Maintaining a correct diet, along with other healthy habits, is essential for the body to stay healthy.
Some foods can also help strengthen the immune system and thus the body’s defenses. Learn here what are the best options to add to the diet.
Infections are caused by germs that enter the body, multiply and cause damage or illness, and therefore certain reactions by the body.
The main types of germs that cause illness include:
- bacteria: cause infections such as botulism, gonorrhea, salmonellosis, syphilis or tetanus, among others.
- Mushrooms: cause infections such as candidiasis or mycosis, among others.
- protozoa: cause infections such as sleeping sickness, malaria or trichomoniasis, among others.
- Virus: cause infections such as yellow fever, flu, hepatitis A or B, herpes, mumps, common cold, or measles, among others.
Infections can also be localized (that is, they affect only one part or organ of the body) or systemic (that is, they are in the bloodstream).
To combat or prevent infections, the body has the immune system, a set of organs, cells and molecules distributed throughout the body that provide protection against foreign agents.
The immune response can be strengthened with healthy habits, including a correct diet. These foods can provide support against infections:
garlic and onions
Different studies highlight the antiviral and bactericidal properties that garlic and onion possess, useful for increasing the body’s defenses and preventing infections. It is believed that this is due to its rich content of allicin, a compound with great antioxidant power.
Researchers point out that consuming vitamin C on a daily basis helps strengthen the immune system. One way to do this is to include citrus fruits in the diet, that is, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, or lemon.
- Smoothies and infusions to increase defenses
According to various studies, vitamin C increases the production of infection-fighting cells (lymphocytes and macrophages) and reduces the impact of bacterial and viral attacks.
Chiles like the habanero, jalapeño or piquín are hot due to a substance called capsaicin. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce damage from infections and strengthens the immune system.
In addition, thanks to its high contribution of vitamin C, chili can provide many of the benefits related to citrus.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance that experts say can stimulate the production of a protein known as CAMP, which helps the immune system fight dangerous viruses, fungi, and bacteria.
Nuts are characterized by their composition low in water and rich in many nutrients. Among them are minerals such as zinc, calcium and potassium that promote the proper functioning of the immune system.
In addition, its high fiber content favors the growth of bifidobacteria that live in the intestine, preventing the appearance of certain infectious diseases.
Fungi, mushrooms or mushrooms have cytokines, a group of proteins that regulate the interactions of the cells of the immune system and help increase the body’s defenses to fight against infectious agents.
Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for many of its medicinal properties, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
It is also rich in vitamin C, potassium and phosphorus, which strengthens the immune system and offers protection against viruses and bacteria.
Honey has been used for millennia for many medicinal purposes. One of the most outstanding, according to different studies, derives from its unique properties to fight infections at various levels, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance.
Although the evidence is still insufficient, it is believed that this is due to the combination of hydrogen peroxide, acidity and a high concentration of sugars.
If eaten in sufficient quantities, foods containing live microorganisms, such as dairy, can help boost the immune system.
There is evidence supporting the benefits of different strains, such as L. acidophilus Y L. caseion the functioning of the immune system, especially in the prevention of infections.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant ideal for improving the body’s defenses. The bioavailability of lycopene increases when the tomato is cooked, since, at high temperatures, the cell walls break down and allow it to be released.
Other habits that strengthen the immune system
Beyond foods that stimulate the body’s defenses, you can incorporate other habits that help strengthen the immune system and prevent infections:
Exercise promotes better blood circulation, this helps the lungs and heart work better, which enhances the immunity of our body.
Experts used to recommend getting 150 minutes of exercise a week, or 75 if it was high-intensity, but current guidelines say even short walks can provide benefits and are a great start to breaking sedentary habits.
Severe sleep deprivation affects the immune system. If you don’t get enough rest, the body loses its natural defense mechanisms and its ability to fight disease is affected. Try to sleep between seven and eight hours a day, if possible at regular times.
Remember, getting vaccinated is a way of “training” the immune system against a specific pathogen. Vaccination achieves immune memory without actual infection, so the body is prepared when the virus or bacteria enters.
Getting all recommended vaccinations helps prevent potentially dangerous infections.
Until there is meaningful scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should be very careful.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, but first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Sources consulted: American Academy of Pediatrics, Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Complementary Medicine and Alternative.