How To Boost Your Immunity By Adapting Your Diet

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Did you know that approximately 70-80% of your immune system is located inside your gut? Yes, seriously. Which ultimately means that the foods you eat have a far greater impact on your health and well-being than you might realize. And while many people are oblivious to this link between diet and general health, it’s a powerful concept to be aware of. Why? Because, to a certain extent, it puts you in the driver’s seat. It gives you the power to boost your own immunity through something as simple as tweaking your diet.

And don’t worry. Adapting your diet to boost your immunity needn’t be a life sentence of gnawing on nothing but rabbit food. With a little bit of discipline and a few clever modifications, you should still be able to relish the joy of good food whilst enjoying better general health and fewer bouts of sickness.

The link between your gut and your immune system

But what exactly is the link between the gut and the immune system? While many people associate their immunity with leukocytes and lymph nodes, Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko says that that’s actually not our immunity hub at all. “The human gut plays a huge role in immune function,” she says. “Our intestines contain more immune cells than the entire rest of our body.”

So while the gut’s main function is digestion, it also plays a vital role in regulating our immunity. According to Dr. Shulzhenko, a relatively new theory of disease is based on the disturbance of the “communication” between the beneficial bacteria living in the human intestine and other body cells that are involved in both immune and metabolic function. “In a healthy person, these microbes in the gut stimulate the immune system as needed, and it in turn talks back,” she explains. But disruptions caused by our modern lifestyles are causing this two-way communication to break down. “There’s an increasing disruption of these microbes from modern lifestyle, diet, overuse of antibiotics and other issues. With that disruption, the conversation is breaking down,” Dr. Shulzhenko says.

The link between microbe dysfunction and disease

And while a lot more research is required on the subject, researchers are starting to link microbe dysfunction to a whole range of health issues and diseases, including allergies, obesity and even cancer. There are even indications that diseases associated with chronic inflammation, including diabetes and heart disease, may start with dysfunctional microbiota in the gut.

A strong and healthy immune system is, however, also linked to a reduced number of colds and flu, as well as other antigenic conditions that commonly interfere with life and especially training as a runner.

Tips for adapting your diet to boost your immunity

So what can you do to support the functioning of the microbiota in your gut? Plenty, actually. Here are a few easy suggestions to get you started:

  • Eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foodsThese types of foods are rich in micronutrients that boost the functioning of the microbiota in your gut. And while the occasional treat is fine, make sure that the bulk of your diet consists of wholesome, unprocessed goods.
  • Ingest foods rich in beneficial bacteria, such as fermented foods, on a daily basis. Not only are these foods easier to digest, but they can boost the functioning of your own intestinal microbiota. Examples of fermented foods and drinks rich in beneficial bacteria include kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and sourdough bread.

  • Increase your natural fiber intake. The good bacteria in your gut requires naturally fiber-rich plant foods to thrive on. So in addition to boosting your diet with foods rich in beneficial bacteria, you also have to up your intake of fibrous plant foods in order to “feed” these bacteria. Think along the lines of garlic, onions, asparagus, oats, and apples.
  • Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Some studies have shown that a positive microbiota composition change takes place after an increase in omega-3 fatty acid intake. Upping your omega-3 fatty acid intake can furthermore also lead to the production of anti-inflammatory compounds, like short-chain fatty acids. So get your fix by adding a tablespoon of chia seeds or walnuts to your breakfast every day.
Keep an eye on your lifestyle choices too

And while these dietary tweaks may already yield great results, it’s important to keep the following lifestyle choices in mind as well:

  • Make sure that you get enough quality sleep. For most adults, this means getting between 7 and 9 hours of shut-eye per night.
  • Work on lowering your stress levels.
  • Do moderate amounts of exercise. Yes, you may already have this one down, but remember that overtraining can be almost as bad as not exercising at all!
Do your bit to boost your immunity and health

So do your bit today to help boost your immunity. Because not only will a healthy body with a strong immune system serve you well in terms of general health, but it may just give you the edge in your training too!

Sources

  1. Eugene Lotter, Your gut is the cornerstone of your immune system, Online publication, Oct 05, 2017
  2. Natalia Shulzhenko, Gut microbes closely linked to range of health issues, Online publication, Sep 13, 2013
  3. Lara Constantini et al. , Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Gut Microbiota, Scientific journal, Dec 01, 2017
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