Did you know that a little bit of excess sugar in your bloodstream can shut down your immune function for up to 4 hours at a time? The food you eat makes a difference in your ability to fight off infections! Here are some key nutrient categories that you need in your diet to make sure you’re functioning at optimal level.
- Protein: Proteins are made of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for just about every part of your body, including antibodies. (If you lack the bricks, you’re not gonna have much of a building.) Whole food protein sources (as opposed to processed crap sources) include grass-fed meat, soy (non-GMO of course), dairy, quinoa, beans, eggs, fish, nuts, and nut butters.
A note on vitamins and minerals: it’s best to get these from food sources, rather than from supplements, because that will ensure the proper balance between them. Multivitamins usually also contain the proper ratios. Additional supplementation becomes necessary for specific deficiencies.
Vitamins: Your immune system is complex, so all of the vitamins (both fat and water soluble) are necessary, of course.
- The vitamin everyone thinks of for immune support is Vitamin C, and it is very beneficial as an antioxidant,and also with generating certain immune cells. Your body burns through more of it than usual in times of stress (illness or otherwise), so it’s good to get in more. Great sources include the well-known orange juice (but it’s high in all citrus fruits), as well as peppers, broccoli, and other greens.
- All of the B vitamins are also in higher demand during times of stress (physical or otherwise) as well, and are likewise necessary for generation of immune cells. Dark leafy greens are my favorite food source of B vitamins, but whole grains and cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage) are also good sources of several of them. B12 exists in quantity only in animal products – meat, organ meat, fish, and eggs.
- My secret weapon for acute illness is Vitamin A. The World Health Organization has used high doses for short periods of time (a few days to a week) for acute illness for some time. I recommend using it in high doses only under the supervision of a licensed physician, however, as it is possible to overdose, and it is contraindicated in pregnancy at high doses. Food sources of Vitamin A are the same as those for B12 (meat, organ meat, fish, and eggs), but its water-soluble counterpart, carotenoids, can be found in red, orange, and yellow veggies.
- Vitamin D is the darling of the nutritional world at the moment. It has been associated with decreased risk of cancer, immune support as well as autoimmune regulation, mood support, and any number of other conditions. Our bodies form active Vitamin D in response to sunlight, but it can also be found in animal food sources, such as milk, fatty fish, and organ meats, as well as (these days) fortified foods. My guess is the reason so many patients are deficient in Vitamin D has to do with dietary intake. Again, I recommend using it in high doses only under the supervision of a licensed physician, however, as it is possible to overdose.
- Zinc: involved in nearly every process in the body, it’s especially vital for your T-cells. Since zinc is so necessary for our bodies, it’s also abundant in our food – it can be found in various kinds of meat, seafood (like oysters and crab), mustard greens, a variety of nuts and seeds, beans including soy beans, whole grains, and dairy… so basically, if you eat whole food, you can’t really avoid it.
- A number of other minerals, such as copper, manganese, and selenium, are also necessary for immune function. Although I prefer food sources of nutrients in general, since our food isn’t as nutrient dense as it used to be, I do suggest that all of my patients take a quality multivitamin daily.
Antioxidants generally speed the healing of injured tissues. Colorful fruits and vegetables are rich sources.
Keep yourself healthy this fall by eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods!