Immune System and Nutrition

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Everyday we make decisions that can affect our future. Our level of lifestyle choices determine the level of our health. From aspects such as physical activity to nutrition which nourishes and fuels our body, can determine if an individual lives a long healthy life. The body is a physical structure which sustains a profusion of systems that work coercively to maintain life. Three of these major structures include the brain, cardiovascular system and the immune system. Many articles have emphasized the importance of incorporating a healthy diet in an individuals daily regimen due to the prevalent link of diet and disease throughout the various bodily systems. As well as the necessity of physical activity to promote the full function of the organs and muscles within the body. There are an infinite amount of benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle while following a nutritious diet, ultimately improving the quality of an individuals life.

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The brain is one of the most important parts of anatomy of an individual. It functions on a twenty-four hour seven days a week basis, regardless if an individual is awake or in the deepest of sleeps. The biggest factor of brain health is linked to diet, because of the ceaseless functioning of the brain it requires and endless amount of fuel, in this case food. The food which we intake should be rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to nourish the brain for full potential. The worst options are processed and refined products especially those filled with sugars. According to the Harvard Medical School article of Nutritional Psychiatry :Your Brain On Food by Doctor Eva Selhus, states “If your brain is deprived of good quality nutrition, or if free radicals or damaging inflammatory cells are circulating within the brain’s enclosed space, further contributing to brain tissue injury, consequences are to be expected”. This is due to the fact that correlation of good nutrient dense foods such as broccoli, apricots and raspberries have capabilities of fighting free radicals. These free radicals tend to damage cells which then cause the production of harmful inflammatory cells, dramatically having a negative effect on the health of the brain. Memory is a huge factor in defining a healthy brain and supplements such as Ginkgo Balboa which is extracted from the Ginkgo tree has positive effects on recollection. Vegetables and fruits such as spinach and tomatoes are natural ways to enhance memory as well as the incorporation of Omega 3 oils from fish in an individual’s diet.

“Protein, which we take in through meat, eggs and beans and peas (pulses), contain high levels of amino acids, such as tyrosine, which in turn cause neurons to produce the very important neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, which are associated with mental alertness.” (Roche)

The different foods and supplements one takes all have individual roles in different functioning of the body’s most complex organ, something as simple as adding protein to your diet can enhance the production of necessary neurotransmitters aiding in mental health. (Roche) The significance in which diet and nutrition aids in promoting the brain’s full potential is monumental due to the high availability of these products, making it effortless to encourage changes for superior brain health.

Lifestyle changes in diet are one of the first steps, but exercising the mind and body play significant roles in a healthy brain. Participating in physical activity not only strengthens the body but it improves the mind by positively affecting mood, combating stress and enhancing memory. By increasing blood flow exercise allows the brain to receive vast amounts of oxygen and glucose aiding in the growth of neurons. Dr. Bryan Roche states in his article 10 Ways To Improve Your Brain Health, “physical activity promotes the production of three essential “growth factors,” called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1), and endothelial growth factor (VEGF)”. These are essential factors aide in the growth of new blood vessels, reduce inflammation as well as halting cell self-destruction. Mental activity and games and tasks such as crossword puzzles and sudoku will constantly condition and challenge the brain and improve cognitive ability. Practicing playing these games that stimulate the brain has lead to growth through neurogenesis. Activity whether it be physical or mental plays a great effect in aiding the overall growth and capabilities within an individual’s cranium.

Furthermore, a main component to overall health is related to the heart. “The heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body”. (Harvard Health Publishing) Heart disease is also the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The rate of which people are diagnosed with defects within the cardiovascular system is alarming due to its essential nature of promoting crucial bodily functions. Some of these functions include transporting elements such as necessary nutrients, hormones, and oxygen to cells within the body. Not only does it deliver these crucial components, the cardiovascular system also emits excess carbon dioxide as well as nitrogenous wastes. When neglecting to give one of the body’s most vital organ the attention and care which is necessary, life altering diseases become prevalent and are associated in the overall well-being of an individual.

Due to the vital nature of maintaining a healthy heart, there are a plethora of conditions associated with heart disease. Majority of these issues initiate when a substance called plaque forms deposits in artery walls. Plaques are composed of a fatty, wax like substance which reduces blood flow and it can sometimes create blood clots when they rupture. “A key problem is atherosclerosis. This is the accumulation of pockets of cholesterol-rich gunk inside the arteries”. (WebMD) One primary function of cholesterol is its ability to make vitamin D and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. There are two types of cholesterol bad and good. The good kind of cholesterol is HDL or high-density lipoprotein which helps remove plaque to aid in the prevention of heart disease. On the other end is LDL or low-density lipoprotein which is the bad type of cholesterol which contributes to artery-clogging plaque. It is vital for the body to keep a balance of the two, and levels can be checked through blood tests. Having high cholesterol can be deadly due to its correlation to having a heart attack or a stroke.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow is cut off to the heart while a stroke is the loss of circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain. Some of the signs associated with an oncoming

heart attack include chest pain, fatigue, nausea, sweating and difficulty breathing while strokes include vision problems, numbness, slurred speech and confusion. One of the biggest warning signs of an oncoming heart attack is a symptom called angina, which is the feeling of pressure or squeezing in the chest. Stable angina is the most common and is triggered by stress or intense physical activity, lasting a few minutes usually coming to a halt with rest. (WebMD) Unstable angina occurs during idle periods with strong and lengthy wavering periods. (WebMD) Prinzmetal’s angina also known as variant angina is the rarest form which typically occurs during inactive periods of rest where the arteries in the heart suddenly tighten or narrow. (WebMD) It is highly recommended to consult a doctor about treating these symptoms because they are warning signs of a possible heart attack.

When consulting a professional about any of these symptoms there are numerous methods put in place to measure heart activity. One of the most important things to check regularly is blood pressure, because when it is too high it is considered the “silent killer” due to the lack of symptoms it produces. (WebMD) Luckily a blood pressure monitor also known as a sphygmomanometer is fairly inexpensive and small enough for every household to carry one. There are two numbers which are listed when doing a reading, systolic and diastolic. The number on top is the systolic pressure and is the higher of the two numbers, reading the pressure of blood flow on your arteries walls while your heart is beating. The bottom number or diastolic pressure reads pressure on the arteries walls when your heart is at rest between heartbeats and refilling with blood. (WebMD) The average normal reading is less than 120 over less than 80, if the reading is 120-129 over less than 80 than the individual is at risk for having high blood pressure while 130 over 80 or higher signals the individual suffers from high blood pressure. This method is simple enough for individuals of all ages to read and understand, helping to aid and monitor levels to avoid the risk of high blood pressure.

Another test which can determine the risk of having heart disease is a stress test. This test is typically performed by your Doctor by providing them with information on how much your heart can manage before an abnormal rhythm starts of blood flow to your heart muscle drops. (WebMD) The most often used types are exercise electrocardiograms, treadmill test and stress EKG. The process involves walking or pedaling on a treadmill or stationary bike, while tracking blood pressure and heart rate. These tests are used to evaluate symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath, or chest pains and their links to the heart. It also assess the correlation between blood flow and activity levels as well identifying abnormal heart rhythms. This test will allow the Doctor to develop an effective and safe exercise program to prevent or combat heart disease.

The most effective way to avoid heart disease is by preventing it through lifestyle changes. The first step is a change in diet which should consist of primarily fruits and vegetables. Proteins should be lean primarily fish and poultry, with a limit on red meats. Whole grain and low-fat dairy products should be incorporated in portions as well as healthy fats such as nuts. The biggest things to avoid are sugary and processed foods and drinks. The alternative healthy choices may result in weight loss allowing for lower levels of cholesterol as well. Another crucial component is to stay consistently active, as light as a thirty minute brisk walk or more intense as a three mile run. The biggest and most difficult change typically falls under addictive behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol so avoiding and limiting these behaviors at all costs are highly recommended.

Every component in the body has a significant role in keeping an individual healthy and the immune system is by far one of the most important because it acts as the bodies natural defense system. “The immune system is an intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that band together to defend your body against invaders. Those invaders can include bacteria, viruses, parasites, even a fungus, all with the potential to make us sick”. (Dunkin) Unfortunately, these invaders are unavoidable so the immune system reacts by creating a barrier to protect the body from being infiltrated. But due to the commonality of these antigens, the immune system creates white blood cells and proteins to demolish the unfamiliar substances before they can reproduce. The antigens themselves have millions of varieties which are recognizable by the immune system allowing them to produce the necessary defense to eradicate it. (Dunkin) By maintaining a healthy immune system the individual lives a better quality of life by keeping issues such as cancers and common colds absent.

Due to the human body functioning as one whole machine the link between gut health and immune health is evident through research findings. In the article, Why Gut Bacteria Are Essential for a Healthy Immune System states: “The immune system is the main link between our gut bacteria and their influence on our health and disease”. All living beings are exposed to bacterias from the moment of conception due to the existence of bacterial matter in the gastrointestinal tract building up immunity before birth. Daily interactions make it inevitable to avoid exposure to matter from the environment, food additives and non-pathogenic microorganisms making it important to establish oral tolerance. The balance of an individual’s gut influences the immune system, allowing a shift to occur if the bacterial flora is unbalanced due to pathogens which can shift the immune system to an inflammatory state affecting other body systems affecting overall health.(Science X Staff) Balance of bacteria is key to remaining a level of homeostasis due to the beneficial factors of some bacteria such as probiotics. “A diverse microbiota is more likely to bounce back from unhealthy fluctuations in diet and withstand outside intruders, and this means a much more tolerant and well-regulated immune system.” (Science X Staff) Overall, the gut harbors many microbes which play a huge role on the health of an individual by maintaining balance of the good and bad microorganisms due to constant exposure individuals come across through daily interactions.

Due to the prevalent link of the gut and the immune system, an individual can be proactive in remaining healthy by taking the necessary vitamins and supplements and composing a diet of foods which posses these beneficial factors. Vitamin C is an essential necessity in maintaining great immune health due to the body’s inability to produce and store it making it a supplement an individual needs to take on a daily basis rather than just when they are sick. (Schend) Vitamin C has the ability to elevate the production white blood cells which is a critical component of fighting infections. Supplements are available over the counter, but the best way to intake this important Vitamin is through nutritional foods such as citrus fruits including grapefruit, oranges and lemons. Aside from popular belief red bell peppers ounce for ounce, contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus.

Another critical element for an optimal functioning immune system is Zinc. The presence of Zinc is important due to its ability to develop and activate T-cells which is a lymphocyte processed by the Thymus gland and actively participates in the immune response. Meat products including beef, chicken and various forms of seafood especially oysters have a high volumes of Zinc but homeopathic lozenges are the best method of ingestion for immediate relief of cold and flu symptoms.

The best way to fight bacteria is with bacteria so the importance of incorporating probiotics in an individuals daily routine can have monumental benefits to boosting one’s immune health. Typically a probiotic is taken in supplement form or can be ingested with foods which have been prepared through bacterial fermentation. (Gunnars) Some foods that will introduce probiotics to the body include yogurts, tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi. Most recently drinks like Kombucha have been popularized and marketed as a flavorful way to obtain probiotics. Although probiotics can be a little difficult to understand due to the vast amount of species and combinations available, incorporation of this element boosts immune health especially within the GI tract.  

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Immune System and Nutrition. (2021, Mar 29). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from
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