Nutrition - Foundation Of The Immune Defence System
Immune Health Most Canadians will have their health on their minds as we head into the winter months.
With winter approaching, all Canadians have health on their mind. In the winter months, we tend to become less active and to spend more time indoors in close proximity to other people. Our immune systems are weaker in the wintertime, and with runny noses and tight quarters, our exposure to viruses and bacteria goes up. This is particularly unfortunate, given that it is the same season in which infectious diseases like influenza thrive. Nutrition is an important factor to keep our immune systems strong and reduce our chances of being laid low by illness.
"Vitamin D is likely the most important nutrient for preventing infection, as well as many other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other chronic ailments."
Everyone knows that a healthy diet and a good mix of the right micronutrients are important to whole body health, but not everyone is aware of their vital role in maintaining a robust immune response. “With the immune system, every vitamin and mineral is needed for it to have optimal surveillance of foreign invaders (viruses and bacteria) and to produce adequate amounts of white blood cells and antibodies to fight them,” explains Doug Cook, a Registered Dietitian. “Poor nutrition, in simple terms, leads to a ‘sluggish’ immune response.”
Supplement your diet
Many of these vital micronutrients can be obtained through a balanced diet rich in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but for others, supplements and multivitamins can be a necessary addition. “The majority of Canadians, especially around this time of year, are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is likely the most important nutrient for preventing infection, as well as many other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other chronic ailments. At this time of year it’s especially important in preventing the flu,” says Dr. Zoltan Rona. “There is no way to get the amount of vitamin D you need from your diet alone.” Dr. Rona also includes probiotics among the supplements to consider, adding that a supplement with a wide spectrum of probiotics is almost always preferable to one that includes only a single strain. Similarly, multivitamins are valuable for providing a broad spectrum of necessary micronutrients.
“Inadequate nutrition affects the thymus’ fitness. Maintaining good nutrition as we age can offset some of the natural decline.”
Vitamins and minerals are a key factor in immune health for people of all ages, but it becomes only more important as we age. Canadians over the age of 50 need to take particular care with their nutrition in order to remain healthy. “The immune system slows as we age; the immune cells lose some of their memory with respect to the viruses that the body has been exposed to before. Also, the thymus gland, which helps to produce specific white blood cells (T cells) that do the ‘hand-to-hand’ combat against bacteria and viruses, shrinks with age,” says Cook. “Inadequate nutrition affects the thymus’ fitness. Maintaining good nutrition as we age can offset some of the natural decline.”
At the end of the day, we have to remember that nutrition is at the core of all aspects of health. When we have all the micronutrients we need — we have more energy, we are happier, and our bodies are better equipped to fight off all kinds of infections that can rob the winter season of its joy.