In today’s digital age, it has actually become more difficult to decipher what can be of real benefit to our health versus misleading articles using inaccurate data. To help you get the real, evidence-based facts behind your most common questions, we asked Dr. Michele Burklund, a leading authority in naturopathic medicine, the chief science officer at Puriya, and contributing writer here at Better Nutrition, to set the facts straight.
BN: How will boosting my immune system improve my overall health?
MB: Supporting overall immune health can benefit the whole body by decreasing your risk of catching a cold, allowing faster recovery time from illness, and giving your body more protection against potential invaders. There’s ample data that suggests a diet rich in nutrients, as well as healthy lifestyle practices and stress management, plays a role in immune health and disease prevention. Eat whole foods, find ways to manage stress, and get adequate sleep to encourage a balanced and harmonious immune function.
BN: What’s the connection between my gut/microbiome and my immune system?
MB: Your gut microbiome, also named “the last undiscovered human organ,” is a remarkable ecosystem consisting of a community of species including bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protozoans. The gut microbiome has been extensively studied in recent years, with over 15,000 articles published since 2011 that describe its role in many conditions, including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergies. We have also learned that diversity matters, and certain species of bacteria have been linked to supporting immune health, fighting colds, supporting mood, and even reducing weight gain.
The Journal of Frontiers in Immunology published a study that reveals just how complex the interactions are between the gut microbiome and the immune system, and how so many things can affect the balance including diet, medications, hygiene, and lifestyle. Another study, published in the Human Microbiome Journal, further evaluates the relationship between the host (us) and the microbiome (inside our gut) and finds many external influences and checkpoints can disturb the balance and affect immune health— meaning that our microbiome is just as unique as we are, and what we put into our bodies greatly affects that unique ecosystem. So how can you restore healthy gut flora? It’s important to replenish your beneficial bacteria after antibiotic use by taking a probiotic and eating fermented foods. Keep your gut flora balanced and support your body’s immune function by eating prebiotic foods such as garlic, asparagus, leeks, onions, and Jerusalem artichokes.
BN: What are the best immune-booster supplements?
MB: There are countless supplements that can support the immune system, but these are a few of my favorites:
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