Nutrition and Immunity

Winter - for many families, it’s a time of endless coughs and colds, recurrent chest infections and of course, a serious investment in tissue supplies! The reality though is it doesn’t have to be! Whilst a typical cough or cold once or twice a year is certainly normal, recurrent bouts of infection indicate the immune system is not functioning as well as it should be, leaving you susceptible to bugs and viruses. There are many reasons this might be the case, but one of the biggest we see is poor nutrition.

There are so many ways in which our nutrition affects our immune function and our resistance to bugs and viruses. For example, certain nutritional deficiencies can make you more susceptible to infection, as they impair your body’s natural immune defences. For example, a deficiency in vitamin A compromises the integrity of the mucous membranes lining your nose and respiratory tract, making these areas more susceptible to penetration by an inhaled bug or germ. Similarly, a deficiency in iron can predispose you to infection, as iron is needed to enable your immune cells (called lymphocytes) to proliferate in response to pathogens. If iron levels are inadequate, your body cannot generate a strong enough immune response to fight off infection in its early stages, potentially leading to a full-blown cough or cold.

In addition to nutritional deficiencies, the types of foods we eat also affects our well our immune system functions via their effect on our blood sugars. The scientific literature is abundant in research papers that demonstrate the link between poor blood sugar control and increased susceptibility to infection, meaning stabilising your blood sugars through diet is critical to protecting you throughout winter! This is a particularly big problem we see in children, especially in those consuming highly refined diets rich in simple carbohydrates (like bread, pasta and cereal) with minimal protein and healthy fats to keep blood sugars stable.

In short, there are many ways in which your nutrition affects your immune function and the beauty of this means that in many ways, YOU control how well your immune system functions.

If you’d like to know more about the link between nutrition and immunity, and would like to learn to eat in a way that supports your immune system, come along to my workshop on June 6th, where we’ll be diving deep into these topics and exploring practical, evidence-based ways you can improve your immune function through food and nutrition. For more details and to secure a seat, click the link HERE which will take you through to the Eventbrite page for the event.

Yours in health,

Niki x