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Your Immune System, Nutrition and Lifestyle Our wonderful immune system
The immune system is our primary defence against infection and disease. It serves to protect us from the constant bombardment of potential invaders (pathogens) our bodies are exposed to on a daily basis.
It is necessarily sophisticated, complex and very effective at fighting infections,it is highly integrated in all body systems and has taken millions of centuries to develop and evolve. However, modern 21st century living is a very different environment to the world of our ancestors, the world in which the immune system developed. Consequently (and very unfortunately), it can often respond to modern day dangers much like a blunt instrument.
One example, the immune system response to environmental toxins and pollutants or potential pathogenic infection, is the same response as to the danger posed by an unresolved early-life childhood emotional trauma1
There is ever-growing evidence that the function of the immune system is modulated by an individual’s nutritional status, the immune system cannot function optimally if it does not receive the right nutrition.2,3
The premise for Nutritional Immunology is that good nutrition is required for optimal immune system function. A sub-optimal immune function puts an individual at risk for disease since there is ever-growing evidence that nutrients shape and define immunity.
This begs the question – if the immune system is involved in virtually all-chronic illness and if the immune system response can be addressed, can a chronic illness be managed or even resolved?
Dysfunctional immune response can lead to the development of allergies, skin, respiratory and gut conditions, even causing an attack on the body’s own tissues, which can lead to a state known as autoimmunity. Restoring optimal levels of nutrients is an important step in managing dysfunctional immune response, preventing or minimising the development of illness.
Signs your immune system may be compromised: .
Regular infections, cold, flu, which seem to always linger, often lasting longer than a few days
Regular use of anti-inflammatory or antibiotic medication
Overactive immunity, allergic reactions to common foods such as nuts, eggs, wheat and others
Overreaction to grasses, pollens, chemical or internal allergens such as dust mites or cat hair
Difficulty losing weight, or weight accumulating around the abdomen
Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne or premature ageing
Inflammatory conditions rheumatoid or osteo-arthritis, gout, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s, Grave’s, multiple sclerosis, and others
Findings from population research carried out by the Government's nutritional advisory board, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN)4 and the World Food Programme, identified:
There are nutrient deficiencies in every group of the population
Most depleted are those who need it most - the elderly, pregnant ladies and children
Often sufferers are unaware, as there are no visible warning signs
The consequences are disastrous - mental impairment, poor health, low productivity, and susceptibility to a whole host of degenerative diseases, even death
1 in 3 people in the UK are affected
This deficit adversely influences both immediate and long-term health.
The nutritional status of our bodies is dependent on multiple factors including:
Our food and dietary choices
The nutrient content of the food we eat
The way and locations are food is grown, the processing and preparation methods
The ability of our bodies to digest and absorb nutrients
Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, stress, alcohol intake, medications, which place an additional burden on our resources and nutrient requirements
1. Haroon, E., Raison, C. L. & Miller, A. H. Psychoneuroimmunology meets neuropsychopharmacology: translational implications of the impact of inflammation on behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology37, 137–62 (2012).
2. Ponton, F., Wilson, K., Cotter, S. C., Raubenheimer, D. & Simpson, S. J. Nutritional immunology: A multi-dimensional approach. PLoS Pathog.7, 1–4 (2011).
3. Ponton, F. et al. Integrating nutrition and immunology: A new frontier. J. Insect Physiol.59, 130–137 (2013).
4. Bates, B., Lennox, A., Prentice, A., Bates, C. & Swan, G. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Headline Results from Years 1, 2 and 3 (combined) of the Rolling Programme 2008. (09–2010, 2011).