3 Foods That Increase Immune Health
May 03, 2020 12:21PM
By Joe Condora
While boosting our immune systems is a hot topic in these trying times, optimizing immune health is an ongoing commitment. The immune system is a complex system that includes several organs, cells, and organic molecules that work synergistically to fend off a variety of threats including viruses, bacteria, parasites and disease.
The variety of “immune boosting” supplements on the market can be overwhelming. Consumers often feel more confused than empowered by endless choices, however, a healthy diet is still the first line of defense against illness. Eating a diverse diet rich in vegetables, berries, and wild animal products is an effective way to make sure your body has the basic nutrients it needs to function at a baseline level and give your immune system a fighting chance against infection.
If your goal is to have your immune system functioning at its greatest potential, consider adding the following evidence-based foods to your diet.
1. Camu Camu
Camu camu berry is a little-known super berry native to the Amazon rainforest. This sour berry is nature’s highest source of vitamin C. In fact, some research shows that camu camu berries contain 30 times more vitamin C than oranges. According to 2013 research published in the Immune Network Journal, vitamin C is an essential factor in the anti-viral immune response. The researchers determined that if vitamin C concentration is sufficiently high during the initial stage of specific viral infections, the infection may be prevented.
Not only is camu camu high in vitamin C, but it is also loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that may reduce inflammation, reduce weight, stabilize blood sugar levels, and improve blood pressure.
Camu camu is readily available in powder form and acts as an excellent addition to smoothies, yogurt, or dessert recipes. Opt for raw, organic camu camu powder, if possible.
2. Turkey Tail Mushroom
This medicinal mushroom has an impressive range of health benefits including increased immune health, gut health, and respiratory health. Some research even shows that the turkey tail mushroom exhibits potent anti-tumor activity.
Turkey tail mushrooms contain powerful immune-enhancing compounds known as polysaccharide peptides (PSP) and polysaccharide krestin (PSK). Research published in The Integrative Medicine: Clinicians Journal found that PSP and PSP enhance monocytes, a type of white blood cells that fight infection.
Interestingly, turkey tail mushroom also contains prebiotics which can nourish beneficial gut bacteria and reduce potentially harmful bacteria in the gut. An 8-week study published in the Gut Microbes journal found that turkey tail mushroom supplementation suppressed the growth of the potentially harmful bacteria E. coli and Shigella.
While you can cook with turkey tail mushrooms or eat them raw, these mushrooms are much more commonly found in tea or supplement form. Turkey tail mushroom in liquid or capsule form should be used under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.
3. Bone Broth
Bone broth is a forgotten healing food that humans have been consuming for thousands of years. Most of us only drink broth when we are sick, however, the benefits of bone broth go far beyond comforting us thru the common cold. Research shows that consuming bone broth on a daily basis may improve the health of our gut, joints, immune system and skin.
Since up to 70% of our immune system resides in our gut, optimizing gut health is a key component of immune health. A common reason for immune dysfunction is a damaged gut lining. The role of the gut lining is to regulate what molecules gain access into the bloodstream and what molecules are denied access. Many lifestyle factors including stress, poor diet, overuse of antibiotics, and poor sleep quality can contribute to a condition known as leaky gut, where our gut lining develops little openings and allows particles into the bloodstream that should have been denied access. When these particles enter the bloodstream, it triggers an immune response to kill the invader. For many, this overactive immune response becomes chronic and we develop food sensitives, autoimmune disorders, and nutrient malabsorption.
Bone broth contains nutrients such as collagen and gelatin as well as amino acids proline, glutamine, and arginine that can “patch up” the openings in our gut lining allowing much of the immune dysregulation to subside.
While bone broth can be easily made at home, it is also readily in powder and liquid form.
Joe Condora is a nutrition and health coach at Valley Integrative Pharmacy and host of the top-rated health and wellness podcast The Primal Example Podcast.