How good nutrition can help you manage cold and flu season
Cold and flu season is upon us and in an unprecedented year it’s at the front of most parents' minds. We reached out to our founders, pediatricians and dietitians from Schneider Children’s Medical Center and asked them if they could talk to our Healthy Height community about nutrition and the immune system. Here’s what they had to say.
Immunity Q&A with the Healthy Height Founders
Q: How does the immune system work?
Our immune system is a complex host defense network which includes many biological structures and processes that protects us against disease.
The immune system comprises three levels of defense: The first layer is the body physical barriers like our skin, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract, which prevent pathogens such as bacteria and viruses from entering our body.
If a pathogen breaches these barriers, the second defense layer- the innate immune system, also called unspecific immunity, and provides an immediate, but non-specific response. If pathogens successfully evade the innate response, the adaptive immune system, also called specific immunity or acquired immunity, come into action to improve its recognition of the pathogen, kind of like building an antibody. This improved response is then retained after the pathogen has been eliminated, in the form of an immunological memory, and allows your body to act faster and stronger each time this pathogen is encountered.
Q: Does nutrition have an impact on immunity?
Nutrition plays an important role in the development and functionality of the immune system. Nutrient deficiency, either in single nutrient or in multiple nutrients, is often the cause of compromised immunity.
Q: What nutrients are important?
Micronutrient deficiency increases the susceptibility of infections and delays recovery. Vitamins A, C, D, zinc, iron and folic acid are important micronutrients and have been investigated for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in childhood. Vitamin A plays an important role in the immunological response to infections. Vitamin D has broad immune effects within the lungs and with supervised supplementation was proven to be safe and to protect against acute respiratory tract infections. Adequate dietary vitamin C, iron and zinc, has also been shown to be associated with reduction in severe infectious cases, including that of pneumonia.
More recently there’s been a lot of attention on the human microbiome, more specifically the gut microbiome and for good reason. The gut microbiome has an important role in our defense system against pathogens. Various kinds of nutrients such as dietary fiber, starch, and proteins can provide good energy resources for both intestinal microbiota and the host. Resident microbes in the gastrointestinal tract breakdown indigestible food, provide essential nutrients, and act as a barrier against invading microbes. The microbial community structure is highly influenced by our diet. A balanced and diverse diet, including all food groups and rich in dietary fibers like vegetables, fruits and legumes will contribute to a healthy gut microbiome and to a child's mucosal immunity.
Strengthen Your Immune System with Good Nutrition
Ultimately what we put in our bodies can help to strengthen our immune response to infection. As cold and flu season approaches, you can proactively help your family by ensuring they have a well-balanced diet full of the nutrients they need. If you’re looking for some inspiration to get started, check out these yummy immunity-inspired smoothies that help increase vitamin intake.
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