Hey Jess, I’m curious... will enhancing my gut health boost my immune system in preparation for the coming winter?
Ah, winter. The clocks go back, the heating goes on, and suddenly it seems as if it’s not only the temperature dropping, but your friends too with winter bugs and sniffles.
Firstly, it’s important to address the word ‘boost’. The term appears to be a marketing buzzword as there’s no food or diet that can ‘boost’ your immune system, despite what you read online. However, maintaining gut health and opting for a well balanced diet is crucial when it comes to supporting immune function during the colder months.
We can think of the immune system like our body’s superhero fighting off infections. It’s a complex network of different processes involving organs, cells and proteins. It plays a crucial role in fighting off disease causing germs, destroying harmful substances and combating abnormal changes, such as cancerous cells.
The health of your gut and your immune system are closely linked. A fun fact for you: 70-80% of immune cells are present in the gut. Therefore, the gut, also referred to as the body’s second brain, plays an important role in sustaining health, providing a range of nutrients, regulating energy balance, influencing the immune response and defending against pathogens (potential threats). An imbalance can impact your immune system.
While the research is still ongoing, evidence suggests that a diverse gut microbiota positively influences immune functioning. For optimal gut health, consider these tips:
Prioritise prebiotic fibre: Found in foods such as onions, leeks, garlics, asparagus and whole grains, prebiotic fibre is crucial for maintaining gut health.
Eat a variety of vegetables: Choose a diverse range of vegetables in a variety of colours, each offering unique nutrients and fibres to promote a thriving gut.
Incorporate fermented foods: Yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso, are often packed with probiotics, increasing your gut’s microbial diversity.
It’s important to remember that certain micronutrients can help our bodies ability to defend itself. Vitamin A, found in carrots, peppers and sweet potatoes acts as a frontline defence against infections. Vitamin D, primarily sourced from the sun is essential for immune regulation, in the winter when the days are much shorter, we’re advised to supplement so our levels are topped up.
When it comes to minerals, zinc aids in the generation of new immune cells and Brazil nuts are great for providing a daily dose of selenium, essential for optimal immune function.
Let's challenge the phrase ‘boosting the immune system’ and recognise that there’s no magic food to prevent illness. Instead, to support our immune response in winter, focus on a diverse gut microbiota through tips like more prebiotic fibre, colourful vegetables and try out fermented foods.
Additionally, micronutrients such as vitamins A, D and the minerals zinc and selenium play crucial roles in supporting the immune system. Overall, aim for a well balanced diet, stay hydrated and don’t forget that Huel contains many of the above.
Jessica Stansfield, RNutr
Junior Nutrition Manager
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