by Laura Purcell
Supporting your immune health all year round is crucial for promoting overall wellness and vitality, including in the Fall. A healthy immune system allows us to engage in our daily activities and is important for optimal health. Nurturing your immune system through healthy lifestyle choices, such as proper nutrition and exercise can help us feel our best throughout the year.
Our immune system is an intricate network of organs, cells, antibodies, and other chemicals all working together to maintain optimal health. The efficacy and efficiency of the immune system’s functioning can be influenced by various factors, with nutrition being an important piece of this complex puzzle. A varied diet with adequate nutrients is essential for the immune system to function properly.1 Deficiencies in micronutrients – vitamins and minerals obtained through food – may affect optimal immune system functioning. Additionally, our diet has a direct effect on our gut microbiome, the conglomeration of microbes in the intestinal tract that affects everything from nutrition and mood to, you guessed it – immune health.2
While it’s true that your nutritional status may affect your immune system, there isn’t a definitive list of immune-supporting foods that will benefit a healthy immune system response. Generally, sticking to a healthy, balanced diet with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean and plant-based proteins can help support a healthy immune system. Eating fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors can help ensure you’re getting plenty of different phytonutrients, which are the compounds that give plants their color and bestow a variety of health benefits.3 Vitamins to focus on are Vitamins A, C, and D, which assist in maintaining a healthy immune system.* Perennial fall favorite pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin A and also contain vitamin C. Minerals that support immune system health include selenium and zinc.* For food sources of this duo, look no further than your Thanksgiving turkey!
To support your gut microbiome, look for foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are indigestible components found within food that maintain good gut bacteria. Prebiotic-rich foods include berries, bananas, and one of my favorite autumn staples, apples. Probiotics are stomach-friendly bacteria found in fermented foods including kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut.
When it comes to supporting immune health, there are several supplements that can be beneficial. One important nutrient is vitamin D, which plays an important role in immune function.* It helps assist the body in maintaining a healthy immune system and is involved in all three layers of immune system support.* Another supplement to consider is elderberry, which has been traditionally used for immune support.* Elderberry contains beneficial flavonoids with antioxidant properties.* Additionally, echinacea is a popular herb which naturally contains beneficial polysaccharides and phytosterols. These different components of Echinacea are believed to be the beneficial compounds for the immune system.* However, it is important to note that while these supplements can be beneficial, it is always advisable to consult with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen. Your doctor can provide personalized advice based on your specific health needs and circumstances.
In addition to the aforementioned tips, there are several other ways you can support your immune system this fall. Firstly, practicing good hand hygiene by regularly washing your hands with soap and water can help prevent the spread of germs. If the cold weather leaves your hands dry and cracked, keeping lotion next to the sink can provide much-needed moisture. Secondly, getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to allow your body to repair and recharge. Thirdly, finding ways to reduce stress is important as this can impact your immune system. Engaging in activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or hobbies that bring you joy can help alleviate stress. Additionally, regular physical activity can benefit your immune system by improving circulation and promoting overall health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. As always, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor for personalized advice and guidance before adding any supplement to your health regimen.
|*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.