Want to Build Your Immune System? Watch Your Diet

Our immune system is made up of different types of immune cells, antibodies, receptors and organs that all work together to defend the body. Picture your immune system like your car’s engine, which needs gas to run. Like gas for your car, a healthy diet is crucial to provide the nutrients your immune system needs to keep functioning. It may even slow the gradual decline in immune function that tends to occur with ageing.
“Eighty per cent of your immune system is in the gut, so when it’s healthy, we tend to be able to fight off infections faster and better,” says Yufang Lin, M.D., of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “When it’s not, our immune system is weaker and more susceptible to fighting off infection.” In general, Lin recommends that people focus on a Mediterranean style of eating, which means a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, found in foods such as fatty fish, nuts and olive oil. “This eating pattern is high in nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and other antioxidants shown to help reduce inflammation and fight infection,” she explains.  However, this doesn’t mean you can load up on nutrients to super-charge your immune system. Adding more gas to your tank does not suddenly enable the car to run any more powerfully than the engine capacity allows.
Adults between the ages of 65 and 79 who followed a Mediterranean type of diet showed increases in disease-fighting cells such as T cells, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology. It’s also important to limit meat, especially processed and fried foods, all of which are more inflammatory, Lin adds. “Generally, I recommend a whole food diet,” she says.
FOOTNOTE: Chris & I start every day with a large bowl of fruit and we are never sick and have more energy than most people half our age!