Nutrition and the Immune System
Toxic substances fill our environment. Be it the water we sip, the air we inhale or even the food we consume, toxins are everywhere. Everything from pathogenic microorganisms, viruses, parasites, industrial chemicals, pollens and even harmful food additives can be regarded as toxins since they cause harm to our body and are found in the environment. Every minute of the day these toxins are getting in our body and causing a disturbance at the cellular and molecular level. Then why aren’t we always sick and suffering? That’s where our immune system enters the picture.
What is the immune system all about, anyway?
Our immune system can be compared to the defence force defending a nation against external threats. Our immune system is a complex system of millions of distinct proteins present in our blood and other body fluids which fight and neutralize any harmful substance which enters our body. These proteins kill harmful bacteria, trap toxins, tag particularly threatful foreign bodies for further focused attacks, destroy cells hijacked by viruses, maintain a database of encountered threats and even patrol our bloodstream looking for any clues of enemies. They even fight cells demonstrating the first signs of malignancy (cancerous growth). Without our super-efficient immune system, our average life expectancy would be a fraction of what it is now.
So, as you have understood, proteins play an absolutely mission-critical role in ensuring our health and survival.
Not all immune systems are equal
The immune function varies in different individuals. A low immune response can be due to genetics, age, smoking, exercise levels, alcohol consumption, diet, stress and many more factors. An individual with a weak immune system has a higher risk of acquiring diseases and can even have a lower life expectancy. Improper nutrition is one of the important reasons for an impaired immune system. Contrary to popular belief, improper or inadequate nutrition doesn’t solely refer to the body’s energy requirements not being met. There’s more to nutrition than daily energy needs.
There’s more to nutrition than calories
Proper nutrition refers to both adequate intakes of both macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the structural and energy-giving caloric components of our foods that most of us are familiar with. They include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. We have talked about all of these in our other articles which you should definitely read.
Pollution and the immune system
Environmental pollution is one of the biggest challenges we are facing this century. Pollution has affected almost every aspect of our health in some way or the other. Our immune system is, unfortunately, not an exception.
We are exposed to a staggering amount of unwanted and harmful microorganisms from food and water. The immune system takes care of most of them using the methods mentioned above. Sometimes our immune systems take time in neutralizing these microbes. This is when we fall sick and need to visit the doctor.
However, our immune system struggles to deal with most of the other pollutants entering our food and water. Examples of such pollutants are pesticides, insecticides, microplastics, food additives and colourants.
What’s even more disturbing is that our immune system may be severely weakened by these pollutants. This can lead to a wide variety of complications such as autoimmune diseases, respiratory tract infections, weaker immune responses etc. Children are particularly at risk to these harmful chemicals as their immune systems are still developing and thus are particularly susceptible to these immune system weakening effects.
Nutrition and the immune system
Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that don’t directly generate energy but are essential for good health. They aid in the production of enzymes, hormones, and proteins that are critical to body and brain function. They also help with the regulation of metabolism, heartbeat, and bone density, among other processes.
Macronutrients and micronutrients together ensure that our body gets all the substances it needs to function smoothly and fight the harmful effects of the millions of toxins and pathogens around us. Apart from having a healthy and balanced diet, a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, adequate sleep and reduced stress will boost your immune system.
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