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Functional Nutrition and Immunity: 3 Strategies

by Oasis Wellness Partners on February 6, 2021       Oasis Maine - Nutritious Foods

Immune health has never been a more important topic than it is right now. Immune support is a multi-tiered approach that should involve exercise, proper diet and supplementation, stress relief, chiropractic care, and focusing on joy and gratitude. Here are 3 functional strategies to support a resilient immune system, tips that you can take with you through the peak of cold and flu season, and throughout this uncertain time.

The body’s cellular defense system relies on a multitude of different nutrients and their interaction.

  1. Nutrition!

    Focus on eating a diverse diet that includes plant products at every meal. Some key nutrients that support a balanced defense system are Vitamin C, B12, A, D, and Zinc.

    • Vitamin C– a potent antioxidant that supports antibody production and boosts white blood cell production while supporting cellular function of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C can contribute to microbial killing. Food sources of vitamin C are bell peppers, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, and berries.
    • Vitamin B12– The B family of vitamins are involved in energy metabolism, DNA methylation, and regulating the immune system. Deficiency of Vitamin B12 has been shown to impact the activity of certain immune cells as Vitamin B12 acts as an immunomodulator for cellular immunity. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, thus individuals that exclude animal products from their diet are at the risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. To support immunity daily, consider supplementing with a really good multi-vitamin.
    • Zinc– an antioxidant that supports the development of white blood cells that help the body fight infection. Food sources of zinc include oysters (The highest food source! Two oysters provide the entire daily zinc recommendation for an adult), seeds, nuts, and mushrooms.
    • Vitamin D– Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is a very powerful immune regulator. Vitamin D receptors are found throughout immune cells. The best way to get vitamin D is through safe exposure to natural sunlight and supplementation.
    • Vitamin A – A fat-soluble vitamin that plays a critical role in immune function by supporting the production of secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), which is a protective antibody. Food sources of vitamin A and provitamin A (beta-carotene) include sweet potato, carrots, winter squashes, leafy greens, and liver.
  2. Nourish your Gut!

    More than 70% of the immune system resides in your gut. The diverse and vast ecosystem of our gut is made up of trillions of bacterial species, microbes that influence the immune response.

    The microbes within the gut influence inflammatory state, mucosal health, and interactions between multiple body systems. An imbalanced intestinal microbiota may have full system effects and contribute to a suppressed immune reaction.

    Taking steps to ensure your digestive system is functioning properly is an essential step in maintaining a resilient immune system and total wellbeing.

    Dietary interventions for a healthy gut include:

    • Eating a diverse diet – Mix up the type of fruits and vegetables you buy at the market each week.
    • Limit consumption of processed and refined foods – Yes, I like to focus on all of the wonderful foods to add into your diet but it is important to remember that there are foods that can adversely impact the health of your gut.
    • Add in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir – Fermented foods contain live active cultures that can be supportive to gut health
    • Consume adequate dietary fiber – Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in our gut and helps them thrive!
  3. Manage stress

    When faced with chronic stressful situations our body’s ability to fight off infection is reduced. Plain and simple increased stress decreases immune function.

    I get it, these are challenging times. Here are some of my favorite supportive strategies to help manage stress:

    1. Meditation – While it is widely known that mindfulness meditation is a supportive tool for stress reduction, mediation can actually reduce inflammatory markers and support the immune system by boosting white blood cell count. CALM is a free app to get started.
    2. 4-7-8 breathing technique – This relaxing breathing method involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is thought to help reduce nervousness, calm anxiety and support better sleep.
    3. Walking in nature – Never underestimate how healing nature is. Close your computer, put down your phone, wrap yourself up, and take a long walk outside.

There are other tools and tips to achieving an immune boost through functional nutrition—Join Oasis’s Functional Nutritionist Cami Smalley for her Immune Boosting: Covid and Beyond Workshop Wednesday, February 17th at 5:30 via Zoom. Call Oasis at our Scarborough, Maine wellness center at (207)883-5549 to sign up.

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