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What is the function of the immune system?

The immune system is a complex and fascinating body system. The primary function is obviously to protect the body from infection, but also inflammation, which is an underlying condition in many chronic diseases. Supporting the immune system is often overlooked until it is challenged. Enhancing immune function with nutrition can help reduce susceptibility to regular colds, flu, infections and more serious diseases.

The immune system is composed of the lymphatic vessels and organs (thymus, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes), white blood cells, and specialised serum factors.

Factors that can lead to the dysfunction of the immune system

Dietary factors that suppress the immune system include nutrient deficiency, excessive consumption of sugar, regular alcohol, intake of allergenic foods and high cholesterol levels in the blood.

The most common cause of a depressed immune system and the easiest to address is nutrient deficiency. Key nutrients to be obtained from the diet, but also through supplementation when appropriate include vitamin A, C, E and all the B vitamins, as well as, zinc and selenium.

How can you improve your immune system’s function?

The best approach to supporting the immune system is multi-pronged and needs to include lifestyle, stress management, (including deep breathing and relaxation) a positive emotional state, exercise, avoidance of toxins, appropriate supplementation and herbal support and of course diet.

Dietary factors that support the immune system include all essential nutrients and antioxidants from a brightly coloured diet. Optimum immune function requires a diet that is:

  • Rich in whole, natural foods such as vegetables, pulses, some grains, beans, seeds and nuts
  • Low in fat, refined sugars and processed foods
  • Contains adequate but not excessive protein
  • Sufficient water intake (enough to produce pale urine)

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