With seasonal viruses and COVID-19 lurking, we have all wondered if and how we could strengthen our immune system…
The truth is that the proper regulation of the immune system and not its "strengthening" - as no one wants an overstimulated immune system - can be achieved through changes in diet and lifestyle. It should be noted here that these changes will not have much effect, if they are occasional, precisely because a healthy immune system is "built" over time.
Specifically, some of the habits, which seem to help in better and more effective immunoregulation, are the folowing
1. More foods with less processing
Food, such as fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, shoulders nuts and seeds, as well as raw cereals and legumes should be the basis of every meal, as they are a source of many essential immunomodulatory components. For example, the famous vitamin C, that offer, can not only prevent the common cold, but also to reduce its duration. Along with other antioxidants, which are also present in these foods, help reduce chronic inflammation, contributing, so, in proper immune function.
In addition, fiber, which they contain, are "food" for the "good" bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract, reinforcing, so, the balance of intestinal flora, which in turn is strongly associated with a healthy immune system and an even stronger gastrointestinal barrier against the common pathogens responsible for gastroenteritis.
2. More "fermented" foods
An extra step to improve the intestinal flora is the daily consumption of food, which contain probiotics. Such foods, which are often included in most Greek households, is yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut etc..
3. We say "yes" to "good" fats
The "good" fats, such as, for example, those found in extra virgin olive oil and oily fish e.g.. salmon, can enhance the body's immune response to pathogens.
4. We say "no" to added sugars (secretly and openly)
Increased consumption of simple sugars on the one hand negatively affects the function of the immune system, on the other hand can lead to obesity, which, also, associated with immune dysfunction. A good goal is to have a simple sugar intake that does not exceed that 5% of daily calories, which for most adults translates to 2 tablespoons sugar daily.
5. Another "yes" for "movement" in life
Although prolonged intense exercise can suppress the immune system, moderate-intensity exercise can give him a boost. Moderate-intensity exercise is considered walking or cycling. For the most, The goal of 150 'moderate-intensity exercise per week is a good first step.
6. More effective stress management
Long-term stress promotes inflammation and imbalances in the function of immune cells. The activities, that can help control it, include: meditation, excercise, yoga, diary keeping and other stress management techniques.
7. Sufficient, but also quality sleep
Inadequate or poor quality sleep is associated with a higher susceptibility to infections, while also a few extra hours of sleep during illness can allow the immune system to fight colds faster. Adults should aim for at least 7 hours of night sleep, teens need 8-10 hours, while younger children and infants up to 14 hours of sleep.
8. Prudent and consistent supplementation
It is very easy to turn to shooting (of many) supplements, to help his immune system, especially today, that we are bombarded by such allegations. Unfortunately, according to international health organizations, These allegations are often unfounded and untrue.
In addition, supplements are prone to mislabeling, because they are not regulated by the FDA. However, when the diet can not "balance", resulting in reduced intake or increased needs, or when there are shortages, which are evaluated by the treating physician or by the dietitian-nutritionist, after analysis of the usual diet, The following supplements may help the body's overall immune response:
- Vitamin C. According to the review the download 1.000-2.000 mg of vitamin C daily can reduce the duration of the common cold. However, this reduction seems to be only against 8% in adults and 14% to the children, while supplementation did not prevent the common cold from starting.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can increase the chances of infections. However, receiving it, when the levels are sufficient, does not seem to provide additional benefits.
- Zinc. In a review of patients with the common cold, the completion with 75 mg of zinc / day appears to reduce the duration of colds by 33%.
- Echinacea. Studies show that, those who receive echinacea, recover from the cold slightly faster, but the difference was insignificant. In addition, Echinacea is contraindicated in people with autoimmune diseases.
- Garlic. We often hear about garlic medicines to prevent and fight viruses. Study has shown that garlic supplementation appears to reduce the incidence of colds by approximately 30%. Clearly, more research is needed.
9. And more importantly: Adequate protein and energy consumption
Frequent "diets" and reduced protein intake can damage the immune system. A diet "individually" balanced, which is adequate in all the necessary nutrients, as well as in energy (calories), is the cornerstone of boosting immunoregulation. No supplements, habit or food can not act protectively, if the above condition is not met.
Sunday Strike Dietitian Nutritionist, MSc (Med.Sci), PhDc