Immune Health 101

Immune Health 101

These days I’m talking to all of my clients about how to optimize their immune health using food. I’m sure you’ve noticed but this is a hot topic in our media right now! But even without the threat of the coronavirus, we just came out of flu season and have entered allergy season so improving our immune system is of utmost importance no matter the time of year!

There are supplements that I can recommend as a dietitian, however I want to take a deeper dive with you to talk about the biggest impact you can have on your immune health. That is reducing chronic inflammation in the body. When someone’s levels of chronic inflammation are high it sets the stage for all sorts of conditions to present: IBS, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, heart disease, osteoporosis and of course autoimmune conditions. This is because inflammation suppresses the immune system and releases all sorts of pro-inflammatory mediators (hello, cytokines, prostaglandins, etc.).

One way to keep inflammation under control is to have a healthy balance of omega-3: omega-6 fatty acids in the body. Let’s look at the diagram below.

Created by David R. Throop, vectorized by Fvasconcellos - w:Image:EFA to Eicosanoid.JPG

Created by David R. Throop, vectorized by Fvasconcellos - w:Image:EFA to Eicosanoid.JPG

There are two categories of essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. If our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is higher than it should be, the omega-6 metabolites predominate and we begin to produce inflammatory compounds. It’s important to consider our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, because the ratio determines the production of pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory molecules. A 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is ideal. Just for comparison sake, the standard American diet has an average ratio of 20:1 - this is extremely pro-inflammatory!

So, what can you do about this? Well for starters, you can easily have your omegas checked to determine if you need to start supplementing to help balance your levels. Aside from that you can start to incorporate healthy omega-3 rich foods into your diet such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, algae, and leafy greens.

What else?

Well, we know that health starts in the gut so keeping your gut healthy will ensure that the mucosal barrier (lining) stays strong. You’ve heard it before but eating a “rainbow” of plant foods provides immune support through vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Nature provides a plethora of options!Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant found in tea, citrus foods, cocoa, and other plant foods. They protect against pathogens and help regulate the immune system similarly to phytosterols.

Foods that I have been suggesting: wakame seaweed, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger, tea, green leafy veggies like kale, and all the produce you can handle!Avoid processed foods and sugar, despite the urge to rely on convenience foods right now! They are highly inflammatory, low in vitamins, and will stress your immune system. Get 8-9 hours of sleep, reduce stress levels through yoga, meditation, reading, journaling, exercising, and lastly, wash your hands!

If you have symptoms indicative of excessive inflammation (IBS, migraines, fatigue, joint pain, etc.) then you may want to consider MRT testing. MRT tests 170 foods and food chemicals and identifies which ones are causing an inflammatory response in your body. I offer a 3 month package (LEAP) that includes the testing and an individualized diet plan to help reduce inflammation and heal your gut. Take a look at it here and read more about MRT/LEAP here.

Get in touch with me today to determine if food sensitivity testing is right for you. Together we can create a plan to help reduce your inflammation and boost your immune system!