For a well-functioning immune system, proper nutrition, the right amount of sleep, combating stress, and daily movement are all vital. So let’s start with the nutrition side of things. It’s important to reach for foods high in antioxidants and nutrients and low in sugars and processed ingredients.
But there are certain nutrients that play a pivotal role in immune function. So let’s take a look at a few of them and see how we can make the most of the grocery store to help balance the immune system.
vitamins, minerals, and immune balancing foods
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps promote and regulate the innate immune system and adaptive immunity. It can therefore enhance an organism’s immune function and provide an enhanced defense against multiple infectious diseases ( 2 ).
- Oily fish (salmon, cod liver oil), liver, cheese, butter, and goat cheese are all great sources of Vitamin A.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress. Vitamin C accumulates in phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils, and can enhance chemotaxis, phagocytosis, generation of reactive oxygen species, and ultimately microbial killing. ( 6 )
- Citrus fruits, red bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, kiwi, broccoli, brussels sprouts are all packed with Vitamin C.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. In fact, a deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection ( 3 ).
- Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon), beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks all have ample amounts of vitamin D.
- Vitamin E: In vitamin E deficiency, there is increased infectious diseases and the incidence of tumors. In contrast, vitamin E supplementation has various beneficial effects on the host immune system ( 7 ).
- Reach for almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli for Vitamin E sources.
- Zinc: In one study, in comparison to younger adults, elderly subjects had lower plasma zinc, increased oxidative markers, and increased generation of inflammatory cytokines. This demonstrated that zinc supports immunity and can help prevent disease ( 11 ).
- Oysters are an excellent source of zinc, along with red meat, poultry, chickpeas, cashews, almonds.
- Copper: In cases of copper deficiency, neutrophils (white blood cells that are markers of adequate immune response) are reduced not only in number but their ability to kill ingested microorganisms ( 12 ).
- Spirulina, shiitake mushrooms, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and dark chocolate have got you covered in the copper department.
- Selenium: Selenium is a potent nutritional antioxidant that carries out biological effects through its incorporation into selenoproteins. Selenoproteins play a crucial role in regulating reactive oxygen species (ROS), and so Selenium strongly influences inflammation and immune responses ( 13 ).
- Reach for garlic, broccoli, sardines, tuna, and brazil nuts for Selenium sources.
- Garlic: Garlic enhances the functioning of the immune system by stimulating certain immune cell types (macrophages, lymphocytes, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, and eosinophils) ( 4 ).
- Try cooking with a little extra garlic to take advantage of these benefits!
- Ginger: Ginger can treat a wide range of diseases via immunonutrition and anti-inflammatory responses ( 5).
- Turmeric: Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a potent immunomodulatory agent that can modulate the activation of many immune cells (T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells). Curcumin can also downregulate the expression of various proinflammatory cytokines ( 8 ).
- Fermented foods to support gut health: Research has demonstrated that both humans and great apes have cellular receptors that detect the metabolites of the lactic acid bacteria found in fermented foods, triggering the mobilization of immune cells ( 9 ).
- Kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables are sources containing this lactic acid.
- Bone broth: The ingredients in bone broth are greatly beneficial to proper gut health functioning. Gut health = immune health( 10 ).
- Try sipping on its own or incorporating into a soup recipe!
Immune System Friendly Grocery List
- Brussels sprouts
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Goat cheese
- Grass fed ground beef
- Organic, pasture raised chicken
- Canned salmon
- Cod liver oil
- Brazil nuts
- Dark chocolate
- Bone broth
And now onto a little movement
I wanted to focus on just a few poses that get us out of that sticky, slouchy posture and open up the chest and heart. I can only speak for myself, but my heart is hurting during this time. So focusing on poses that open up the front body have been both physically and emotionally helpful.
While movement can be challenging lately right now, it doesn’t need to be some big, grand gesture. Even just simple stretching can help clear both physical and emotional stickiness, especially on days that feel heavier than the other. Try some of the poses below as a mid-day movement break.
As always, I lean on my trusty Withings Steel HR to track my sleep, movement, and heart rate. I get helpful tips throughout the day on the Health Mate app to help me maintain my health while being at home. You can use the code KATIE for 20% off full price products (code valid until December 31, 2020)!
Heart opener yoga poses
Fish pose: on blocks
Place one block at the highest height under your head, and one at medium height underneath the shoulder blades. Press the soles of the feet together, one hand on the stomach, and one on the heart.
Puppy on a chair
Start in table top on hands and knees. Keeping knees directly under hips, place hands on a chair in front of you. Wrap the biceps in, and relax the kneck.
Childs pose with blocks under elbows, elbows bent
Start in childs pose, and place blocks on lowest height, shoulder distance apart in front of you. Place elbows on blocks and lower hips back down to childs pose. Bend elbows and reach arms into prayer pose, or with hands extended back towards the neck.
Hope everyone’s doing okay and hanging in there! Thank you Withings for sponsoring this post, and allowing me to discuss topics relevant to our current times.
Additional source: http://www.ifrj.upm.edu.my/23%20(02)%202016/(3).pdf