Your immune system works around the clock to keep you healthy and to support recovery when illnesses strike, but it can't succeed on its own. The immune system requires key nutrients to build protective antibodies, proteins and enzymes to keep your immune system functioning.
According to nutritional immunologists, the best way to get these key nutrients is from immune-supporting foods as part of a balanced diet. But what nutrients does your immune system need most? And how do they help you stay healthy? First things first, let's dive into the science of nutrition and its role in the immune system.
What Is the Immune Response?
The immune response is the body's ability to spot and defend against antigens. Think of antigens as outside invaders that can make you ill, such as bacteria, and viruses. Because this is such a big job, your immune system consists of two different parts.
The first, known as the innate immune system is what you are born with.It is charged with fighting antigens as soon as they make their way into your body. Its counterpart, the acquired immune system, remembers those intruders and shuts them down the next time they infiltrate your body.
The acquired immune system does this through the production of antibodies by B lymphocytes. Once B lymphocytes capture familiar antigens, immune cells quickly step in to counteract them.
How Does the Immune System Function?
While some of our body's systems are associated with a single organ or tissue, like the cardiovascular system with the heart and the skeletal system with the bones, the immune system is unique. The immune response is so multifaceted that it requires the help of many different kinds of cells, tissues and organs throughout the body.
Most immunity starts in the gut, where 70% of the immune system is housed. The nourishment we receive as babies is essential to developing our immune system into adulthood. This comes from getting a variety of immune-supporting components from breast milk, like human milk oligosaccharides, nucleotides, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory factors.
Nothing can replace breast milk, but for moms who cannot or choose not to breastfeed, or those who need to supplement, an infant formula with 2'-FL HMO like Similac helps support a baby’s developing immune system.
This is how the body plays a role in supporting the immune system:
What key nutrients will help support the immune system?
Even with a well-developed immune system, there are still steps you can take to help keep it strong. Hydration is critical to maintaining mucus membranes, which aid in the trapping of bacteria and viruses and assists with their release via coughing and sneezing.
Consuming a variety of essential nutrients helps promote good health and supports the immune system. But eating for immune health doesn't have to be complicated. These nutrients are found in a wide variety of immune-supporting foods, which you can even mix and match for delicious, nutritious meals. Some of these immune supporting nutrients include:
Eating a balanced diet can provide your body with immune-supporting nutrients. But sometimes it can be challenging to get all the nutrients you need from food alone. Including a nutrition shake like Ensure® or Glucerna® can help you fill nutrient gaps in your eating plan. These nutrition shakes help provide key nutrients to support the immune system.
However, you'll want to sit down with your doctor before making any major shifts to your diet. They can provide guidance on the best ways to meet your individualized nutritional needs, including how to support your immune system through good nutrition.
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How to Build Your Best Plate To Support Immune Health
Remember, when you were told, “you are what you eat?” Even though you may think that is a silly saying, it rings true. Every bite, every choice, builds every ounce of our being. By choosing nutrient dense and functional foods to fill your plate, you can build your best self and support immune health. Now is the time to choose for the better and give your body the tools it needs. Hint: The color of your plate plays a considerable role. Watch this video from Pam Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, to understand which foods to look for to support a healthy immune system and start building the best plate possible.