Is it possible to boost your immune system? What if you improve your diet? Make other lifestyle changes in the hope of producing the best immune response?
Your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against bugs and diseases that can make you feel unwell.
James Dekker, a scientist at Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre, says COVID-19 has really spurred people to look at ways they can improve diets and lifestyle choices – and in particular products that will support immunity and minimise the risk of them and their families becoming ill.
“There’s a lot of demand and people are looking for answers now. Recently the first 4000 packs of Anchor Immune Support were loaded aboard a cargo flight bound for China.
“It’s not often we fly product overseas like this, but demand was such that consumers are prepared to pay for it.
“The packaging proudly talks about how the product is made from the goodness of our New Zealand milk and fortified with vitamins and minerals to support a healthy immune system,” he says.
The idea of boosting your immunity appeals to a lot of people, but it’s not that simple. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity.
It’s a collection of cells, proteins, organs and body processes that protects you from infections and other threats.
It needs to ignore things like food that you need or things that are harmless, but at the same time it has to be constantly on the alert for possible threats. It evolves over time to protect you from different things depending on what you are exposed to.
It even remembers threats, so that if you encounter that same threat again, the response is much faster and you are more protected.
Your lifestyle can strengthen or weaken your immunity. Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age, psychological stress, and other factors that can influence the immune response. In the meantime, general healthy-living and a sustainable diet are good ways to start giving your immune system the upper hand.
A healthy diet with a variety of nutrient-rich foods is important for general good health and to help keep your immune system functioning properly.
Certain nutrients play an important role in supporting a healthy immune system such as vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, and B12, folic acid, iron, calcium, selenium, and zinc.
Dairy products are also a good source of 'high-quality' protein which your body needs when it fights off infections.
In addition, dairy products that contain probiotic bacteria offer more help to boost the immune system and support your body to fight off illnesses.
James says, ”Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria found in dairy foods such as yoghurt that stimulate the immune system through your gastrointestinal tract.
“It is said that around 70% of the immune system is situated around the gut and digestive system, and what we eat directly affects these areas, so it’s important to make sure you are getting the right nutrients.
“Probiotics have been shown to protect from or improve a number of immune-related conditions. Some of our immunity products contain our unique probiotic strain DR20 (as we refer to it in our business) which may help reduce the risk of allergies, eczema and viral infections,” James says.
Interesting fact: A recent study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that widespread use of probiotics in the US could result in 2.2 million fewer antibiotic prescriptions, 54 million fewer annual sick days and $919 million in avoided annual productivity losses.