Easy access to information posted on several online platforms is a source of misconceptions and myths. We read many things online without knowing their authenticity. One such topic is immunity boosting food. Advertisements highlight the ability of certain food items or nutritional supplements to enhance one’s immunity. How correct is this information?
Immunity enhancing food- The popular notion
Switch on the television and you will be bombarded with advertisements of supplements that claim to increase your child’s immunity. These advertisements are specifically targeted at the gullibility of parents. After all, who doesn’t want their children to have better immunity? How much you can trust these products is the real question.
We have all heard and read that eating certain type of food regularly will increase your immunity. Examples include yogurt, nuts, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acid, proteins etc. But have we ever thought about the mechanism of their action?
Understanding immunity: How does the body fight germs?
This topic is too broad to be covered in a single blog, but I will try my best to bring the concepts here. Immunity is the ability of your body to fight harmful microbes. In humans, immunity is of two types:
- Innate immunity– This is the in-born ability to fight microbes, comprising of cells that specialize in recognising and attacking a broad range of foreign organisms. Examples of these cells are white blood cells, mast cells and neutrophils. Some specific proteins, called complement, also take part in this process. The production of these cells and proteins is largely determined by the genes of a person.
- Acquired immunity– This is the defence mechanism that comprises of special cells like B-cells and T-cells that are highly selective against specific types of microbes. Antibodies are also a part of this mechanism. Vaccinations activate acquired immunity.
Where does food fit in immunity building?
Now that you know the two broad types of defences that our body has for fighting microbes, it is important to understand the role of the so-called ‘immunity boosting’ superfood. There are so many types of cells and proteins involved in maintaining our immune system, that it is very difficult to alter it by eating a particular food. Had it been so easy, scientists would not be having any problem in finding diets to treat HIV (AIDS) where the immune system of the patient is seriously compromised.
Of course, certain type of food provides essential vitamins, minerals and other natural compounds. But that doesn’t mean that they specifically target our immune system. Yogurt is an excellent probiotic and will supply good bacteria to your gut to improve your digestion. Citrus fruits will provide vitamin C that helps in repairing internal injuries and controls inflammation. This effect will only make it easier for internal defence mechanisms. But it will not increase the number of defence cells. This article will provide sufficient proof (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jan/24/health-foods-immune-system-colds-vitamins)
How to strengthen your immunity then?
Have a holistic approach that aims at better overall health. Vaccination and infections make our bodies stronger. Don’t rely only on superfood but make your diet wholesome. Our diet has a tremendous role in our overall well-being. Therefore, instead of falling in the trap of magical food and supplements products, we should:
- Eat a nutritious and balanced meal in moderate quantity
- Watch our weight
- Exercise daily
- Sleep enough
- Avoid stress
- Maintain basic hygiene
- Give up smoking
- Limit consumption of alcohol
Instead of relying on special food items only, aim at an active and healthy lifestyle. This will take care of our immunity and give us a more fulfilling and peaceful life.
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Other than my formal training in life-sciences (in which I did my PhD), I am actively involved in following my passion for writing and crafts. When I am not spending time with my toddler, I read a lot and write on different topics as blogs, newspaper articles, short stories and poems. My articles are regularly published on a lot of online platforms. I love to explore different cultures and my writing reflects my opinion.