Best Foods To Boost Immune System
The coronavirus outbreak has caused a lot of panic and anxiety among the general population. Along with precautionary measures to ensure prevention of infection, it is equally important to emphasize the kind of lifestyle and dietary habits which we follow.
As a rule, our immune status, as well as its functioning, is greatly influenced by the food that we eat. This article will help you understand more about our immune system and some immune system booster foods that you must include in the diet.
What Is The Immune System?
The immune system is basically made up of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against infective organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. In a healthy condition, our immune system seeks such micro-organisms and destroys them.
Immunity, therefore, is the ability or capacity of an organism to resist or fight against infections.
Immunity Can Be Of 2 Types
1. Natural - Inherited immunity or something that we receive genetically from our parents and ancestors
2. Acquired – With the help of vaccines. A person can also have acquired immunity if the person has been exposed to a particle infective organism previously. For example, measles and chickenpox
Cells, tissues, and organs that form the immune system are well distributed throughout the body. These organs are called lymphoid organs.
Our Immune System Is Made Up Of The Following Components
- Lymphoid organs contain “immune cells” called lymphocytes.
- Bone marrow is a soft tissue present in the hollow center of bones. It is responsible for producing our blood cells. All immune cells are first formed in the bone marrow.
- Another important organ of the immune system called the thymus lies behind the breast bone. It is responsible for maturation of “T lymphocytes”
- Just like our blood circulation, lymphatic circulation runs parallel to the blood circulation. The lymphatic circulation carries lymph.
- Small bean-shaped lymph nodes are found throughout the body. These lymph nodes are rich in immune cells.
- Aggregates of lymph tissues are also present in the body in the form of adenoids, tonsils and the appendix.
- The spleen, present in the left side of the abdomen contains small clusters of these immune cells which are released into the bloodstream in presence of infection in the body.
The immune system stores a set of specialized cells having different functions. The table below mentions the different types of immune cells along with their functions.
|Sr. No ||Immune cell ||Function |
|1.||B-lymphocytes (B-cells) || |
The cells secrete antibodies. Each B-cell is programmed to make a specific antibody against a specific infection.
When faced by an infective organism, B-lymphocytes produce plasma cells. These plasma cells produce antibodies.
|2.||T-lymphocytes (T-cells)|| |
These cells either regulate an immune response or directly attack an infective agent. T-lymphocytes include:
- Helper T-cells: Stimulate B lymphocytes to produce antibodies, some help to call in phagocytes (cells that engulf the infective organisms) and also activate other T-lymphocytes
- Killer T-cells: These cells directly attack other cells carrying an infective organism. These cells are specifically useful to kill viruses.
|3. ||Natural Killer cells (NK cells) || |
These are a type of white blood cells too which contain specialized granules
The natural killer cells bind to the target cells and release the chemicals present within their granules to destroy the infective organisms.
Different Types Of Antibodies Which Help To Build Up Our Immune System Are
1. Immunoglobulin C (IgC)
Coats the microbes helping in their faster uptake by other cells of the immune system.
2. Immunoglobulin M (IgM)
Useful for killing bacteria
3. Immunoglobulin A (IgA)
This is present in body fluids like the saliva, tears, and secretions of the respiratory and the digestive tract. IgA guards entrances of the body.
4. Immunoglobulin E (IgE)
Protects against parasitic infections. It is also responsible for allergic reactions.
5. Immunoglobulin D (IgD)
These remain attached to B-lymphocytes and are responsible for initiating early B-cell response against infections
What Foods Boost The Immune System?
Our immune system works relentlessly day and night to protect our body against all possible infections. To maintain an optimum immune status, it is essential to consume a diet that not only nourishes the body but also provides strength to our immune system so that they can fight infections better.
Some of the top immune system booster foods that can be found easily are;
Turmeric is the main spice in every Indian curry, also in the simplest food. Curcumin, a component of turmeric is known to treat symptoms of hay fever-like runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, and congestion. It is also known to possess some anti-cancer properties.
2. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, minerals, and flavonoids. Citrus fruits are also rich in carotenoids which are later converted into vitamin A in the body. Citrus fruits are proven to have antioxidant properties in association with the cardiovascular system, immune system, and bone health. Citrus fruits and vegetables include orange, lemon
Yogurt is the most popular fermented food as well as the most widely consumed food worldwide. More recently, yogurts are being made available in various flavors to suit the needs of people of all age groups. Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Yogurts also contain lactic acid bacteria or the “healthy gut bacteria” which are responsible for maintaining the immune status and overall health too. Studies have also proven that regular consumption of yogurt improves immunity by enhancing inflammatory biomarkers and also significantly reduced the risk of developing diabetes mellitus type-2.
Ginger has been an ancient medicinal herb. It is also one of the most commonly used spices for cooking. The ancient Chinese medicine records the use of ginger to treat conditions like diarrhea, stomach ache, nausea, joint pains, hemorrhage, and toothaches. The active principles of ginger are rich in antioxidants and are proven to possess antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Allicin, the active principle present in garlic is a potent anti-microbial agent. It has been used widely during World War I to treat wounds. Garlic preparations are also safe to use in children and pregnant or lactating women. Garlic is beneficial to promote immunity as it has and strong anti-microbial and anti-infective effect against several bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. It also has proven effects against bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Mushrooms are considered as complete food, suitable for people belonging to all age groups. Several compounds present in edible mushrooms possess properties that lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, anti-depressant, and anti-cancer activities.
7. Green Tea
Green tea is the most widely consumed beverage in India. Green tea is an ancient Chinese herb and has been repeatedly proven to have several health benefits such as reduces cholesterol levels, prevents the abnormal formation of blood clots, regulation of fats and prevention of cancer. Active principles present in green tea boost immunity as they are natural anti-oxidants and are potent inhibitors of the influenza virus specifically.
It is important to know the value of eating a well-balanced diet that contains fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals in the right amount. The immune system booster foods mentioned above cannot be eaten singly; they are eaten either in combination with or as an additive to other foods.
Other Tips To Boost The Immune System
Apart from diet, other measures must also be taken to boost the immune system, such as;
- Curb cigarette smoking.
- Restrict the consumption of alcohol
- Consume a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. It is necessary to consume at least a bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables daily to meet your daily recommended nutritional requirements.
- Regular Exercising – Any form of an exercise daily helps in maintaining the overall health and immunity
- Get adequate sleep
- Go stress-free – There are plenty of ways to relieve stress like yoga, music, gardening, spending time with your pets, a small walk or even sparing time for hobbies
- Maintain a healthy weight in proportion to your height
- Follow basic hygiene rules such as washing hands before each meal, regular trimming of nails, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, drink plenty of water