Kate Togneri , Nutrition Coach
1 Sep 2023 | ~7:36 Engagement Time
One function of the immune system is to protect the body from invading microorganisms, such as viruses or bacteria, by producing antibodies or white blood cells called sensitized lymphocytes. Normally, an immune response cannot be triggered against the cells of one’s own body. In some cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the cells that they are supposed to protect. This can lead to a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, in which the person’s immune system attacks his or her own tissue.
Immune health relies on adequate intake of vitamins and trace elements, preferably from food. When deficiency occurs, supplementation may be required to regulate and balance the immune system. The recommendation is to incorporate high-quality foods and supplements into your diet, with emphasis on the nutrients listed here.
PROTEIN is a vital nutrient for improving and maintaining good immune function. Optimal levels of protein and minerals are needed to repair damaged cells. Meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds all have lots of protein. These nutrients have been shown to help your immune system work most efficiently and effectively. It is important to include as much variety as possible and choose high quality pasture-raised sources when available.
FIBER is imperative to keep the bowels moving easily and regularly. Additionally, fiber helps you feel full faster, preventing overeating and subsequent weight gain. Excellent sources of fiber include kidney beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables including apples, avocados, carrots, grapes, berries, bananas, beets, broccoli, artichoke.
VITAMIN D deficiency is very common in people with MS. Vitamin D is known to interact with immune cells, affect genes that regulate inflammation, and alter the response of the immune system – all of which help to reduce inflammation in MS and other autoimmune diseases. Sufficient levels of vitamin D can also protect against autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is best obtained from exposure to the sun, so supplementation may be necessary when adequate exposure is impossible. The best food sources of Vitamin D are oily fish, including salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Other sources include egg yolks, red meat, and liver. Vitamin D is added to some foods too, including breakfast cereals, plant milks, and fat spreads.
MAGNESIUM is a mineral that supports hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. However, many people get less than they need. It is the second most common deficiency in developed countries, behind Vitamin D. Magnesium deficiency can lead to increased production of proinflammatory cytokines, which can have a negative impact on immune response. The best dietary sources of magnesium are tofu, seeds, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS protect the body from toxicity and increase cell membrane permeability, allowing the healthy flow of nutrients and oxygen in, and waste and toxins out. Omega -3 fatty acids are not made by the body and must be consumed in the diet or through supplements. Foods that contain Omega-3s include wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, trout, and mackerel, walnuts, grass-fed beef, eggs, ground flax, hemp, and chia seeds.
The B-COMPLEX Vitamins are easily depleted under stress and are needed in higher quantities for compromised immune systems. Some top sources of B vitamins include meat (especially liver), seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, seeds, and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal and nutritional yeast. B vitamins function together, which means that deficiency in one can lead to imbalances in all. Therefore, when using supplements, it is recommended that they be taken as a complex, which can be increased in times of emotional, environmental, or physical stress, as needed.
PROBIOTICS can have powerful effects on health. Many parts of modern life can affect the gut microbiome, including high-stress levels, too little sleep, and eating a Western diet high in processed and high-sugar foods. This change in intestinal microflora may contribute to the rise of autoimmune diseases in humans. Cultured foods, including yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, and kombucha, provide beneficial bacteria that can help heal the gut and boost immune function. Consume at least one serving daily. Build up slowly if side effects occur.
The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. It is thought that hereditary factors contribute to about one third of the risk of developing autoimmune disease, while environmental factors account for the other two thirds. Moreover, it is likely that multiple triggers are responsible for the activation and progression of autoimmunity.
While autoimmune conditions tend to run in families, genetically susceptible individuals do not always go on to develop an autoimmune condition. When autoimmunity is recognized and the focus is on treating the root cause, rather than suppressing symptoms, then a healthy life and slowing or reversing disease is absolutely possible.
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