Diets for Strengthening Your Immune System

Prebiotics and probiotics improve the quality of your intestinal flora and this helps your immune system. But what other foods can help strengthen your body's defenses?
Diets for Strengthening Your Immune System

Last update: 27 June, 2020

Proper nutrition is an important way of improving your body’s immune functions. In fact, making sure that your body gets the right nutrients can play a key role in fighting viruses or preventing autoimmune diseases. As a result, there’s a range of diets for strengthening the immune system that you might want to consider.

The key to proper nutrition is variety. However, if you increase your intake of certain foods, it can make you feel generally better and prevent you from becoming sick. Today, we’ll look at how you can use your diet to boost your body’s natural defenses.

Diets for strengthening your immune system: vitamin D

Vitamin D is unfortunately not something abundant in nature, but the body can synthesize it with exposure to the sun. You can also find it in certain foods such as oily fish, dairy, and eggs. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, so it needs fat to transport it.

In recent years, researchers have linked a lack of vitamin D with an increased risk of certain autoimmune diseases and allergies. Although the actual mechanisms are still unclear, studies such as this one from 2015 support this claim that vitamin D plays a key role in the body’s defense system.

Diets for strengthening your immune system

A 2019 study on mice, published in Science Immunology, showed the potential of low-carb diets for fighting the flu. As a result, it seems that the keto diet could be useful for preventing the virus, although this still needs to be proven in humans.

The mechanism behind the theory is based on the fact that low-carb diets improve the expansion of the immune system’s T-cells. These are the cells responsible for antiviral resistance. However, we still need human studies to provide evidence to support this theory.

A range of foods containing oils.

There’s another study published by Immunity in 2018 which also looks at mice and links fiber intake with increased flu survival rate. This is due to the increased formation of short-chain fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. However, once again, we need more human trials.

Prebiotics, probiotics and the immune system

In recent years, prebiotics and probiotics have become increasingly popular. This is because of their ability to change the intestinal flora and this has certain advantages.

One of these advantages is that it helps improve the body’s immune response. The intestines are one of the first barriers that the immune system has.

Studies such as this one from 2003, published in Anales de Pediatria, show that the use of prebiotics and probiotics decreases the risk of developing atopic dermatitis, particularly at an early age. In addition, consuming these substances is linked to a reduction in lower intestinal and upper airway infections.

Diets for strengthening your immune system: getting enough vitamins

Vitamins play many important roles in the human body. For one, they work as catalysts for many metabolic functions and also contribute to the immune system.

In fact, this research from The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology claims that the administration of vitamin C together with red ginseng improves the activation of immune T and NK cells, thereby suppressing the progress of the influenza viral cycle. Furthermore, vitamin C can also reduce lung inflammation caused by a viral infection.

A range of foods containing vitamin C which could be included in diets for strengthening your immune system.

Eat well to help your immune system!

Diet has an important influence on the way the body’s immune system works. This means it’s important to maintain a balanced, varied diet. Particularly if you want to improve your defensive barriers and protect yourself against viruses, allergies, or autoimmune diseases.

To do this, it’s important to make sure that you get enough vitamins, particularly vitamins C and D. Then, fiber and probiotics can also be a good addition to prevent diseases that involve chronic inflammation.

Also, there are certain diets that could help prevent or treat certain conditions. One example is the keto diet, which could potentially have benefits for combatting the flu. However, we still need human trials to confirm this and establish the physiological mechanisms.

Ultimately, regularly eating fresh food and reducing your intake of processed foods is a very effective way of improving your immune system and your health in general. Taking care of your body starts with the food you choose to put inside it!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Trochoutsou AL., Kloukina V., Samitas K., Xanthou G., Vitamin D in the immune system: genomic and non genomic actions. Mini Rev Med Chem, 2015. 15 (11): 953-63.
  • Emily L., Goldberg., Ryan D., et al., Ketogenic diet activates protective y T cell responses against influenza virus infection. Science Immunology, 2019.
  • Moreno Villares JM., Probiotics in infant formulae. Could we modify the immune response? An Pediatr (Barc), 2008. 286-94.
  • Trompette A., Gollwitzer ES., Pattaroni C., Lopez Mejia IC., Riva E., et al., Dietary fiber confers protection against flu by shaping ly6c patrolling monocyte hematopoiesis and CD8 T Cell Metabolism. Immunity, 2018. 48 (5): 992-1005.
  • Kim H., Jang M., Kim Y., Choi J., et al., Red ginseng and vitamin C increase immune cell activity and decrease lung inflammation induce by influenza A virus/H1N1 infection. J Pharm Pharmacol, 2016. 68 (3): 406-20.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.