How to strengthen the immune system with nutrition

Elena Casiraghi, Ph.D. - Equipe Enervit
Our most powerful defense against viruses is a good immune system which must be trained to protect our health. Boosting it therefore very important, now more then ever. How to do it? Firstly, it is essential to adopt good hygiene practices like carefully washing your hands more often, breathing mainly through your nose or sneezing inside a disposable handkerchief or inside the elbow crease.

Secondly, training, nutrition and enough sleep at night can positively influence the effectiveness of our immune system.

How? Let's find out together.

Exercise strengthens the immune system

How we train influences our immune system. Physical activity makes us stronger by optimizing efficiency of our defenses and providing the right tools to recover more quickly. All this, provided that the training is measured at our level of experience and level of training and that the recoveries between sessions are adequate to restore energy levels.

With an adequate dose of movement and appropriate, sometimes forced, recoveries you can achieve the training stimuli which affects also the immune system.

The problem arises when the activity is no longer calibrated i.e. too intense training stimuli and inadequate recovery. The widespread belief is that training is only effective if it allows you to reach a state of fatigue, however this couldn’t be more wrong. Not only this behaviour lowers the immune system, but also it doesn’t allow an increase in performance.

Avoid stress

One of the founding elements of the Wellness lifestyle is stress management. It is necessary to pay attention to the increase of cortisol, the stress hormone. If synthesized beyond certain levels, it reduces the efficiency of the immune system. From a nutritional point of view, therefore, we must pay attention to avoid strict low-calorie diets and guarantee our body a suitable amount of hours of sleep, to promote optimal rest, as well as physical and mental regeneration.

The Wellness lifestyle is the synergy between three complementary elements that determine our energy level and influence our immune system: the mental approach, at the base of the Wellness Lifestyle Pyramid, nutrition and movement on the sides. Taking care of socio-affective relationships, cultivating constructive passions and hobbies, being positive and motivated and facing daily challenges are the prerequisites for a healthy living.

Nutrition as a preventive factor and allied foods

Nutrition is definitely a preventative factor and choosing allied foods to strengthen our immune system is a good practice that can be easily adopted. Strengthening it begins in our intestines which, not surprisingly, has long been called our second brain. It is the set of bacteria that inhabit it that influences our physical and mental health. The defense against aggression from the external environment, as well as from situations of anxiety and depression, depends on the microbiota, i.e. the balance between good and bad bacteria that inhabit the intestine.

Consequently, what we eat, like our diet, has a decisive role in promoting our state of well-being. It is easy to say to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.

What are the foods that are friendly to the intestine and therefore to the immune system?

Foods that are friendly to the immune system

Foods rich in polyphenols, micro substances with macro anti-inflammatory quality, antioxidant and antibacterial properties are all very useful to the immune system. We find them in foods such as spices (for example turmeric or curry are rich in them), cocoa beans, coffee beans, in the skin and seeds of fruits and vegetables. Foods grown in greenhouses are poor in polyphenols because they did not need to defend themselves against the aggressions of the external environment. It is when UV rays, wind, rain, sudden climate changes, pathogens coming from the soil, herbivorous animals attack the plants that they give the best of themselves by strengthening their defensive system, i.e. developing a high concentration of polyphenols.

There is more. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in dietary fibers which, once metabolised, produce short chain of fatty acids (SCFA) in the intestine. The latter via the intestinal receptors send signals to the first brain (to the central nervous system) in order to modulate the energy balance and suppress pro-inflammatory signals. Some of these fibres have an immunostimulant effect on immune cells. This is the case of apple peel, pear, apricot, plum, grapefruit seed and this benefit can also be obtained from the consumption of mushrooms.

Finally, there is the long chain omega-3 fatty acids, i.e. those mainly present in marine sources such as fish oil and algae. They have a positive impact on the immune system, increasing the anti-inflammatory activity of the cells and enhancing their ability to fix. A balanced dietary style, in fact, can contain the development of inflammations, the so-called silent one. The daily supplementation of this type of fatty acids favours the development of substances called resolvins which help in fighting inflammation. The great benefit is achieved when these fatty acids are taken constantly and for long periods. In fact, this is the only way they can train cells to develop resolvins.

When choosing fish oil rich in omega 3, pay attention to certifications. Prefer the one that have IFOS certification and no return of taste. This to reduce the risk of unpleasant flavours, but also to allow the fish oil to be released from the capsule only in the intestine, allowing optimal absorption of the omega 3. If the fish oil contains EPA and DHA (the two fatty acids that make it up) in a 2:1 ratio is also good. Last but not least, it is also important if they are certified by authoritative bodies such as Orivo and Friend of the Sea.

/related post

Post-workout dishes: how to replenish and what to eat

After every workout, our body needs to properly recover the energy used, regardless of the type of a...