Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 21 April 2020
Now, more than ever, is the time to have the strongest immune system you can possibly have. And the nutrients we need for a strong immune system come from healthy, whole, unprocessed foods.
Did you know that one tablespoon of sugar (or 15 grams) will depress your immune system for twenty minutes?
Did you know that your beloved low-fat vanilla yogurt has 33 grams of sugar per cup?
Your “healthy snack” Cliff bar has 22 grams of sugar per bar?
Your doughnut alternative, a Tim Horton’s bran muffin, has 37 grams of sugar per muffin?
You need the right information to make good decisions about your health.
That is why this year’s spring 10 Day Healthy Body, Healthy Detox is going to have an immune focus. If you are subscribed to my newsletter look for your invitation later this month.
In preparation for this detox I would like to highlight a few key nutrients for your immune system, and the foods that you can find them in. These nutrients, along with sufficient sleep and stress management, will help you create a strong immune system now and forever.
All the recipes in this spring’s detox will be focused on increasing these nutrients in your diet.
Let’s dive in!
Vitamin C is known to help reduce common cold symptoms. It can shorten the duration of cold symptoms, as well as the severity of those symptoms. Vitamin C supports various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C accumulates in phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils, and can enhance chemotaxis, phagocytosis, generation of reactive oxygen species, and ultimately microbial killing. Supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. Higher doses of Vitamin C during an illness can also act as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. Vitamin C can be found in many fresh fruits and vegetables, including red peppers, broccoli and spinach, to name a few.
Zinc is another major player in building up our immune system and foods are often overlooked as a great place to find zinc. It is essential for many cellular functions, including our white blood cells, especially in times of stress. There is also evidence that it suppresses viral attachment and replication. Oysters are a well-known source of zinc, as is red meat. If you’re looking for plant-based sources, chickpeas and almonds are also a great source.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, and for good reason! The sun is the best way to get vitamin D. Throughout the winter months, and due to social distancing right now, you may be spending less and less time outside, so it’s best to find ways to increase vitamin D through food. Vitamin D is an immune system modulator that reduces the expression of inflammatory cytokines and increases macrophage function. Vitamin D also stimulates the expression of potent antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which exist in neutrophils, monocytes, natural killer cells, and epithelial cells of the respiratory tract. Insufficient vitamin D is linked to impaired immune function. Foods that are a great source of vitamin D are liver, mushrooms, egg yolks and fatty fish.
Garlic is often a vegetable that goes unnoticed when it comes to building up immune response. It’s one of the oldest remedies across many different cultures to help the immune system. It contains many different compounds that can influence immunity. Studies have shown that both fresh garlic as well as aged garlic extract may reduce viral upper respiratory infection severity as well as function in the prevention of infection with viruses that can cause colds. And there are so many different ways to use it in recipes!
By now, we all know the positive effects that probiotics can have on our gut function, but they can also help our immune response. In fact, specific probiotic strains help reduce upper respiratory tract infections in the elderly.
Now I would love to hear from you! What is your favourite immune boosting food? Leave a comment below and I’ll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!
This post is only intended to identify modalities that may help your immune system, not coronavirus specifically. It is not meant to recommend any treatments, nor have any of these modalities been proven effective against coronavirus. Always consult your physician or healthcare provider prior to using any of these modalities.
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3 Replies to “The best defense against ANY virus is a healthy immune system”
Excellent article – especially on sugar!
Thank you for those interesting articles. I usually get frustrated with these articles because I am constantly being told to watch my intake of foods containing virus C; phosphorus; calcium, potassium & metals such as zinc. In fact I don’t know what to eat or drink anymore. The treatment 4 my disease is to suppress the immune system
Thanks for your comment Andy. The great thing about nutrients is that they are beneficial to the immune system regardless if your immune system is under-reacting OR over-reacting. For a personalized recommendation please check with your Naturopathic Doctor.