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Immunity & Nutrition

immune health

Cold & flu season is right around the corner.  We’ve got your immunity and nutrition tips to help you stay healthy through the cold months!

With the fall in full swing and winter coming quickly, viruses and infections will be circulating once again.  You’ll be reminded to get your flu shot and be bombarded with advertisements about supplements that boost your immunity or help you get over a cold in 12 hours.

But how true are these supplement claims? Is there anything you can do to “boost” your immunity with food? Let’s discuss the role nutrition plays in supporting your immunity.

Cold & Flu Nutrition Guide

Let’s identify some of the things that can negatively impact our immune systems. 

These factors include:

  • Older Age 

Unfortunately, our immune systems age just as we do. 

  • Chronic Diseases

Some conditions, especially autoimmune disorders, weaken the immune system.  

  • Chronic Stress

Hormones like cortisol can impact our white blood cells and therefore decrease the immune system’s ability to fight disease. 

  • Poor Sleep

During sleeping hours, our bodies produce cytokines, which are known for helping us attack infections.  

  • Poor Diet

What we eat has a large impact on whether or not our bodies can adequately fight off infections and diseases. 

Now, to answer the main question: is there a specific diet I can follow to boost my immune system, especially during the cold and flu months?

The short answer is no. There aren’t any magic foods that will provide you with a superpowered immune system.  The good news is that the answer to this question is simpler than you might think.  Following an overall healthy diet filled with whole grains, quality proteins, fruits and vegetables will not only support your immune system, but also enable the rest of your body to function properly. 

Here is a breakdown of how certain groups of foods may support the immune system: 

  • Fruits & Vegetables

Produce contains an abundance of micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals, that take active roles in a plethora of bodily functions.  Some of these micronutrients are zinc, iron, vitamin D, and vitamin C, which are well known for their roles in the immune system.

  • Lean Proteins

Lean proteins provide amino acids, some of which are essential for our bodies.  Consuming mostly fatty meats like red meat can provide these necessary amino acids, but also increase intake of unhealthy fats.  These unhealthy fats can lead to inflammation and the development of several chronic diseases and suppression of the immune system.

  • Whole Grains

As you may know, the fiber in whole grains can help support a healthy gut and gut microbiome.  Supporting the “good” or “healthy” bacteria in our gut can help fight inflammation and thus help our immune systems!

  • Water

Yes, hydration is a key component of a healthy diet, especially when focusing on immunity! Water helps transport many different molecules and substances throughout the body, including those involved in immune responses.  

References:
1.  https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition
2.  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/