Best Foods, Herbs & Supplements to Boost Your Immune System
Certain foods, herbs and supplements can help boost your immune system due to their rich vitamin, mineral, and plant-based chemical contents. These compounds fortify the immune system and assist in protecting the body against potential illnesses.
Additionally, a diet to improve your immune health with beneficial foods, herbs, and supplements will also strengthen your gut microbiome. This community of microbes that lives within your intestinal tract is an essential component of your innate and adaptive immune response.
Role of Diet in Immune System Function
To support optimal immune system health, your diet should be rich in micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. They can secure and diversify the gut microbiome, which is key to efficient immune system function.
Beneficial fungi, bacteria, and other microbes are responsible for controlling important immune system behavior. This includes immune homeostasis, autoimmunity, and defense against disease-causing pathogens and viruses.
These microorganisms, specifically gut bacteria, communicate with immune cells when exposed to invading microbes by releasing chemical signals, stimulating an adaptive immune response. A strong immune system and fortified microbiome increase the immune response rate and decrease the chances of becoming ill.
However, when your diet is low in micronutrients and high in unhealthy foods, like saturated fats and added sugars, the microbiome’s ability to control the immune system is weakened. The gut bacteria’s capacity to communicate with immune cells is reduced, which increases the risk of contracting an illness or infection.
To avoid an insubstantial microbiome and, in turn, a vulnerable immune system, prioritize foods, herbs and supplements proven to boost your immune function.
Immune System Boosting Foods
Both soluble and insoluble forms of fiber, found in whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, berries, and root vegetables, are known to strengthen your immune system.
Soluble fibers, like inulin, are broken down in the gut. Afterward, they are sent to assist the immune system in producing essential cytokines, like interlukin-4. This cytokine signals the release of infection-fighting T-cells into the body.
Insoluble fibers are the primary food source of gut bacteria. They encourage growth of beneficial bacteria strains, which are essential in communication with the immune system. Such as stimulation of immune response when in contact with invading pathogens.
Probiotic foods contain live and active cultures of good bacterial strains. Consuming probiotics adds to your gut microbiome diversity, which is important for maintaining basic immune functions and withstanding unexpected changes from stress.
Some probiotic foods you can consider adding to your diet to help boost your immune system are:
- Pickles and pickled vegetables
Colorful fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables with bright, vibrant, or dark colors contain higher amounts of antioxidant micronutrients and plant-based chemicals called phytonutrients. All of which support in fortifying the immune system.
Phytonutrients, in particular, are known for their immune boosting and detoxification properties. In red fruits and veggies, the phytonutrient and red-colored pigment anthocyanin provides a host of immune fortifying benefits, including anti-inflammation, immune response regulation, cytokine production, and release of immune hormones and enzymes.
Most cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as folate and vitamin K. However, dark green cruciferous veggies are also known as a great source of vitamin C and carotenoids that protect body cells from pathogenic damage. Many of these vegetables also contain sulfur compounds, which are known to modulate immune response invading pathogens.
Dark green cruciferous vegetable you can add to your day include:
- Bok choy
- Turnip greens
Foods with good fats
A diet low in inflammatory saturated fats can reduce the development of disease within the body. Oppositely, increasing your intake of unsaturated fats, like Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, can boost the immune system.
These fatty acids, found in avocados, nuts and seeds, and olives, are essential building blocks of immune cells, including epithelial cells, macrophages, neutrophils, and other lymphatic cells necessary for immune function.
Herbs that Boost Your Immune System
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herbs
Antioxidant herbs help combat oxidation caused by invading free radicals and other toxins. These harmful compounds degrade digestive system health and the gut microbiome via overstimulation of the immune system, leading to chronic inflammation.
Antioxidant herbs can mitigate the inflammatory response, which can prevent high rates of disease and infection over long periods of time.
Antioxidant herbs that can provide the most powerful boost to your immune system include:
- Lemon Balm
Adaptogens are herbal pharmaceuticals and an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine.
Herbs like astragalus can be used to counteract the effects of stress with a non-specific manner that is multi-targeted, multi-channel, and network-like across the body. Adaptogens typically use the immune-neuro-endocrine system to regulate inflammatory response as well as activation of immune cells and controlling the release of stress hormones.
Herbs with unique, immune-boosting compounds
Herbs like garlic, ginger, and turmeric, contain unique compounds with immune-boosting properties.
Allicin is a sulfur-containing compound in garlic. It modulates the immune system, regulating inflammatory responses to prevent chronic disease development.
Ginger contains the powerful phytonutrient known as 6-gingerol. This plant-based chemical is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as its ability to alter immune cell action in the body.
The main compound in turmeric, curcumin, boosts the immune system and prevents viral proliferation in the body.
Supplements that Boost Your Immune System
Probiotic and Prebiotic Supplements
Probiotic or prebiotic supplements are recommended to improve gut and immune system health. Utilizing supplements to replenish the microbiota and feed existing colonies is always important, but especially encouraged after bacteria-depleting events.
Typically, reds and greens powders contain blends of herbs and foods that are known to support your immune system. These can include probiotics and prebiotics, phytonutrient blends, adaptogens, antioxidant compounds, and micronutrients, like vitamin C, K, and beta-carotene.
High quality immune supplements support optimal performance with micronutrients, like vitamin C.
They will also contain a variety of prebiotics and probiotics to fortify gut microbiome and mediate immune responses. Active cultures known to benefit the immune system you should look for include:
- B. breve
- L. acidophilus
- L. rahamnosus
- S. boulardii – a beneficial fungi
What Can You Eat Every Day to Boost Your Immune System?
A healthy gut microbiome and immune system keeps the body healthy. And protects from harmful pathogens and viruses.
Poor diet can affect the microbiome and its ability to stimulate the immune system. This can make you more susceptible to potential dangers and increase the risk of contracting an illness.
To improve gut health and immunity, focus on consuming foods and herbs rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that boost the immune system.
Remember, you can also utilize high-quality supplements that contain probiotics, prebiotics, and other fortifying ingredients to benefit your gut microbiome and immune system and improve your overall health.
About the Author:Allison Lansman, RDN, LD is a freelance writer and owner of Allie Lansman Sustainable Nutrition Writing Services. She is passionate about creating exciting, research-based nutrition blog posts with her professional background as a dietitian. Allie prioritizes creating articles all readers can understand and incorporate into their daily lives.