A healthy immune system is one where all the demands that are placed upon it, whether it’s the day to day function, or the emergency response – are allowed to function and happen optimally.
Nutrition Pearls for Immune Function:
- Our immune system is constantly on the lookout for pathogens, injury, and disease.
- Nutrition is central to a functioning immune system.
- The key nutrients to support the maintenance of a healthy immune system include: vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, protein, and fibre.
- Through genetic studies we know that most of us don’t convert pro vitamin A to vitamin A very well and so animal sources of vitamin A can be important to consider.
- Know that taking supplements is not a failure. Supplements are a valuable way to support a healthy immune system – where food is often not able to meet all of our nutrition needs.
- Your body needs a full pantry of nutrients in order to have the optimal response for bone turnover, muscle repair, or fighting a virus, etc.
- Between 70 – 80 percent of the immune system is found inside of our gut and it is important to support our gut in order to have a healthy immune system.
- The gut microbiome plays a role in the immune system, and it helps to communicate with the immune cells on the other side of the intestinal cells.
- Alcohol, some recreational drugs, antibiotics, a low fibre intake, high intake of processed foods, decreased activity levels, stress and uncontrolled chronic conditions can all contribute to gut bacteria disruption and thus are theorized to negatively impact the immune system.
- Higher intake of fermented foods is associated with certain inflammatory markers being lower.
Nutrition is central to a functioning immune system. It impacts our ability to fight precancerous cells, ward of pathogens, heal injuries, and support our bodies through disease. This week I interview Doug Cook, RD on the role that nutrition plays in our immune function.
Doug Cook is a registered dietitian with over 21 years of experience. With a Master of Health Science in Nutrition, he specializes in functional and integrative nutrition. Doug dives deep into the research on nutrition and science to provide his patients, and the public expert up-to-date information, questioning the way that we’ve ‘always done it’ through his blog www.dougcookrd.com and on his podcast Pursuit of Health. I always personally learn so much from him – especially in the way of brain health, and micronutrients. I appreciate that perspective because a lot of times when I’m looking at patients I’m strictly focusing on digestive symptoms. So, it’s nice to kind of take a step back and learn from colleges who actually do their research.
Doug Cook and I talk about:
- How he became a dietitian
- The importance of critically reviewing the up-to-date research instead of trusting the way that things have always been done
- How nutrition plays a role in immune function
- What a functioning immune system means in contrast to the idea of people wanting to ‘boost’ their immune system
- Some of the key nutrients we should be aware of and why
- Some of the gaps often seen in people’s diets in regards to nutrition & immune function
- How the gut plays a role in immune function and where nutrition fits in
- What gut permeability/leaky gut is, why is it so trendy right now, and what the science actually says
- Some nutrition basics for improving gut permeability and supporting good immune function
Connect with Cook on his website at www.dougcookrd.com on his podcast Pursuit of Health on Instagram @your.nutrition.education on Twitter or on his Facebook here as well!
This was most informative ….
I do have a question – all of the recommendations for the foods that will improve gut health are foods that I cannot have – at this point. Reason being I am suffering from post infectious IBS ( going on 6 years) and have gone through many trials and tribulations trying to improve things. Also a diagnosis of SIBO and was put on antibiotics only to contract CDIFF.
What do you do in a case like mine who cannot tolerate all the good nutrient dense foods that would help heal my gut??
Oh goodness what a long road you’ve had with your gut! My biggest suggestion is to consider working with a dietitian to tailor a nutrition plan to what you tolerate. While many of these things triggers that are also ‘good for your gut’, there are definitely ways to get adequate nutrition in with food intolerances, sometimes you have to be a bit creative. Sometimes I find the narrative around ‘just eat more vegetables’ can be really frustrating for patients because they physically cannot do that and it’s actually not best for their individual bodies and symptoms. Tailored advice can help in this situation!