Immune system is continuously on alert. The first aspect that we must take into consideration for an adequate and optimal functioning of this system is the care of our diet.
It works 24 hours a day, ensuring that no stranger invades our body, but it also acts to detect a cancerous cell or to tolerate its own, the food we eat or the bacteria that make up the microbiota or intestinal flora.
The largest immune organ we have is the intestine. It contains 65% of the immune tissue and more than 80% of the cells that produce immunoglobulins. Many of the chronic diseases considered global pandemics, such as type 2 diabetes or obesity, are related to our lifestyle. Maintaining an adequate weight, stress or smoking, are factors that can promote or affect our defense system.
It is a branch within nutrition that studies the mechanisms by which certain nutrients or bioactive components present in food, interact and influence the functioning and modulation of our immunity.
Although the role of nutrition on immunity has been known since ancient times, it has been necessary to develop this discipline, in order to confirm the importance of an adequate food intake and its relation to the modulation of the immune response.
How nutritional deficit affects the immune system
We can consider the deficit of some nutrient, as the first of the causes by which the organism loses its capacity to modulate in an appropriate way the immune response, being able to alter different facets of the response.
An adequate contribution of nutrients will achieve that the corporal barriers, which are the first line of defense in front of the invading agent, can function without alterations. A caloric and protein malnutrition can generate an atrophy of the lymphoid tissues.
The nutrients present in food, besides providing energy, participate in the repair of tissues and regulate metabolic processes, they present other components that allow an optimal functioning of the body and the immune system.
The two main sources for obtaining this vitamin are diet (responsible for 10%) and sunlight (90% of the vitamin D we have in the body is synthesized through our skin). This endogenous form of production is influenced by environmental and genetic factors.
This vitamin, among other things, exerts an immunomodulatory effect on the immune response. One of these effects is on the acquired immune response (in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis or type 1 diabetes).
It increases the capacity of monocytes and macrophages of phagocytosis. It also has a prominent role in preventing the development of autoimmune diseases.
Most important antioxidant by protecting the membranes from oxidative damage caused by free radicals A deficit of this vitamin has been associated with alterations of the immune response (humoral, cellular immunity and phagocytic activity).
Effects of this vitamin
- Increase of the production of antibodies.
- Increase of phagocytic activity.
- Increases the number of leukocytes
- Supplementation improves NK cell activity.
Main sources where we can find it
- Dried fruits: nuts, hazelnuts, almonds
- Vegetable oils: sunflower or olive.
- Wheat germ.
- Whole grains.
- Egg: in the yolk.
- Blue fish.
- Green leaf vegetables.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. They must be consumed in the diet as the body is incapable of producing them; this is why they are considered essential fatty acids. When they are ingested in the diet, they are incorporated as part of the cell membranes.
The omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), play a prominent role in the inflammatory response that is triggered in the body when there is an infection caused by a pathogen. Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in the production of anti-inflammatory substances, while omega-6 is involved in the synthesis of pro-inflammatory substances.
Sources of omega 3
- Fish: herring, anchovy, salmon, mackerel, sardine, tuna or cod.
- Seafood: shrimp, oysters, spider crab.
- Seeds: linseed, flax, pumpkin, chia.
Sources of omega 6
- Meat and sausage.
- Seeds: safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil.
The important thing in the diet for the well-being of the health, is the balance between the amount that we ingest of each one of these nutrients.