immune systems function. Also needed for tissue integrity and repair throughout the body.
Great sources include: Beta carotene (pro vitamin A) found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, green leafy veggies, broccoli, organic eggs
Zinc - Helps to heal the gut lining and help to keep the junctions tight, it is also important for the immune system
Great sources include: Chickpeas, Lentils, seeds and nuts (not peanuts they are legumes), grass fed meats, shellfish and organic eggs, turmeric which also has anti inflammatory benefits
Selenium - another mineral that is essential for the immune system to function well and helps to support the gut
Great sources include: Brazil nuts, grass fed meats, leafy greens, wheatgrass
Eating a variety of these anti viral vitamins and minerals found in your food along with plenty of other bright coloured vegetables and fruits, will ensure your immune system is working well and helping to protect you from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.
Debbie Vanderboom is a Nutritional Advisor, Natural Juice Therapist and foodie who loves using fresh, wholesome food to nourish the body. Educating her clients on the importance of choosing healthy foods on a daily basis is her focus. She provides her clients with recipes, resources and meal plans to help develop healthy eating habits for life.