Immunity and nutrition

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Immunity, many elements inherent in our lifestyle factors that impact ... including diet

Having a healthy immune system is a real way to act to have a good health but its construction and strengthening requires a real bottom line. Some adults apparently healthy, with the adequate amount of immune cells, often contract some pathologies while others are more resistant. Many elements inherent in our lifestyles are involved: the quality of sleep, our dependence on tobacco or alcohol, the degree of stress, whether or not physical activity, social environment and our diet, one of the key factors.

Disruptive elements for our defenses

  • First, foods or preparations resulting from industrial manufacture often contain chemicals which are harmful to our immune system: beware of coloring agents, preservatives listed as "E" followed by a number, pesticides used largua manu as well as heavy metals.
  • Your diet, if it is poor in vitamins and minerals, can have negative consequences. This is particularly true if you eat very little fresh fruit or vegetables, cooked or microwave-reheated foods, if you make over-high-temperature cooking, with saturated fats that develop Maillard reactions, long-term pathogens for the body.
  • A perturbed transit, with often consequent of intestinal permeability, impedes the proper functioning of a part of the production of some lymphocytes, our universal defenders face to multiple aggressions: our intestine alone contains more than half of the mass of total lymphoid tissue of the organism.
  • All abuse of stimulants such as alcohol, tabacco, coffee, glutamate, even see certain medications.
  • Stress as well as negative emotions can also hinder their proper functioning, with an overproduction of harmful chemical neuromediators (cortisol, adrenaline).

A diet rich in micro nutrients

  • In countries where poverty and hunger prevail, malnutrition * is one of the major reasons of immune deficiency, with insufficient calories and proteins provided on a daily basis. But in the industrialized countries, another phenomenon of malnutrition has appeared linked to "junk food", causing a lack of vitamins and minerals, just as detrimental to the proper functioning of our immunity.
  • The deficiency of a single micronutrient, such as zinc **, can already have negative impact.
  • Use as much as possible fresh or frozen foods, from organic or sustainable agriculture, rich in vitamins and trace elements. Choose gentle steamed or muffled cooking with the use of fresh spices and herbs, which often have protective properties, and which will enhance the flavors of your dishes.

Some vitamins to strengthen our immune system

  • Antioxidants remain the essential molecules to prevent and reduce the oxidation of other molecules which in turn produce free radicals, agents with adverse effects on the membranes of our cells and especially on the white blood cells, thus affecting the immune responses. Many foods are richly stocked with these valuable antioxidants and easy to adopt daily.
  • Vitamin C, this major antioxidant, is contained in many raw fruits and vegetables. Treat yourself with the following fruits, well-endowed with this essential vitamin: blackcurrant, guava, currant, citrus (lemon, mandarin, grapefruit, orange), kiwi, melon, apricot, strawberry, peach, cherry, pear, apple. Also think of vegetables just as rich in vitamin C as parsley (200mg per 100g), cabbage, watercress, lamb's lettuce, dandelion, parsley, pepper, eggplant, cauliflower, turnip, potato (especially contained in the skin), radish, tomato, artichoke. The shells also contain a small amount: 15mg per 100g of food.
    Vegetables and fruits, especially those of color, contain, in addition to vitamin C, other antioxidants such as carotenoids, selenium, anthocyanins: fill each meal with various fruits and vegetables because it is the cocktail of several antioxidants that is beneficial for your body, each having a more specific role to play.
  • Vitamin E, which is also interesting, is mainly found in cold-extracted organic vegetable oils such as wheat germ oil, maize, walnut, sunflower and soybean oils, as well as organic cereals and whole-grain breads. Sardines and small fish called "fat" also contain small amounts.
  • Vitamin D helps to compensate the lack of sun but also boosts your immune system. This vitamin, which is often lacking, is very concentrated in the oils of certain fish: halibut oil contains 50000 micrograms / 100 grams, carp oil 25000, tuna oil and mackerel liver oil 5000, salmon liver oil 1000 and cod liver 200 micrograms. Think also of fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring. The egg yolk contains between 5 and 10 micrograms.

Two trace elements to be favored

  • Magnesium plays a fundamental role as a thermal, chemical and psychological regulator of the body. In stressful situations, one of the first responses of our body is to mobilize a lot of attention and energy, which results in greater fatigue and increased vulnerability to attacks, especially infectious. The consumption of semi-complete or complete cereals, pulses, green vegetables, oilseeds (nuts, hazelnuts, almonds ...) and seafood is an easy habit to take.
  • Zinc is the most important mineral for anti-infectious defenses. It is particularly necessary for the production of our antibodies and our white blood cells, our two main defenders. The richest foods are oysters, shellfish in general, wheat germ, liver, sesame flour and tahini, roast beef. Pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds and chocolate are excellent sources, but they also contain arginine: it is better to abstain from it.
    Be more vigilant if you consume cereals: they contain phytic acid that binds to zinc and hinders its absorption at the intestinal level. It is better to avoid associating a portion of animal proteins and cereals.

Viral active substances

  • Glutathione, with antioxidant properties, is a powerful detoxifier and stimulates immunity. The richest foods are mainly asparagus, avocado, broccoli, potato (boiled with skin), raw spinach, okra and strawberry.
  • Eat mushrooms like Shiitake, Coriolus versicolor or Enokitake: their virtues come from one of their active ingredients, lentinane, a polysaccharide that stimulates the natural defenses of the body.
  • Quercetin is a polyphenol contained in yellow and red onion, apple, garlic, broccoli, black tea as well as in black grape juice.

Antibacterial contained in some foods

  • The allicin contained in garlic and onion is a major anti-infectious agent that can fight bacterial, fungal (caused by fungi), viral and parasitic infections (Konaklieva and Plotkin, 2006, and Harris et al., 2001).
  • Use cloves to cook your vegetables, lentils or fish: the eugenol it contains is a powerful antibacterial. The same goes for cinnamon, turmeric or thyme, which contain equally potent molecules.

Fatty acids selected

Although the relationship between lipid intake and the immune response is complex and poorly understood, many experts agree that a diet rich in saturated fatty acids (meats, charcuteries, butter, cream, palm oil) Is often associated with increased inflammation. But omegas 3 (GLA, EPA, DHA) have an anti-inflammatory action which consists in inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators (ecosanoids). In practice, you should therefore include small fat fish (mackerel, sardines, herring, halibut) in your daily diet, but also many oilseeds such as nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and flax oils, camelina or soya, not to mention the very famous purslane.

Beneficial probiotics *** 

Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms which, once ingested in adequate quantities, have positive effects on health and in particular on the proper functioning of our intestines, one of the keystones of our immune system. Some foods can help you, such as lacto-fermented products: sauerkraut, capers, cucumbers, carrots, onions, beets, turnips, daikon, radishes, green beans, cauliflower, white cabbage, gari, Ume plums, curd milk, kefir milk and koumys.

A particular amino acid : cysteine

The intact immune system requires a delicate balance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant conditions, a balance maintained by a limited and perfectly regulated supply of cysteine. It is possible that this cysteine ​​deficiency has a role in the progressive destruction of the immune system in some patients (those with positive HIV for example), with a decrease in particular of the T4 lymphocytes. N-acetyl cysteine ​​(NAC) is a synthetic derivative of cysteine, a non-essential amino acid synthesized in the body that can be taken as food supplements. However, this amino acid can be synthesized by our organism, at the condition that it is in the presence of methionine. So be sure to fill up with dried beans, soy flour, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, cabbage (and all cruciferous in general), brewer's yeast, nuts, wholegrain corn, rice, whole barley and whole oats as well as wheat germ and cysteine ​​will do the rest.

Regular physical activity

It has been shown that moderate physical activity **** particularly in the elderly, would increase immune defenses. This would be due to the fact that exercise, by improving the blood circulation, would allow the various substances of the immune system to circulate more easily in the body.

Some drinks more than others

  • Water, of course (low mineralized water - dry residue at 180 ° C  <100 mg), but also green tea, provided in polyphenols, is an antioxidant which neutralizes free radicals responsible for an increase in cytokines in the blood: so consume 3 cups of green tea per day, with multiple flavors especially if you try Sencha, Gyokuro or Tamaryokucha.
  • Have the reflex tisane or infusions, by choosing plants with beneficial effects on the immunity: eleutherococcus (Eleutherococcus senticosus), maca, astragalus, thyme or savory.
  • Treat yourself from time to time (without abusing) a glass of red wine, which will bring you its precious resveratrol in addition to its delicate volatile molecules.

Learning to manage the stress

Stress causes the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are very useful in the short term, but harmful if they are produced in long term. They directly affect the immune defenses by inhibiting the production of cytokines. Use relaxation techniques or simply give yourself pleasant moments of leisure: lowering the pressure can be a valuable help.

And remember that the immune system is closely linked to the psychic and nervous areas: if your morale goes, your health will follow.

* Starnbach MN (Ed). The truth about your immune system; what you need to know, President and Fellows of Harvard College, États-Unis, 2004
**. Modulating the immune response by oral zinc supplementation: a single approach for multiple diseases. Overbeck S, Rink L, Haase H. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 2008 Jan-Feb;56(1):15-30. Review
*** Arunachalam K, Gill HS, Chandra RK. Enhancement of natural immune function by dietary consumption of Bifidobacterium lactis (HN019).Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;54(3):263-7
**** Smith TP, Kennedy SL, Fleshner M. Influence of age and physical activity on the primary in vivo antibody and T cell-mediated responses in men. J Appl Physiol. 2004 Aug;97(2):491-8.


Marie-Christine LANGGUTH CUEVA
Naturopathe - Iridologue - Nutrithérapie
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