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How can diet make or break your immunity?

Updated on December 3, 2012

Our immune system is designed to distinguish and fend off assailants that might trespass its boundaries and harm our wellbeing. Every cell in the immune system has a vital role in locating and killing pathogens. The strength of our immune system determines how well we fight disease and keeps infection at bay. It also helps our body recognise any abnormal cells that can be cancerous and prevent their growth and spreading to other tissues. It is a proven fact, however; that some factors can harm our immune system and weaken its responses thus causing it to dysfunction and subsequently making us more prone to disease and illness.

One of the important factors that can make or break our immunity is our diet. It is important to maintain a healthy and well balanced diet that contains a plethora of macro and micronutrients. These nutrients are an essential blocks in building our cellular defences. Scientists reported over the last decade several studies confirming this crucial role of macro and micronutrients in regulating the immune system. Our consumption of macronutrients like proteins, carbohydrates and fats provide the essential energy to keep our defences on the go. Researchers also reported a role for micronutrients, like vitamins, minerals in enhancing white blood function and boosting our bodily defences. Zinc, for example; has been reported in literature to fight cold, boost immunity and support the thymus. Vitamin B6 support B and T lymphocytes different functions. Vitamin E has been correlated to reducing infections. Other vitamins, like A, E and C, are known to act as antioxidants; they prevent free radicals damage and protect us against infection. In addition; vitamin C is well known for its different roles in increasing T cells and antibody production.

We are conditioned upon feeling unwell to drink more caffeinated drinks, or consume more sugar. Although this behaviour might give us a quick fix to keep up with our daily activities; it can have dangerous long term effects on our immune system. Caffeine has been reported to suppress white blood cells functions and antibody production. Caffeine has been also reported to inhibit inflammatory cytokine, thus weakening our immune system and impairing its functions.

Our immune system can be compromised if we are regularly consuming poor diet that doesn’t contain the optimum concentrations of nutrients we need on daily basis. Diets high in sugar, fat, cholesterol and alcohol can reduce the ability of white blood cells to fight bacteria. The quality of food we consume has a vital role in boosting immunity as it is not enough to just consume food with low quality of nutrients, like processed food that have been depleted from important vitamins during production; it is also important to keep in mind that highly processed food can be loaded with chemicals. Our options should be selective in picking high quality fruits and vegetables as it is vital to get not only any concentrations, but the optimum concentration of such nutrients on daily basis so they can be absorbed, processed and transported to our tissues efficiently to maintain our immune health and strength.


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