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Is your immune system in balance?

The immune system is your body’s ingenious defence system against infection. It’s a complex system and one that can sometimes get thrown out of balance by your lifestyle. A weakened immune system is unable to react quickly and effectively to fight off pathogens like viruses and bacteria, and if it is too strong, it fights harmless things like pollen or foods (allergies), or even the body’s own cells (auto-immune problems). Is your immune system in balance?

Support a strong immune system with the right nutrients

Good nutrition is important to support a strong and healthy immune system, but in a world of nutrient-poor fast foods, it can be easy to miss out on enough of the right nutrients:

Vitamins and minerals: It’s important to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet – especially fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), specific vitamins and minerals that contribute to the normal function of the immune system include the vitamins A, B6, B9 (Folate), B12, C and D, and the minerals iron, zinc, copper and selenium.

Phytonutrients: Phytonutrients are special nutrients produced by plants that provide health benefits. Phytonutrients, like carotenoids, resveratrol and flavonoids, are most abundant in colourful fruits, vegetables, berries and spices. They help to protect the immune system against harmful oxidative stress, by keeping free radicals in check.

Probiotics and prebiotics: 70% of your immune system is in your gut, so it’s important to support a healthy gut and gut microbiome, with pro- and prebiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria that have proven health benefits, like supporting your immune system. You can obtain good bacteria from fermented foods like yoghurt. Prebiotics have proven health benefits by acting as food for the good gut bacteria. Fermentable fibres are an example of prebiotics, which you can get by eating a variety of vegetables, wholegrains and pulses. Pro- and prebiotics are both important for the immune system!

Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA, are found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. They help support the immune system by providing anti-inflammatory benefits.

What else can you do to support a strong immune system?

As well as getting good nutrition, you can support a strong and balanced immune system by making other good lifestyle choices every day: maintaining a healthy weight, performing regular exercise, minimising stress and getting enough sleep are just a few actions you can take!