We all want to live a healthy and happy life, free from diseases. Actually, our body is very capable of providing that, unless we are putting stress on the body and forcing it to work harder, rather than taking care of our body and mind.
Our body already has a pretty good defense mechanism for handling pathogens, which are the organisms that make us sick. We all have our own immunity which starts with the skin and goes on through the lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, lymphoid organs, thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, tonsils and other body tissues. We can be grateful that our body is so well equipped to protect us.
Our skin is the first defense mechanism, and acts as a physical barrier. It also produces slightly acidic secretions that impair bacterial growth. It is of course not impenetrable, but fortunately we have many other ways to protect ourselves. These include hydrochloric acid, which is produced by the stomach and destroys many ingested bacteria; tears and saliva which contain an enzyme lysozyme which can kill bacteria; and cells in the lining of the respiratory tract that produce mucus, which has antimicrobial properties. Our body also has an inflammatory response, which includes swelling and pain to protect us against bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.
Our immune system is an important homeostatic mechanism for eliminating foreign organisms such as bacteria, viruses, single-celled fungi, and many parasites. But for it to function optimally we need to take care of our body. A healthy body requires good nutrition, exercise and a good sleep cycle.
Many studies show that eating foods rich in micronutrients and a whole food diet containing lots of phytochemicals (compounds in plants) reduces the risk of developing many diseases, including viruses such as the flu. It can also powerfully reduce severe health problems such as heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disease.
Phytochemicals are the compound that contributes to the plant’s color, taste and smell, for example in carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and fruits. That’s one reason why it’s important to vary your food, and a “rainbow” diet, in which you try to eat every color of food, is a good way of maximizing the nutrients that you are getting. This can stimulate and strengthen the immune system and also may prevent DNA damage which that can lead to cancer and other diseases. Many phytochemicals are antioxidants which protect cells of the body from oxidative damage from contaminants and toxins in the water that we drink, the foods we eat, and the air that we breathe.
Each part of the body plays a different but important role in protecting and keeping everything in perfect balance. Nutrients are essential to achieve optimum health, and it’s especially important that we consume enough protein. If you are doing intense exercise then you probably need more protein than a sedentary person. Aging also increases the need for protein, because as we age we lose muscle mass and our natural immune system declines. Protein are building blocks for the body, and essential for antibody production.
Other important nutrients that can be necessary to help with strengthening our immunity include vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B1, vitamin D, quercetin, and digestive enzymes. I will talk more about these in the next part of this series.
Varying our diets with a variety of healthy sources will help us to get all of the essential nutrients that our body needs in order to prevent or combat illness and disease. We should try to consume lots of foods that are high in phytochemicals, ideally organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables. And we need to be getting enough protein and enough healthy fats, for example from olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, ghee and butter.
You may wonder why I didn’t mention vaccines or any other drugs for helping to improve immunity. I am not a doctor or a specialist in pharmaceutical drugs or vaccines, and especially the latest vaccines are still in such an early stage with ongoing studies that it is very early to talk and give qualified opinions on it. This is a topic that should be discussed with your physician. My goal with these articles is to help with prevention and protection in the best and most natural way.
• “Human Biology”; Chiras, Daniel D.
• “Overview of the Immune System”; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease; https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/immune-system-overview
• “The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet”; Helen Fields; Johns Hopkins Medicine; https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet
• “Phytochemicals; ScienceDirect; https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/phytochemical
• “Fill up on phytochemicals”; Harvard Medical School; https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fill-up-on-phytochemicals
Ayda Ersoy, Nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.), Master Trainer (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro), Registered Yoga Teacher, Founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness, Founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System.