As strong as our immune system can be, it can also be extremely weak and exposed under certain circumstances. The body has a way of managing its immune system, but there are other factors that can impact its effectiveness. Immune health is extremely important for a number of reasons, and it acts as a barrier to many things that can harm us in the short and long term. Throughout this article, you'll learn why our immunity is so crucial and how nutrients play a role in its functionality.
The Importance of our Body’s Immune System
When talking about our immune health, there are two main parts that make up how it operates. There's the innate immune system which is what we're born with, and the adaptive immune system, which is developed over time through environmental conditions such as being exposed to microbes. When a foreign virus invades our immune system, it can take a significant toll on the body. However, there's a special benefit that comes from this initial interaction.
Once your immune system has encountered the virus once, it then creates antibodies to help defend against it if you encounter it in the future. This is part of how you build immune health, allowing the system to become stronger and more resilient over time. When our bodies encounter foreign pathogens, it has multiple barriers to help keep them out. From the outer layer of our skin down to our stomach acid, the body does its best to ward off potential viruses.
A lot of this is pretty autonomous, but there are certain diet choices you can make to help boost the strength and reliability of your immune health. Sometimes, your immune system and the body’s natural barriers aren’t strong enough to defend itself against certain pathogens, and it may need a little help to do so.
There are a variety of factors that can negatively affect your immune health, some being more detrimental than others. Some of these include aging, environmental toxins, poor diet choices, chronic stress, chronic diseases, and more. Aside from prescription or over-the-counter medicine, your best bet to aid your immune system is with the help of proper nutrition in your diet.
How to Support Your Immunity
Strengthening an immune system is a little more complex than just eating clean, healthy foods. There are specific dietary choices that are known to boost your immune response and maintain it as you age. Every step the body takes during an immune response utilizes many different micronutrients. Some of these include vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, iron, protein, and selenium. Thankfully, each of these is a part of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and animal products.
Ensuring your immunity is operating at its best requires consistently incorporating these micronutrients into your diet. Although the immune system can be pretty strong, it doesn't take too much to weaken it. There is also a wide range of dietary choices that can have an adverse effect on your immune system, leaving your body more exposed to outside pathogens and potential illnesses.
Moreover, our bodies contain a microbiome that consists of trillions of microorganisms that play an important role in the functionality of our immune system. A majority of these microorganisms live in our gut, which is a major aspect of our immune system as well. So, the foods that reach your gut can have a positive or negative effect on its microbiome, thus affecting and influencing the strength and functionality of your immune health.
Regarding your nutrition, you can’t go wrong with a fiber-rich diet that also includes a mix of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. These alone can do wonders for your immune health in the long run. It’s also known that probiotic and prebiotic foods can aid immune health as they offer a blend of fiber and live bacteria that are great for the gut. In addition to the overall nutrition in your diet, many people also supplement their immunity with the help of vitamins and even herbal supplements.
Can Vitamins and Herbal Supplements Boost Immune Health?
In our modern era, many people are deficient in individual nutrients that are essential for their overall health. From vitamins A, C, D, and E to iron, zinc, and copper, it isn't too hard to find supplements for these in department stores. There's a reason these exist, as many people don't have balanced diets, especially in Western cultures. As fast food and cheap, mass-processed foods have taken hold of many people's nutrition, their immune health is bound to suffer from it.
Thankfully, this can be mitigated or fixed in a number of ways. Of course, the best solution is to refine the nutritional value of your diet, but this can be a lengthy process. Although that may be a fact, it shouldn’t deter you from doing so. Supplemental vitamins and minerals can be quite helpful though, as they can help to boost your immune health while you get your diet back on track.
Vitamin or herbal supplements aren't meant to be a replacement for a healthy diet, as supplement is the keyword here. Some people don't take supplements at all and are entirely healthy, but many tend to have at least one vitamin deficiency. Supplements can be helpful in that regard, but if that's your particular case, you should use that information to help craft a diet that includes what your body lacks.
All of the different vitamins and minerals mentioned in this article work as antioxidants to protect healthy cells in your body. They also support the growth and activity of your immune cells and the production of much-needed antibodies to combat foreign pathogens. From another angle, immune health isn't universal when you take different age groups into account.
Maintaining Immune Health as You Age
Research has shown that our immune health tends to decline naturally as we age. This is primarily due to the fact that the quality and number of our immune cells decrease. Unfortunately, this means that when we get older, we are more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, as our immune system doesn't work as well as it used to.
Once again, with the help of proper nutrition and supplementation, you still have the ability to strengthen your immune health and promote the development of immune cells. Various vitamins and minerals are usually the go-to choices for many people as they're more widely understood. If you prefer to take the herbal route, you have a few options to choose from.
Some effective herbal supplements include:
- Tea catechins
These are just a few herbal solutions that are known to work, and regardless of your age, you can always implement them into your nutritional regimen. Outside of your dietary choices, you can make different lifestyle choices that can help keep your immune health in good standing.
Beneficial lifestyle choices to take into consideration:
- Only drink alcohol in moderation
- Minimize smoking or stop altogether
- Be consistent with a balanced diet
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Take multivitamins on a consistent schedule
- Sleep at least 8 hours per night
Your immune system is bound to be compromised at various points throughout your life, but there's a lot you can do to make it as strong as possible as you age. Sometimes, certain pathogens will still find their way in regardless of how strong your immune health may be. The best you can do are the steps mentioned throughout this article and utilize them on a consistent schedule.
Key Points for Keeping a Strong Immune Response
Aside from the various individual factors that play a part in each person’s immune response, there are some that should be given more attention than others. If you want to ensure your immune response stays in optimal shape, your body fat level, stress, medications, genetics, vaccinations, and nutrient intake all have a part in your immunity.
This is easier to maintain for some people, whereas others can be significantly compromised based on genetic or lifestyle factors. However, these various aspects of your immunity shouldn't get in the way of refining your diet and its nutritional value. You can expect your body to undergo quite a few changes as you age, but if you keep up with a healthy diet, you'll be prepared for these changes along the way.
As you grow older, you should also expect to make adjustments to your diet, as your body's nutritional needs will change as well. The world is full of foreign pathogens that can be quite diverse depending on environmental conditions, and your body will constantly be at work to protect you inside and out. From keeping your gut microbiota in check to feeding your body the vitamins and minerals it needs, your body requires this support so it can protect you day in and day out.
Nutrients are an essential component of your immune health, and the various foods, vitamins, and minerals associated with them can be pretty vast. It's common to make adjustments to your lifestyle to benefit your immune health, but your body will thank you.
This article offered a comprehensive look at what’s required to maintain and improve your body’s immunity so you can remain healthy as you age.